Having spent eons now on a (still unfinished) illustrated middle grade novel, I can attest to the absolute necessity of proper character development. Of course everyone knows how important unique characters are. And everyone who begins to write and/or illustrate thinks they're creating them. But, thinking and doing are not the same. Looking at some of my early work, what frustrates me most is the lack of depth and differentiation. The characters have a bit of spark, but they're not specific enough. They should have been pushed more. Lots more. So, I've set up an exercise for myself to paint at least two animal portraits a week. I've started with friends' and family's and may take on others as they come. Hopefully by the end of the project the specific will be so engrained in my work that I’ll never paint another generic dog again.