Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 27, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Christy Schneider

ChristineMSchneiderPortrait280Christine M. Schneider grew up in Colorado and graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the University of Kansas in the United States. Christy owns Yellow Pencil Studio  Inc.  an illustration and design studio. Some of her picture books for children include “Picky Mrs. Pickle ” “Saxophone Sam and His Snazzy Jazz Band ” “Under Construction ” and “Look for Ladybugs.” Christy lives in Lawrence  Kansas with her husband and daughter. To see more of her work  please visit her website at

Partial client list: Atheneum Books for Young Readers Creative Teaching Press Highlights for Children Houghton Mifflin Company Intervisual Books/Piggy Toes Press Loyola Press Macmillan/McGraw-Hill Nick Jr. Magazine Oxford University Press Quarasan Scholastic Scott Foresman/Pearson Education Sesame Street Magazine Sopris West Walker & Company Weekly Reader Working Mother.

Here is Christy talking about her process:

My daughter asked me to draw her a mermaid. I realized then that I’ve ever done a mermaid for a client before. So I decided to do one for her. I figured this would be a good project to show how my paintings look at various stages of completion. Step 1, of course, is the rough sketch:


After letting it sit for a while, I came back and decided that it might be more interesting if one of the girls was upside down:


I liked that better, so now I’ve transferred my sketch with graphite to my Arches 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper. I stretch it one piece at a time on wooden boards with a staple gun. I sketch at 100%, then transfer my sketches to the paper using graphite rubbed on the back of a photocopy of my sketch. Time to paint!.

christy paints2

I keep a tabouret (a rolling cart of drawers) full of my little canisters of paint. Here is one of the five drawers where you can see a variety of colors and my little notes to myself:

christy mermaidsblock background2

I blocked in the seafoam green color for the water in the background with gouache. I’ve started working in various shades of blues and greens into the base color:

I typically work from background to foreground, blending the gouache and adding depth and dimension with layers of paintwatercolor paper. I’ll have the water pretty much finished before I start on the girls.

I like to keep colors that I use often mixed up in film canisters and I paint from the lids. I can keep a color consistent throughout a book that way. Not quite as important when doing a one-off painting like this one (then I would normally paint from a palette), but this seafoam green is a favorite color of mine.

christymermaidblocked background closeup2

Above is a closeup.

christy mermaid tail2

I decided on purple for this mermaid’s tail because my daughter loves that color. She also loves orange, so I used that for the other mermaid’s tail.


Here is the final piece. As you can see, it can be displayed with either girl right side up!

Did you paint the base color of the tails and then go back and add details to them? Do you spray the final image with anything to help preserve it?

Yes, I start with a base color, and then I add layers of color and add the finer details. No, I don’t spray my paintings with anything. I just try to keep them covered or under glass whenever possible.

Christy created the above and below album cover for Jim Cosgrove, Award-winning children’s singer-songwriter, speaker, and writer.

How long have you been illustrating?

Since I graduated from college in 1993.

I see you lived in Colorado and graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the University of Kansas. What made you think of attending a University in Kansas?

KU has an excellent school of design as well as a traditional fine arts school. I wanted to pursue a career in either illustration or design, so it was a perfect fit. I also had a scholarship there, and I fell in love with the Lawrence campus the first time I set eyes on it.

What types of things did you study there?

I went through the Visual Communications program, so we studied basic design, drawing and painting for the first two years. At the end of sophomore year, we had to pass a faculty review to be able to continue in the program. Junior year and senior year were illustration, design, media and typography courses. I also took a lot of French classes, and other liberal arts classes.


What classes were your favorites?

I enjoyed life drawing a lot, and my illustration classes. Typography was a lot of fun, too. Pretty much anything art-related was my favorite!


Did the School help you get work?

Absolutely. My first book was due to my illustration professor’s connections to his publishers. His name was Tom Allen, and he was an amazing teacher and illustrator. Without him, I wouldn’t have had an in to the industry straight out of school.

ChristyEditorialSlides5_r1_c2_f4croppedDo you feel that the classes you took there have influenced you style?

I think the classes at KU helped me find my style. My teachers, other students, and industry greats influenced me a lot, but as I tried new things and grew as an artist both in school and after school, I was able to find a unique voice of my own.


What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I can’t quite remember which was my first – maybe a logo contest in 10th grade? I remember winning a $100 Michaels gift certificate and buying as many art supplies as I could with it. It was awesome!


