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The Story Behind the Story of Benford Draws a Blank

by Danielle Dufayet

(Illustrated by Katia Klein)

We are all born artists of one kind or another whether we write, paint, sing, dance, or any other creative endeavor. All these require us to start somewhere, but funny enough we tend to want to create something perfect, the first time around!

I wrote Benford Draws a Blank, January 2023, Capstone Publishing, because I was experiencing that debilitating perfectionism. I have been painting quite some time now and yet, after a long dry spell, I froze. I just didn’t know how to jump back in. In fact, I thought maybe I had even forgotten how to paint. The longer I postponed and ruminated, the more I felt pressure. It did, in fact, feel like the canvas was watching me -waiting for me!

Poor Benford, like me, he couldn’t think of anything to paint. He wanted it to be special. He wanted to paint the “perfect” painting. Afterall, he got a brand-new canvas for the very first time! His dog, Van Gogh, tried so hard to inspire him, but Benford was stuck and couldn’t think of a single thing that was “just right” to paint.

When we put so much pressure on ourselves to create something spectacular at our first try, we are often disappointed. Art (and most other creative outlets) is meant to be a trial and error -a joyful experimentation of sorts. The important thing is, we must begin! If we want perfectionism right away, we will most surely fail.

I eventually got my painting groove back. It happened when I just let go and let loose with no expectations. It reminded me that the goal should be to have fun and not hold back your passion when creating. Have an attitude of curiosity and believe that inspiration is everywhere because it is!

One might think that kids are naturally spontaneous and uninhibited when creating, and that’s generally true, but it doesn’t take long before the inner critic rears its ugly head and once that happens, it’s hard to shake. I wanted my book to be a fun reminder that painting, writing, etc. should be a joyful experience, even when it’s frustrating and challenging. The more we can relax, the more we can create. I personally think art in any form is a collaboration between art and artist. If we want perfectionism right off the bat, we shut ourselves down. If we understand that the thing we want to create, wants to be created just as much as we want to create it, it becomes more of a dance -an exchange of trial and error, experimentation, etc. until what wants to be created emerges.

Again, whatever it is you want to express artistically - just start and then, keep going. That’s my message for kids and adults. Silence your inner critic by jumping in and committing to seeing where the journey takes you. How many times have you started a manuscript, and it takes a completely different (and better) turn? You never would’ve known had you not started the process. So many of my abstract paintings start one way, then end up completely different. You must allow yourself that artistic freedom, then who knows what wonderful masterpiece will emerge!

Danielle Dufayet’s two first picture books, You Are Your Strong and Fantastic You sold to Magination Press. You Are Your Strong won the 2020 Teacher’s Choice Award. Her third book, Waiting Together was published by Albert Whitman. Benford Draws a Blank is her fourth picture book published by Capstone Publishing. Danielle holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.S in Psychology. She is an active member of SCBWI and teaches English and self-empowerment classes to K-12 in San Jose, California.

You can see her books at:

You can view some of her art at:

Instagram: @ddaniwriter




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