Coffee and Conversation with Alyssa Nassner: From Dreaming to Doing Conference

Good Monday morning! We are on February’s doorstep, yet it seems like yesterday we were just celebrating Christmas. And our “From Dreaming to Doing” Conference is less than two months away! Time has definitely sprouted wings!

Today we have another interview with one of our amazing faculty members. I’m so excited to welcome Alyssa Nassneralyssa-nassner-150x150

Alyssa is an illustrator and designer from Baltimore, based out of Brooklyn, NY. She earned her BFA in illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art. By day she is a senior designer for Abrams Kids where she art directs and designs for their Amulet and Appleseed imprints. In her spare time she dabbles in hand lettering and food illustration. Her passion for surface design has lead her to develop projects and products for a wide array of clients, and she is recognized for her use of bright colors, patterns and hand rendered typography.

Alyssa’s breakout session is “Passion Projects as Self Promotion.” She will also participate in the panel discussions “Picture Books and Reviews” and “Agents, Editors, and Art Directors.”

Now that Alyssa had made herself comfy in the infamous Cyber Chair, let’s get started!

What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen? And now, as an adult?

My favorite book as an early teen was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, yes specifically that book. I’ve read the entire Harry Potter Series at least twice over, if not more, but Prisonor I’ve read probably 10+ times51-rbiaiirl-_sx341_bo1204203200_

51guzowifpl-_sx355_bo1204203200_Later as a teen I was really obsessed with Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I’m pretty sure I even wrote a college essay about that book. These days my favorite book is always the most recent one I’ve read.I’m big into non-fiction, so Witches of America is a current favorite, my favorite novel of 2016 was Sweetbitter and as far as picture books go, anything illustrated by Carson Ellis wins my heart (I think that goes back to my college-age obsessed with The Decemberists and their album artwork).

What’s your favorite medium?

I’m 100% digital. I work almost exclusively in Photoshop. Sometimes, on a VERY special occasion, I like to break out the lightbox and do some inking, but that will just get scanned and be manipulated in Photoshop.

Where’s your favorite place to work?

I’m not very picky or romantic when it comes to my workspace. I just need to be with my Cintiq, which I have set up on a small desk in the corner of my apartment. Nothin’ fancy, just proper technology!

How do you describe your style and has it changed throughout your career?

I think my style has become a lot more refined throughout the years, but it’s more of a reflection of the tools I used, rather than my actual art making ability. In college and for a year or so after I was inking everything by hand, scanning it and then filling and coloring linework using Photoshop. In late 2011 I invested in a Cintiq from Wacom, and that was a real game changer. It allowed more flexibility and fluidity in my creative process, allowing me to problem solve and change things as I was creating, instead of having to choose to re-ink an entire piece if one small portion didn’t seem right.

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?

I would be a computer programmer? I think? That’s what I wanted to do throughout highschool, although I don’t think I had a firm grasp on what it meant to do that, and I still don’t. I took computer programming as my language elective. I’m glad my parents, both programmers by trade, encouraged me to pursue art and design.

Good for Mom and Dad! Okay, for one day, time travel is a reality and you have the opportunity to visit any famous deceased artist you want. Who do you pick?

Mary Blair! She’s been a HUGE inspiration of mine forever. Not only was she a badass lady illustrator, I appreciate her ability to create experiences and worlds within her work. She also has an amazing sense of color – I’d just want to hear about all of her experiences working with Disney and traveling the world!

mb-drawing-table

courtesy magicofmaryblair.com

I want to learn more about her! Next question – You magically find a $100 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?

First of all, was it IN my cereal? Like, touching it? Because if that’s the case, I’m purchasing a new breakfast that’s not contaminated by a germy piece of money. After that, and not to be cliché, I’m probably heading to the bookstore. I think a large majority of my personal spending has been on books over the past two years. I have a huge list of books on my personal reading list, and I meet with a book club on a regular basis – so those purchases add up!

What is your favorite quote?

“Good things happen to those who hustle.” – Anais Nin

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I like to go on walks around Brooklyn and New York, go to the gym, concerts with friends and trying new food around the city. I also like to work on personal work when I’m not at my day job or doing freelance – it’s crazy how different doing art for yourself feels vs. something you’re paid to do. I read a bunch, especially on my commutes, and I’m constantly on the hunt for the best donut in the city (current favorite: the red velvet cake donut at Peter Pan Bakery).

If you could sum up your best advice for new illustrators in only four words, what would they be?

Have a passion project.

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .

Work from photos or imagination? Imagination.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? Always share WIP!

Prefer sketching or final art? FINAL ART

Dread marketing/blogging or love it? Love it – marketing is fun!

Enjoy brainstorming more or researching? Brainstorming with a team, researching solo.

Read Kindle or traditional books? Kindle (SORRY, I hate carrying things).

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work? 8:00pm

Music to listen to while drawing? Angsty lady rock

Traditional media or digital? Digital

Pair of shoes? Black Chelsea boots

Guiltiest pleasure? The Bachelor

Line from a movie? “You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.”

I know that line. The amazing Carrie Fisher said it in When Harry Met Sally!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Alyssa! We’re all looking forward to hearing more from you at the conference.

Go and create your art, friends!!

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About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
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