Happy Sunday, everyone! We’re about to enter serious Coffee & Conversation mode featuring many presenters for our upcoming SCBWI MD/DE/WV 25th Annual Conference: 25 and Still We R(ev)ise! So it seems very fitting to shine the spotlight on this year’s conference logo competition winner, Mary Barrows, who created this stunning illustration!
Mary Barrows is an illustrator from a small town in Maryland that very few people have ever heard of unless they happen to live nearby. She has been working as a full-time illustrator since the summer of 2014 and even though she has only been doing this for a short amount of time, comparatively, she has enjoyed nearly every minute of it. She’s extremely blessed to call this her job, and extremely grateful to God who allowed her this chance to follow a dream that will hopefully continue for several years to come.
And now, on to the interview!
What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen? As an adult?
This is a hard question. I think trying to pick a favorite book is like being a parent and trying to pick your favorite child. I’ve loved a lot of books over the years, so it’s hard to pick just one, but I do remember loving the Old Bear books by Jane Hissey as a kid.
Then as a teen, I always loved The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s definitely the book I’ve read the most over the years.
And as an adult, I still read mostly children’s books, since that’s part of my job, so my most recent favorite would be Lemony Snicket’s The Series of Unfortunate Events.
What is your favorite writing/illustrating how-to book, technique, or website that has helped your craft or provided inspiration?
I can’t say that I have a how-to book or website that I go to a lot. What I do mostly is I look at other illustrators’ children’s books or artwork that has a similar style to what I have, or a style I like and I try to study what they have done. There are a lot of great artists/illustrators out there and looking at their work can be a great inspiration and learning experience. After that it’s just practice, and a lot of it. Seriously.
Tell us about your writing/illustrating journey. When did it begin?
I began illustrating a little over three years ago now. Honestly, when I started out, I had no idea what I was doing. It was never in my plan to be a professional artist. I had heard the term starving artist several times growing up, and so I never really thought of it as an actual profession where people could actually make a living. I just enjoyed drawing, and so I did it whenever I had paper and a pencil in front of me without having a career in art in mind.
A few people encouraged me to pursue an illustration career over the years and I was eventually directed towards a freelance website. I starting applying for a few illustration jobs on said website, not really expecting this to work out, and was hired shortly after, much to my surprise and joy. I told God then that I would continue to do this job as long as He’d let me, and I haven’t stopped illustrating since and now have several authors that I work with on a regular basis.
You’ve been locked in a bank vault Twilight Zone style, so you finally have time to read! What’s the first book you crack open?
Again, it’s hard to pick just one as there are many books right now that I’d like to read/reread. Right now, my go-to books are The Hobbit and Little Women.
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?
Well, you didn’t say I had to pick just one, so I’d like to visit A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard – Author and illustrator of Winnie the Pooh. They seem like they’d be interesting people to hang out with for a day and learn from, although there are many other people I’d be interested to meet as well.
You magically find a $100 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?
Probably on books. I have a problem, but also a lot of books.
What is your favorite quote?
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C. S. Lewis
What do you enjoy doing when not drawing?
I spend a majority of my time drawing, but when I’m not, I enjoy reading books, buying books, looking at picture books (for inspiration) and spending time with family and friends. This time is usually spent playing some kind of board/card game or playing recreational sports, like Frisbee, flag football and basketball. I also enjoy working in a couple of youth groups and a summer camp where I get to come up with crazy games to make kids play.
Awesome, thanks for sharing, Mary, and once again, congratulations!