I started writing children’s books when I was in college. I wanted illustrations to go along with my work, but I could not afford an illustrator at the time. I added this to my growing list of “reasons to stop writing”, and put my writing projects on the back burner to pursue public policy.
Fast forward to late 2016, I decided to start seriously writing again. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and started connecting with local authors, both unpublished and published. They were very generous and shared all their experiences, successes and failures, and showed me there isn’t one path to writing or publishing. I met with self-published authors, traditionally published authors, and even an author who opened their own independent publishing house. I also joined a Kidlit (kids literature) group that meets once a month for drinks (because children’s authors can have fun, too!).
Connecting with others really fueled my motivation and inspiration. But it did not solve my problem- I needed an illustrator! What is that saying, necessity is the mother of invention? Well, I decided if I could not afford an illustrator, I would just learn to illustrate myself!
I started off with pencil sketches, ink drawings, and watercolor paintings. Here is one of my first ones (which I am slightly embarrassed to share).
Eventually, I transitioned to digital art midway through 2017. I began experimenting with different styles of digital, first trying to imitate the watercolor and gauche effects, then to more cartoon-ish illustrations.
I stopped experimenting, and began studying some of my favorite children’s illustrators. I did this by looking at picture books on the market, my favorite artwork, studying color palettes, shadowing, textures, and more. Some of the illustrators I draw inspiration from include: Vashti Harrison, Mark Chambers, Tory Deorian, and Kim Smith. I had become a student of the industry.
After months of practice, my work started resembling those of the artists I admire. I was getting positive feedback from the writing community, and was on my way to constructing a solid portfolio. Now, my artwork looks like this:
It took me over a year to move from my first illustrations to what I am creating now. I am pretty pleased with it so far! I also know that I have so much to improve on. Every project I start, I use as a way to educate others around certain themes, and I also use it as an opportunity to learn more and explore my craft.
2018 is my year to focus on building my creative business. If there is one thing I have learned from the industry, is that the business structures are as creative as the people in them; whether it is freelance, editorial, traditional publishing, or self-publishing. There is no one path to success here!
Also, a tip for any creatives out there that want to make it more than a hobby. Keep practicing! Keep making art! Keep writing! That’s the only way to grow.