What was the first thing you did for children?

Professionally, it was the illustrations for my first book, Jeremy’s Muffler.

ChristyChildrensSlides1_r1_c2_f7How did that come about?

During spring break my senior year of college, my professor, Tom, sent me to New York to meet some of his publishers and show them my portfolio. The following week, one of them called and asked if I’d like to illustrate a manuscript they had just accepted. That was Jeremy’s Muffler. It was a dream come true.

ChristyChildrensSlides1_r1_c2_f8croppedWhen did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

As a teenager, I made a couple of mock children’s books as projects for the gifted program at my high school. I think I knew then that’s what I wanted to do for a career. I have just always loved books and drawing, ever since I can remember!

christyChildrensSlides1_r1_c2_f9croppedHave you done any work for children’s magazines?

Yes. I’ve done some things for Highlights, Sesame Street magazine, Clubhouse Jr. and Nick Jr. to name some of them. I’d love to do more.


Have you worked for educational publishers?

Yes, I do a lot of educational work. It’s a lot of fun! It really appeals to the left side of my brain as well as the right side.

ChristyChildrensSlides2_r1_c2_f4croppedDo you have representation from an artist rep or an agents?

Yes. Her name is Maggie Byer-Sprinzeles.


Could you tell us how they found you?

I tried finding a rep when I first started out, but had no luck. I don’t think my portfolio was strong enough then. I gave up and just did everything on my own. Maggie was the one who found my work in Picture Book, and asked if I’d like to join her group. She is great! I don’t know what I’d do without her now.


How many children’s books have you published?

I think I’m up to 13 now.

ChristyChildrensSlides1_r1_c2_f21croppedHave you illustrated books that you haven’t written?


ChristyCSchneiderLoobyLooKidsWhich book was your first?

Jeremy’s Muffler.

ChristyChildrensSlides2_r1_c2_f10I notice that you have listed doing work for Atheneum Books for Young Readers. What did you do for them and how did they see your work?

That was Jeremy’s Muffler, and they saw my work when I visited their offices while I was a senior in college.


Are you open to illustrating for self-published authors?

It hasn’t worked out yet, but who knows what the future holds.

ChristyChildrensSlides2_r1_c2_f7croppedWhere does most of your paid work come from?

Most of my illustration work comes through my rep, Maggie. My design work is on my own, mainly through existing clients and word-of-mouth. My letterpress work comes mainly through my online shop.


Do you ever do art exhibits?

Sometimes. Usually as part of a group exhibit of some sort.


What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I try to keep my portfolio up-to-date as much as time allows. Maggie sends out emails and PDF tearsheets. I have an online portfolio with Picture Book. I’ve also advertised in other source books in the past, and send out mailers and postcards.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Most of my work now is digital. When I get to paint, though, I use gouache.


Not counting your paint and brushes, what is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My computer.


Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

Every day is different, but I am doing art in some form most hours of most days. My family would say I do too much creating, but I can’t help it. I always feel like making something. I have to be sure to set aside time for other things.


Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?

Yes, I do some research if I don’t know right away how to draw something. It really depends on what I’m being asked to draw. If it’s for an extensive project, I’ll head to the library and check out as many books as I can find about the subject. Mechanical things like bikes or vehicles are things for which I often need a reference. I’ll go out in the garage and sketch my bike, or take a picture of a bus at a nearby school. Once I needed to draw a cement truck for a book. I couldn’t find any good pictures of one with the view I needed. Then one happened to drive up next to me in traffic, so I took as many photos on my cell phone as I could while we were stopped. And soccer balls – they always throw me. I can never remember how the pentagons and hexagons fit together!


Have you ever won an award for your writing or illustrating?

Yes. Picky Mrs. Pickle was included in the Society of Illustrators Original Art show. Another illustration of mine was in one of the Communication Arts illustration annuals.

ChristyChildrensSlides2_r1_c2_f18What is the story behind selling Picky Mrs. Pickle?

I had an image of a character I’d drawn in my portfolio, and the second time I went to New York to show my work around, Emily Easton at Walker & Company said she liked it and wondered if I could build a story around it. I came home and worked on story for a few months and put together a dummy to send to her. She liked it!


