Meryl Treatner holds degrees from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. She resides with her husband and three children in suburban Philadelphia.
Meryl’s illustrations have appeared in hundreds of leading newspapers commissioned by ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS, including art for such programs as:
McNeill-Lehrer News Hour, ABC News’ Nightline, PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center, and American Playhouse, the Emmy-award winning drama, “Concealed Enemies.” Magazines carrying Meryl’s artwork include National Geographic and Scholastic Magazines. Her cover art depicting child abuse won a Best Magazine Cover award judged and exhibited by Art Direction Magazine and appeared in their Creativity Annual.
Meryl is an experienced courtroom sketch artist, and has been featured by ABC Nightly News and United Press International. Her works were part of an exhibition of Courtroom Artists at the Lowe Gallery, Syracuse University, and the Huntsville, Alabama Museum of Art.
Among the publishers for which Meryl has illustrated include: Pearson Learning Group, Random House, Scott-Foresman, McGraw-Hill School Division, Hampton-Brown, Harcourt-Brace-Jovanovich, Wm. Morrow and Company, Scholastic Books, National Geographic Books, Dell Yearling, Saxon Publishers, Rigby, Richard C. Owen Publishers, Creative Teaching Press, and Scholastic.
Here is Meryl explaining her process:
When illustrating realistic fiction for the educational market, the look and interaction of the central characters are of foremost importance. They must convey the specific emotions and personalities that carry the progress of the story being depicted. That means a story like The Shiner with its fictional characters and made-up situations, still must tell us something about life.
The first illustration to appear in the story, shows Troy and his father. They are two key characters in the tale to be told. The father is quite unhappy with his teenage son.
The first illustration was to show the conflict between father and son in Troy’s room. Troy’s father is not happy about his son’s tendency to be lazy when it comes to the chore of mowing the lawn. After completing the first sketch, I felt that the characters might appear too angry. I decided to change the mood and eventually the models.
In sketch 2, I feel I struck the right balance, showing the father was unhappy, but not as angry as in the prior illustration. I believe that these characters were a better match for the story.
I completed the first color illustration leaving out background color until the designer made a decision about page and border color to run throughout the book.
This is the final color illustration.
How long have you been illustrating?
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
Right after I graduated from the University of the Arts I illustrated two trials. One was the Tony Boyle murder trial for channel 10, Philadelphia. The other was the Nelson Rockefeller Vice Presidential Hearings for ABC. At that time all the stations had their own artists. I had gone in for an interview with my portfolio, and I arrived at just the right time: they needed an artist because all their artists were busy. They asked me if I knew how to do courtroom sketches. I answered yes and learned on the spot. So my first art job was covering a murder trial with reporter Bill Baldini.
What made you decide to attend the University of the Arts in Philadelphia?
I grew up in Philadelphia, took a summer course there, liked it and then received a scholarship. So that worked out really well.
What did you study there?
My major was Illustration.
Do you feel College helped develop your style?
It gave me a chance to try other styles and react to them, eventually finding my own personal voice.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
I worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I went to see the editor of Today Magazine, with my huge portfolio of original work. He loved my work, but I was unpublished and just out of school. He asked to see what else I could illustrate. So I went back every month, and each time he said, “Very nice work!” and sent me home. But one day, he gave me a chance to illustrate a story for the magazine. He loved it, and from then on I was hired to do a lot of their illustrations along with many issues of TV Week, such as specials and super bowls.
Did the University of Arts help you get work?
They did help me to develop my portfolio, which I then took around on my own.
Have you seen your work change since you left school?
Yes—earlier I loved black and white, so used ink a lot. Now I enjoy using color. I had been using Pantone papers as a base color, with a cross-hatch drawing technique on top of the paper, along with collage and overlay. But that got more and more difficult, when working with a tight deadline. I also found that this paper would shrink over time. That got me experimenting. I started using water color and colored pencils, my favorite technique at the present time.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
I got a call from Chris Tugeau, who was just starting her own agency. She had seen my work, and got me started on children’s books.
How many picture books have you illustrated?
So many, I really can’t count! I know it’s more than 50.
What was the title of your first picture book? What year was that?
The Koufax Dilemma, written by Steven Schnur (1997).
How did that contract come your way?
The publisher called Chris, and asked her about my work.
What has been your biggest success?
I am the most proud of the book, I Can’t Stop, written by Holly Niner, about a boy with Tourette Syndrome. It won a Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award for Special Needs Adaptable Products.
How did you get the contract with Albert Whitman for I Can’t Stop?
The publisher saw my work and contacted Chris.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture book?
Yes, in fact I am working on one right now!
Have you ever thought about doing a wordless picture book?
Yes, what artist hasn’t? It would be an inspiring project.
Do you think more publishers are opening their doors to realistic illustrations?
I hope so!
What types of things did you do before Chris represented you to get work?
I beat the pavement with my heavy portfolio. I used to work with illustration board, so it kept getting heavier! I persisted and requested interviews with magazine publishers and TV stations. I went into New York every few weeks. I put myself out there.
Have you ever worked with a self-published author?
No, I have not.
Would you be open to that?
I certainly might be!
Do you do any other type of illustration other than for children books?
Yes, I do magazine art and portraits.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
Water color and colored pencils. I use Prisma Color.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
Once in a while, when I use layers. I use it sparingly. Most of my work is drawing at the board.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
No, I enjoy the physical process of drawing on paper.
Have you done any illustrations for educational publishers?
Has any of your work appeared in magazines?
Yes. One of my early magazine illustrations won an Art Direction Magazine Award, for a cover I did for Family Planning Perspectives, the magazine of the Alan Guttmacher Institute. It was for an issue on sexual abuse and adolescent pregnancy.
Do you have a studio in your house?
Yes, I do!
Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?
Yes, my grandchild, Dylan, who often keeps me company while I work. He enjoys drawing as well.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
I just keep working on new projects!
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
Yes, I’m working on several new books at once!
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
The internet is a good communication tool. And some of the work I have done appears in e-books.
What are your career goals?
To write and illustrate my own book!
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
I like to use smooth, Bristol paper, watercolor markers and pencil. Everyone needs to experiment to find the materials that work best for them.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
Keep doing your best work and never give up!
Thank you Meryl for sharing your talent, process, and journey with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.
To see more of Meryl’s work, visit http://www.catugeau.com/meryltreatner/ or
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Meryl. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!