Sharon Lane Holms is a published children’s book author/ illustrator with over 20 years of experience. She has illustrated over 65 children’s books; trade, mass market, board books, workbooks, school/library, craft books, fiction and non fiction, and recently released 2 Itunes Apps which she wrote and illustrated- “Kids Counting Kitties 10-1”, and “Kids Counting Kitties 1-10” (available in English and Spanish). She wrote and illustrated “Zoe’s Hats” (a color concept book)- published by Boyds Mills Press.
Sharon graduated with honors from The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale with a degree in Visual Communication- ie: Advertising Design. She says, “I have always wanted to be an artist, I have always just wanted to spend my life drawing pictures. Advertising Design offered the most illustration classes at that time. Upon graduation I was offered a job at Hallmark but turned it down.”
She was an art director in S. Florida for 4 years winning several advertising awards for advertising design work. As much as she loved design work, Sharon still missed drawing pictures.
Sharon says, “With a move to Connecticut and a child on the way, it was perfect timing to transition into children’s illustration. I was fortunate to acquire a children’s artist representative my first time out.”
Her client roster includes but not limited to- Boyds Mills Press, High Five, Dutton, ABDO, Twin Sisters, Harcourt educational, Child’s World, Kids Can Press, Lerner, Flowerpot Press. She is also, a licensed artist of greeting cards, puzzles and calendars.
She teaches a literacy/art course for grades 3 through 5 for the local school system’s PTO and just earned/received a black belt in TaeKwonDo, martial arts.
Here is Sharon explaining her process:
Initial concept or idea, very loosely sketched.
Overlays of tracing paper refining, tweaking original concept.
Refining the art till I have it to the degree of “tightness” I want to take the art to
Transfered the sketch onto 140lb. Arches HP brite white watercolor paper. I traced the art using a #2 Ticondergo pencil for this piece. Sometimes I will outline with a pigma micron marker, for a more graphic approach. This time I wanted a softer pencil line.
I sprayed workable fix over the pencil lines. And painted a light ochre wash over entire art. The ochre base color adds a slightly different “dimension” to the paint colors.
Final painted piece. I paint using Golden fluid acrylics, gouache, even acrylic craft paint. I then add some highlights with Prisma color pencils.
How long have you been illustrating?
Professionally for over 20 years. I have illustrated everything from trade books, mass market books, board books, educational books and readers, science/nature, craft books, workbooks , lift the flaps -even cloth and bath books! I have been drawing pictures all of my life, I won a Scholastic Art Award in High School. Drawing has always been the only thing I have ever wanted to do with my life.
What made you choose to attend the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale?
I lived in South Florida at the time. Art school was a highly intense 2 yr. art program and college was 4 yrs, I was also in a bit of a hurry to get started in the art field.
What made you choose to go for a degree in Visual Communication- ie: Advertising Design?
It offered the most drawing/design classes – while its very important to draw well, I feel it is equally important to know how to design the art to work on a page. Where will the art go, how well will it work with the type treatment, will my art tell the same story as the words?
What were you favorite classes?
All the illustration courses, advertising design and hand lettering.
Did the School help you get work?
Yes and no. They did not help with job placement, but I feel the education I received from the Art Institute helped me get to where I am today.
What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?
In art school I did some illustrated logo designs for which I was paid.
What type of job did you do right after you graduated?
Working in advertising agencies, started out doing paste up and mechanicals. I learned even more as to how to design a page. How to grab your attention. I went on to become an art director/creative director winning several awards for advertising design along the way.
Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?
Maybe to a degree. I believe we all have our own sense of style which develops over the years. I have been told I have a bold graphic approach style of illustrating which may have evolved from the years of illustrating for advertisements, brochures, logos. I can look back at art school illustrations and see the same graphic like approach I have now. Only over time my illustrations have gotten much better!
When did you do your the first illustration for children?
Aprox. 25 years ago. It was a baby wrapped in a quilt.
How did that come about?
We moved from Southern Florida to Ct when my son was born. I interviewed with an art representative when he was 2 who wanted to take me on. But my comfort zone was still in advertising so I started my own advertising studio. I was fortunate that a few years later they called and asked if I might be ready at that time to get into children’s art. By then I was more than ready. I was with them for 13 years.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?
I have always wanted to illustrate books. The opportunity arose while doing educational artwork.
What was the title of your first picture book that you illustrated?
Trucks all Around, Dutton and Playskool were the publishers.
How did that contract come your way?
Through my agent.
I see that you wrote and illustrated It’s Silly Time (Read and Sing Along). Did you do the singing, too, on the CD?
Unfortunately, I did not write Silly Time-that credit belongs to Kim Thompson of Twin Sisters. I did the illustrations. We are also fortunate that it wasn’t my singing either!