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. No shipping my portfolio off for viewing! Everything is on my website, and much easier and less expensive to keep up-to-date.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, that’s pretty much all I use for my digital illustrations. I do some path work in Illustrator and InDesign, but everything else is in Photoshop. I start with a sketch with pencil on paper, then scan it in and work in layers under my sketch. I have developed a series of my own Photoshop brushes that I use specifically for my doodle-texture technique, and lots of customized actions and keyboard shortcuts to help speed things up.


Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

Yes. I’ve been using a Wacom tablet for about 15 years now.


Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

Yes, it has. My style constantly evolving. If I look at something I drew 2 years ago, I see immediately what I do differently now, even though I thought I was still doing it exactly the same. Yes, I used to only paint with gouache or draw with pencils. Now I’m doing much more digital work.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I just love what I do and want to keep doing it as long as I can!

ChristyChildrensSlides1_r1_c2_f4croppedWhat are you working on now?

I have two children’s books coming out in August that I illustrated for Lerner Books earlier this year. I recently illustrated some big murals of retail store scenes for a big corporate meeting. I’m doing a major website update. Lots of letterpress work. A new issue of the magazine I art direct is in process, and I’m doing some spot illustrations for that as well. A t-shirt design for a friend. Plenty to do!

ChristyCSchneiderKiteIlloDo you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

For paintings, my favorite medium is Winsor & Newton gouache. The colors are brilliant, they’re easy to mix, and go on smoothly and opaquely. My favorite paper is Arches 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper. I stretch it one piece at a time on wooden boards with a staple gun. I sketch at 100%, then transfer my sketches to the paper using graphite rubbed on the back of a photocopy of my sketch. I usually paint from background to foreground, blending the gouache and adding depth and dimension with layers of paint.

I run through brushes pretty quickly, so I look for affordable, good quality brushes that have nice points or textures. I like a rounded #2 or #4, and I like using a cat’s tongue brush for texture.

ChristyEditorialSlides5_r1_c2_f2croppedAny words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

• Do what you love. It will show in your work.

• Your style will evolve over time (even if you don’t want it to), and that’s okay.

• Criticism may be hard to take sometimes, but it’s part of the commercial art industry and necessary to help you (me) grow as an artist.

• Keep putting yourself out there, and all the variables will align, and you’ll get to work on a fabulous project that you never dreamed would come your way.

• Be ready for the roller coaster ride. It’s never even – there will be too much work, then not enough, then too much… but try to treasure as much of it in the moment as you can. You never know what’s around the corner.

• Take time away from your work. Things always look different when you come back with a fresh perspective.

• There is nothing like seeing the eyes of a child light up as they look at your drawings. It is an amazing feeling. I wouldn’t trade my job for any other in the world.

christyYellowPencilHeaderThank you Christy for sharing your expertise and process with us. Please remember to let us know about your future successes. We would love to show off some more of your work.

You can find Christy at: You may want to bookmark it, because I know Christy has more illustrations that will show up soon on her website. Please take a minute to leave Christy a comment or let her know which one is your favorite. I know that is a hard task. I love the mermaids, but those twin girls with the umbrella’s are adorable. I could go on, but I cheated already giving two.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. These illustrations are so engaging! Bright and sweet at the same time. But what I loved most about them was the diversity of the characters.


    • Tracey,

      I am so happy you picked that up, because that is something that Christy says she likes to do and I did not mention.



  2. Thank you so much, Kathy, for including me in such an amazing group of illustrators. I’m honored!

    – Christy


    • Christy,

      My pleasure. I am glad I found you because you are also an amazing illustrator.



    • Christy,

      Thank you for sharing your great talent with all of us. I really enjoyed sending time getting to know you. Keep in touch.



  3. Christy, this was really enjoyable to read, and your illustrations are so full of life and HAPPY! Thank you for sharing, and thanks for the hard work, Kathy 😀


    • Thanks so much, Donna Marie!


      • And I forgot to mention, I love your collection of paints in the film canisters 🙂 I, too, use them, only have run short since I haven’t had film developed in years, now having a cheap digital camera. They don’t spill, they’re a perfect size and they don’t break! Unlike the glass jars I now have. I’m big on painting the color on the outside, too, typically on the lids. And for my concentrated watercolors, I put little pieces of the color on each bottle, showing the color from undiluted to diluted to really see them. I just love seeing how other artists work 🙂


      • Sorry, don’t mean to confuse, but I have more than one WordPress account and am always switching between them, so I appear as whichever one I’m under at the time! lol


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