SCBWI & Friends: a Featured Illustrator Welcome
Phoenix Media & Books' Creative Director Samantha J. Winkler recently joined the Southern California Regional Chapter of the SCBWI, and received the warmest of welcomes: A Featured Illustrator article and sweet social media boosts for the month of February 2021!
The founders of Phoenix Media & Books always recommend that book creatives join their local SCBWI groups. The community of skill-building, support, and publishing industry workshops are wonderful resources and well-worth the time. It's no exaggeration to say that Phoenix Media & Books LLC would not exist without the long-lasting relationships formed through the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. Below is the article featured on Samantha Winkler. Check out the original article and the other magnificent illustrator talents in the SCBWI SoCal Chapter, here.
To read about the featured illustrator for March 2021, find the art and mind of Carolyn Le, here.
How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?
I joined the Southern Illinois chapter of SCBWI in 2010, volunteered as a Network Rep from about 2015-2017, and joined the SoCal chapter in 2020. I love the conferences, and the mild deadlines for group meetings each month are helpful for developing the self-discipline needed for this type of work. The most impactful thing about the SCBWI is the relationships formed with other members. Supporting each other as we evolve and improve and achieve our creative goals has become my favorite part.
What medium(s) do you use to illustrate?
I’m a dabbler. If it makes a mark on paper, I’m likely to try it. In an effort to learn some self control, I try to focus on the style and color palette that most clearly fits the needs of the story in front of me.
If more than one, which do you prefer?
My favorite medium for children’s book illustration is mixed-media inks (cleaned up a bit digitally afterwards because I’m really good at smudging white spaces). I also love any type of marker ink that doesn’t bleed through paper because I consider every sketchbook an opportunity to explore book design.
What is your illustration process? (If you can, include pictures.)
I have to put myself through a checklist if I want the results to be consistent:
1. Thoroughly read the source material/ requirements
2. Lots of research and notes
3. Pencil sketches
4. Build up inks in layers until satisfied with images
5. Scan images into Photoshop for cleanup and to arrange composition of final design
How long have you been illustrating? How did you first get into illustration?
Professionally, my first traditional publishing book deal happened January of 2021 with Sky Pony Press of Skyhorse Publishing, but part of my day job now includes some in house illustrating for our authors at Phoenix Media & Books. All of my opportunities to illustrate have happened as a direct result of relationships formed through the SCBWI — even the Sky Pony Press picture book (EVERY OTHER CHRISTMAS) is happening because some of my fellow SCBWI members recommended me.
Are you self taught or did you study illustration?
I suppose both. I’ve been drawing since toddler times, but I didn’t start with classes until high school, and now I can’t stop! It’s become like a nervous tic.
If you did study illustration, what school did you attend?
At Southern Illinois University, I earned a BA in Art Studio, a BA in English Language and Literature, and a Minor in Creative Writing (2013). Southern Illinois University’s Art Studio Program had a few illustration-friendly courses like Printmaking, Book Binding, and Book Design, but most of my illustration-specific studies are gleaned from SCBWI workshops and getting nosy about how my favorite
illustrators work. For me, the study aspect never stops, it’s half the fun.
Do you have a dedicated art space?
Yes. I have two dedicated art spaces, one is inside my house for illustration and writing while most mural painting and mixed-media sculpture happens in my garage studio.
What would be your dream book to illustrate?
A book that has all my favorite things to draw: animals, fantasy adventure shenanigans, and mysterious spookies.
Are you working on any fun projects now?
Yes, EVERY OTHER CHRISTMAS by Katie Otey, set for release 2022 by Sky Pony Press.
“After his parents’ divorce, a young bi-racial child spends every other Christmas celebrating the differing traditions between the African-American and Colombian sides of his family.”
Do you write children’s books as well or have any plans to do so?
Though publishing an author/illustrated picture book is on my list of to dos, so far my stories fit a middle grade audience the best.
Any tips for illustrators that are starting out?
1. Nine times out of ten, if a color illustration seems a bit “off,” it’s because the shadows aren’t dark enough. Taking breaks to view a grayscale version of your composition will confirm whether or not that’s the issue.
2. Everything cheesy “they” say about “do what you love” is true. Pursue your favorite skills, and opportunities will present themselves at the right time. If it feels fun and exciting, you’re on the right track.
3. The SCBWI is 100% worth your time.
Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?
I don’t currently have an agent, but I’m open to considering an agency if the contract doesn’t prevent me from pursuing my work at Phoenix Media & Books.
If you’ve won any illustrating awards or have any books published, please list them here?
Aside from the upcoming EVERY OTHER CHRISTMAS in 2022, I art directed and did some illustrations for THE LAST COLORING BOOK ON THE LEFT, a 2017 fan art horror anthology that maintained best seller status across Amazon for several months, earning it’s spot in the Barnes and Noble catalog purely from frequent requests. I love that because I distinctly remember Barnes and Noble passing on carrying the book when we first released it, so seeing it there, now, feels like a reminder that hard work does pay off. Rejection isn’t always permanent.
If you have had books published, when and what was the experience like?
This current experience with Sky Pony Press is interesting because it’s happening as a direct result of the relationships formed in SCBWI book groups.
List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.
By the time I was sixteen, I’d lived in six different states and attended nine different schools.
When I was young and buff, I won a few kumite medals and sometimes coached kids in karate. I didn’t get to drink as much beer as the Cobra Kai guy, but I DID have some Ratt songs on my workout playlist.
I spend half my time uncovering elusive secrets of the universe, and the other half blanking on important names and misplacing car keys.
Though I saw the film in theater, I’ll never know if I would’ve correctly guessed the ending to The Sixth Sense, because I got up to use the bathroom in the beginning and thus spent the whole film not knowing Bruce Willis got injured. Yes, I’m still upset about this. It may be the biggest regret of my life, so far. The theater bathroom had gorgeous tiles though, beautiful glossy marble.
Where can people find more of your work?