Lauren Gallegos, illustrator of sixteen Children’s Books, earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Illustration from Cal State Fullerton in 2009 and has been illustrating ever since. Several of her books have won awards, including the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, the International Book Awards, and the Independent Publishers Book Award. Also a proud member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Lauren has always loved books that warm the heart and touch the soul; timeless narratives that take you to mysterious places and let your imagination run wild with possibilities. She continues to look for opportunities to illustrate great stories with the desire to see how her work will impact the young minds of our future.
How long have you been illustrating?
I have been illustrating professionally since I graduated college in 2009.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
I have been illustrating professionally since I graduated college in 2009.
How many picture books have you done, since you were featured on Illustrator Saturday in 2012?
I have illustrated 12 books since 2012. Some were small easy-reader e-books, some were just cover illustrations, 3 of them are not out yet.
Is Ernie’s Wish Trail a self-published book?
The author is self-publishing the book as a boardbook and will be paired with an augmented reality app. I’ve never used an app like this, nor did I make it for this book, but I am SO excited to see how it turns out!
How did the author or publisher of Ernie’s Wish Trail discover you and sign you for the job?
I haven’t asked the author specifically how he found me, but I am pretty sure he saw a sketch of a pig that I posted on Instagram and contacted me through my website about doing his “pig story”. Sometimes it really pays off to be on social media.
Can you give us the story behind getting the contract to illustrate, The Littlest Angel Of All.
The Littlest Angel of All is also a self-published book by the author. It was a very short run. The author had originally contacted me several years ago after seeing my work on the SCBWI Illustrator Gallery but it never went anywhere, then a few years later he contacted me again and asked if I was still available to illustrate his book. He had kept my email all that time!
It looks like you have another series going with Alane Adams with the thief books. Do you think the series will continue?
I know it will continue. I am working on the 3rd book right now and a 4th and 5th book are already scheduled. The author is great to work with and I love her stories.
Could you share the how you connected with Alane Adams to illustrate those books?
Alane found me on the SCBWI Illustrator Gallery and sent me a quick email to see if I was interested in her story (The Coal Thief). I don’t always respond to emails if I am too busy with other projects, but I gave this one a chance because I connected with the manuscript. I am so glad I did!
Do you know anything about the publisher, SparkPress?
Only a little. It is an independent boutique publisher in Arizona that Alane Adams connected with to help publish her books.
How did you hook up with the author Robert Scott Thayer of Kobee Manatee books?
Thayer contacted me many years ago. I don’t remember how he found me now that I think about it. It’s been so long! He was so enthusiastic and pumped about this book idea that he had that I just couldn’t resist. It’s been so much fun working on the Kobee books with him.
It looks like you have done a number of books for self published authors. How have you found that experience? Do you feel they give you the freedom you want? Can you make enough money illustrating books for self-published writers? Did you have a contract written up to use?
Great question. I realize that in most cases illustrating for self-publishing authors is not an ideal situation for an illustrator. In fact, many illustrators will not do it at all. I am not so financially free to make that choice. Just about all of my income comes from illustrating self-published books. I have my list of set prices per illustration which I have raised every year to keep up with inflation. It provides enough for my living situation at the moment but I don’t think that will last forever. I have been blessed to have had a pretty consistent flow of projects, which has really helped. For me it has been a great experience overall. Not every client has been the best work with, only because some people are so mew to the industry that they don’t know what to expect. But for the most part the authors give me a lot of freedom to express myself, which I really appreciate. I wrote up my own contract years ago to use for each book that I work on and most contracts I have include royalties and I always make sure I keep the rights to my work. I am so grateful for the projects I have worked on and the authors I have connected with. I started doing this right out of college so I have grown enormously since I started and I have a pretty firm understanding of what it takes to create a full picture book. I will continue to work with self-published authors as long as it seems like a good opportunity. Plus, I am still trying to get my foot in the doors of the big publishers…until then I will take what I can get.
What was your first book?
The first book I ever illustrated professionally was The Mahogany Door. It was self-published by the author. I got to illustrate the cover and all the chapter headers in Black and White. It was a big project to start off with, but so valuable.
How did you get that contract?
He contacted me by email. I don’t remember how he found me anymore.
