Happy Illustrators Month, everyone!
December isn’t just for celebrating the holidays, my friends. No, here at As The Eraser Burns, we’re celebrating all the incredibly talented illustrators we have in our MD/DE/WV region! So get ready for some great profiles and interviews, starting with our wonderful Regional Illustrator Coordinator, Susan Detwiler!
Susan is the illustrator of several award-winning picture books. Her most recent is Big Cat, Little Kitty by Scotti Cohn, a 2011 Gold Mom’s Choice recipient. She was educated at MICA in Baltimore, and has been a freelance illustrator for more than 25 years. Besides books, her artwork has also been produced as greeting cards, games, and puzzles, and in Highlights for Children and Ladybug magazines. Susan is the Illustrator Coordinator for MD/DE/WV SCBWI.
So let’s get the celebration started with our first question! Susan, when did you decide to be an illustrator?
Throughout my public school years, I used artwork on school assignments wherever possible to impress my teachers and avoid real work; when it occurred to me that this could be a template for my life, I decided to go for it. I think I was eleven.
How long did your path to your first book sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?
When I was 24 and working as a staff illustrator at an advertising agency, I had a stroke of luck. There was an article in The Baltimore Sun about a local publisher, Stemmer House, which published picture books. I made an appointment to show my portfolio, and within months had an assignment. That book is The First Teddy Bear, and I am happy to tell you it’s still in print. Stemmer House Publishers was sold and is now in New Hampshire. This did not automatically lead to other book contacts, however, as I naively thought at the time. There was a twenty year gap between picture books while I raised my children as an at-home mom and only took short term assignments such as editorial and greeting card work.
Awesome! Okay, what advice for beginners do you wish you would’ve followed?
I wish I’d had that first book contract looked over by a lawyer specializing in publishing copyright law; I was just so excited to have a picture book to work on that I would have signed anything.
VERY sound advice. Now, what’s your favorite medium?
Pencil. I love to draw most of all. But I enjoy painting in watercolor and using soft pastel as well.
Where’s your favorite place to work?
My wonderful husband, who is also an an artist and teaches art at McDonogh School, built a studio for me in our backyard. It is my haven. I can work in my pajamas if I feel like it, but I can’t hear the laundry calling.
Nice! Which illustrators inspire you?
Some of my favorites are Stacy Innerst, Helen Ward, LeUyen Pham, Paul O. Zelinski, Laura Bryant, and Jaime Zollars.
Favorite books as a child?
I was attracted to anything illustrated by Garth Williams, with Charlotte’s Web and the Little House series at the top of the list. I dearly love Harriet The Spy. My mother has a set of the early 20th century Raggedy Ann books by Johnny Gruelle, and they were an inspiration.
What’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about?
I contributed my book titled Fine Life For A Mouse to the picture book app site uTales.com, and I’d like to do some more. I am working on a fourth picture book for Sylvan Dell, On The Move, about animal migration.
Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!
Do you . . .
Work from photos or imagination? Keep photos handy
Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? I’m a blabbermouth
Prefer sketching or final art? Sketching — less pressure
Dread marketing/blogging or love it? Dread
Read Kindle or traditional books? Traditional
And finally, what’s your favorite:
Time to work? Evening
Music to listen to while illustrating? NPR or alt rock
Traditional media or digital? Both
Pair of shoes? Ugg boots
Guiltiest pleasure? Watching movies in bed
Line from a movie? “Keep as quiet as possible: no one knows you’re here.” from The Pianist
Fantastic! Thanks for stopping by, Susan, and best of luck with all your gorgeous art!
Happy drawing, painting, and sketching, everyone! 🙂