How did you get the idea and contract with Twin Sisters Productions?
I got my contact with Twin Sisters Productions through my second agent. I have had the pleasure of working with Twin Sisters for many years, illustrating more than 7 board books, readers and puzzles.
In 2009 “Five Trick or Treaters”, which I illustrated, for Twin Sisters was awarded the National Parenting Seal of Approval.
How and when did you get involved in licensed art?
I illustrated a “color pencil by numbers” for Dimensions crafts. I have done some greeting card designs on and off for few years. I recently did advent calendars for Vermont Christmas Company. I would love to do more licensing of my artwork.
How many children’s books have you illustrated?
Over 65. That includes many educational readers, trade books, mass market books, board books, craft books ,workbooks.
How many books have you written and illustrated?
I wrote and illustrated “Zoe’s Hats”- a color concept book, published by Boyds Mills Press.
In 2012 “Zoe’s Hats” was recognized by Libraries Unlimited ABC-CLIO as a Best Book to Enhance Content Area Curriculum for grades Pre K- 2. I also have two Apple/Itunes Apps which I wrote and illustrated that were released in 2013- “Kids Counting Kitties 10 to 1, and Kids Counting Kitties 1-10.”
Did you always want to write?
Always. I still have my first book, written and illustrated in 3rd grade.
How did you end up working with Boyd’s Mill Press? Did you attend Chautauqua? How many books have you done with them?
I did attend Chautauqua. That was quite a wonderful experience! I had met the president of Boyds Mills Press (at that time) at an adult education class-who insisted I submit something to them. I had taken the class to meet him and find out how I might be able to illustrate for Boyds Mills Press. I ended up getting a scholarship to Chautauqua and they accepted “Zoe’s Hats.”
Have you worked with educational publishers?
many many many
Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?
Yes, Highlights and Highlights High Five
Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? And how did you connect with them? If not, would you like to have one?
Right now I am networking myself on my own although I am being brokered by Janet De Carlo of StoryBookArts Inc. She was in a partnership with my last agency PortfolioSolutions. I left Portfolio Solutions a few years ago to be on my own .I often think a literary/art agent might be the way to go in the future.
What types of things did you do to market your work?
I do postcard mailings on a regular basis. I have my own webpage-www.sharoholm.com, I have online portfolio pieces/pages on CBIG, PictureBookArtists,ThatsMyFolio and Jacketflap. I also have a blog that I wish I kept more current- sharonlaneholm.blogspot.com.
What is your favorite medium to use?
I’m still “old school”. I love the feel and touch of paper and pencil. I love the look of pencil on tracing paper. I still paint traditionally and send the art digitally. I paint with Goldens fluid acrylics, qouache, prismacolor colored pencils, pigma microns(for black line art), even craft project acrylics.
Has that changed over time?
I like to think my style is evolving- I’m trying to draw looser, not so tight. The process of sending art has changed- now its scanned into Photoshop, clean it up, tweak it and out it goes.
Do you have a studio in your house?
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
Mechanical pencil and tracing paper.
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
I try to create or work on art and/or writing every day.
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
Yes, my family have been posed as models numerous times. Google and Yahoo are a good way to find reference material.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Absolutely. Besides being able to digitally send art to my clients, its a great source for online portfolios, networking with other artists / illustrators, and writers. I met you, Kathy online and I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your time and consideration in interviewing me.
What do you feel was your biggest success?
Zoe’s Hats was a great success for me. It was the first book I ever submitted. But success to me is measured in many ways- my biggest success is having had the opportunity to have a successful career doing what I love the most. Drawing pictures and writing stories.
Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?
I use Photoshop mostly at this point to scan, clean up and tweak my traditional paintings. I am taking Photoshop lessons at the moment. I can do art in Photoshop but feel much more comfortable with traditional paints, for right now.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
I do own a cintiq.
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
I would love to have more of my own stories published. I have several stories/dummies in varying degrees of “ready” to submit. But I get the elephant in the closet syndrome, where I’ll submit to a few places , even get a positive rejection, and back in the drawer it goes.
What are you working on now?
Currently I am illustrating religious craft book. I have 1 dummy circulating and several more stories/dummies started.
And I am continually trying to update my portfolio.
Do 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.
I love working on Arches 140 lb HP for painting. I order all my supplies through Dick Blick.One method I learned which I don’t use often enough- scan your tissues/tracings into Photoshop, and then print them out directly onto your WC paper. Saves you a step in transferring your art. You must run the paper through a printer that accommodates archival inks and the weight of WC paper. I have an older Epson Stylus photo printer which handles this.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
Draw and try to create your art every chance you can. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cant be what you want to be. With patience, persistence and passion you can make your dreams come true. I did.
Thank you Sharon for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.
Please take a minute to leave a comment for Sharon, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!