I have given it a lot of thought. I have written and illustrated 2 stories. The most recent I am still finishing up and will be sending it out to agents and publishers as soon as it’s ready. I don’t know how my writing measures up to my illustrating. I definitely feel more at home with illustration. But I know that author/illustrators are much more desirable so I want to improve on my writing.
Have you ever thought about doing a wordless picture book?
I have. I have in idea for a book that I might make wordless. That would DEFINITELY make the writing part easier! But I don’t take it lightly. I know that wordless picture books can be just as challenging, if not more, than one with words.
Have your illustrating materials changed since 2012?
Yes. I started out working in colored pencil and around 2012 I started moving to acrylic paint. It gave me so much more freedom. Now that is my main medium. I also just tried out Graphite Watercolor just this week and I’m kind of liking it….a lot. That become my new Black and White medium of choice. We’ll see how it goes.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
It depends. I absolutely do research online and find as much reference as I can that way. I don’t go out taking pictures as often. Only if there is sometime locally that I know will be the perfect solution to what I am working on. I do a lot of at-home picture reference…usually of myself to get the right expression or gesture. Sometimes I also will use SketchUp to build a simple model to help me with consistency between scenes as well as perspective. SketchUp can take awhile to get used to, but can be very helpful once you get the basics down. I still struggle with it at times.
Have you seen a growing interest in doing illustrations for ebooks, since you were featured in 2012?
I have not had many people come to me wanting to do just an e-book. They usually want to do a traditional book and the e-book is made along with it as another option for readers. From where I sit traditional books are still going strong!
What book do you think was your biggest success? ?
My most recent book The Coal Thief, with Alane Adams, has been my most successful book, at least in my eyes. A lot of that is thanks to Ms. Adams. She has done an incredible job promoting the book and doing school visits and signings. It has also won several awards which is pretty cool!
Have all the books you’ve done since 2012 been done using Photoshop?
I use Photoshop for every project. I use it to edit sketches, I use it to do value sketches and color sketches. When I finish a painting traditionally, I will take it to Photoshop to do a little color correcting, and clean up the blemishes and dust from the scanner.
Have you learned any new Photoshop skills during the last 4 years?
Absolutely! I’ve started using more brushes. There are just so many I can’t try them all! I’ve gotten better at using the Mask. I also now use layers in a much more organized way. It used to be a mess and would make things harder. Now everything is nicely labeled! And just the other day I discovered you can “Auto Select” layers. WHAAAT?!
Do you have an artist rep. or agent?
I do not, but I am actively looking.
Do you work full time doing freelance illustrating?
Yes! And I am so thankful to be able to say that! It can be really difficult, but It IS possible! I get to tell people that I work from home and that I love my job. How much better can it get?
Has any of your work appeared in magazines?
I have not gone into the realm of magazines, but I am certainly interested. I think it would be a great opportunity.
Are there any painting tips (materials, etc) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
Don’t get really expensive painting brushes. I can’t even tell the difference and I am not very nice to my brushes so I need new ones often. Might as well get the cheap ones. Also get a good scanner if you work traditionally. And get a good printer too!
What kinds of things do you do to promote yourself?
I keep my website up to date. I try to blog regularly (I haven’t been very good at this lately). I try to post regularly on social media and get engaged with the conversations. I’m not very good at this either. But I try. I am pretty good at getting postcards out 2-3 times a year. I also try to set aside time for personally projects so I always have something new to show.
I am getting the print files for Ernie’s Wish Trail ready to send to the printer. I am working on illustrating the 3rd Kobee Manatee book. I am starting to work on the 3rd “Thief” book. And I am finishing working on my picture book dummy called “Hickory Dickory Doc and the Cuckoo Bandit”. PHEW!
Do you have any career dreams still to fulfill?
I would love to get an agent and a book contract with a major publisher. I want to get better at writing. And I always want to get better at drawing. Always, always.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with other illustrators?
Always do your very very best, and don’t ever give up. Ever. You WILL have days when you think everything you have done is garbage. That you will never be good enough. That you’re just kidding yourself and someday you will have to get a “real” job. But you work through those days and usually something really great happens that gives you hope again. And then you realize that every artist goes through these feels from time to time, and yet you can still be successful.
Thank you Lauren for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Lauren’s work, you can visit her at website at: http://www.laurengallegos.com/
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Lauren. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!