Laura Logan has been illustrating books for other authors for a number of years. She got her start illustrating greeting cards and working in educational publishing, and children’s magazines. Slowly, she started illustrating board books and toddler books, and the occasional picture book.
Late in 2012 Donna Bray at Balzer + Bray, published her first picture book as an author/illustrator.
She lives and work in Austin, Texas, with her husband, son and daughter. She works in a combination of traditional and digital media–beginning with pencil/prismacolor sketches, and watercolor, then re-painting and finishing artwork up in Painter and Photoshop.
Here’s Laura discussing her process:
These are both quick rough drawings, (tracing paper and computer combined) at the start of a portfolio piece I was creating.
Once I had the design how I wanted it, I used my lightpad to trace the basic image, and here it is in prisma pencil.
I like to do most of my drawing traditionally, then scan the image and repaint or redraw certain elements in Painter.
As you can see, it’s hardly finished at this point. I want more contrast, and I wanted to do the color on the computer.
How long have you been illustrating?
My whole life! Professionally, about 15 years
Where do you live?
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
I believe it was greeting card designs for DaySpring Cards. I also illustrated a little spot art piece for SCBWI and they paid me $20 for it! I scanned my paycheck so I could remember the occasion. It was a magical feeling!
Did you go to school for art? If so where and why did you pick that school?
I didn’t go to art school, I am primarily self-taught. I was a theatre major!
What did you study there?
Do you feel College helped develop your style?
I had always drawn for myself but I loved doing set design in school. I think the classes I took helped me learn how to tell a story, character development, and setting the stage. I learned about pacing and composition—making stage “pictures”.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
I worked at various jobs, not theatre or illustration related! Waitressing was the hardest and most stressful job I think I’ve ever had. I worked at an insurance company—not fun—and quite a few office jobs. It wasn’t a good fit. Those experiences were enough for me to realize I didn’t want to do that and I really began to focus on developing my illustration style and portfolio. I loved children’s books and I worked in a bookstore during college and was put in charge of the children’s section at one point. It felt like a natural fit for me. I loved children’s books and libraries as a kid, and had a hard time re-shelving the books because I really just wanted to sit on the floor and look at them.
Have you seen your work change since you left school?
My work has changed a lot over the years. It morphed from being more suitable for adults and more realistic, to what it is today.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
In my 20’s, after I was out of school. After working in that bookstore and surrounding myself with children’s books, the lightbulb clicked. I just didn’t know how to go about it, and worried that I couldn’t get my foot in the door.
What was your first book you illustrated?
It was a book called, I Love You, Teddy, by Jan Jugran. Published by Innovative Kids.
How did you get that contract?
I included the art director in a postcard mailing. I had my trusty, Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market guidebook and blanketed anyone and everyone with a postcard! It took time, but it worked. I’ve had good luck with them, and I’ve gotten several projects from postcard submissions.
Did you do other types of illustrating before you got that book contract?
Yes—I had done illustrations for magazines, greeting card companies, as well as educational jobs.
Was Little Butterfly your first picture book with a major publisher? Was working with them any different than working with a smaller publisher?
No, I’d worked for major publishers before. In 2007, I participated in a large poetry anthology compiled by the late Bill Martin Jr., published by Simon & Schuster. I got to be part of a project that included some of my heroes, and it was very exciting to find myself across the gutter from Dan Yaccarino and Chris Raschka :) I will say that in my experience with major publishers—they trust you to be a professional and do your thing, and let you run with it. They are less likely to impose requests and like to see what you come up with. I’ve worked with smaller presses that feel more educational in nature and you can sometimes feel micromanaged. But, they have more of an agenda, points that need to be “hit”, and I understand that too.
How many picture books have you illustrated?
I think 20-21 books altogether. Some have been picture books, board books, readers, novelty books.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?
I did with Little Butterfly. I’ve illustrated a lot of books for a younger crowd, babies and toddlers, and I absolutely love doing those. But Little Butterfly was a story that I really wanted to tell. I sort of “think” in pictures and I don’t really consider myself a writer, but I think visual storytelling is a good name for what I like to do. I also felt like I couldn’t make the leap to the kind of work that I wanted to do, so I created it myself and an editor responded to it in a really positive way. Thank you Donna Bray!
What do you think is your biggest success?
Probably getting Little Butterfly finished!
Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?
Little Butterfly is wordless.
I see you are represented by Chris Tugeau. How did the two of you connect and when was that?
My buddy (and brilliant illustrator), Patrice Barton, has been represented by Chris Tugeau (and now Christy Tugeau Ewers too) for a long time. Patty and I talk shop a lot, and I wanted the same type of agent relationship for myself. Patty made an introduction, Chris and I talked, and it just worked out!
Do you illustrate full time?
Yes! Sometimes overtime🙂
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
I always begin the same way—prisma pencil on tracing paper. I don’t know why, but it’s like a favorite old friend and I wouldn’t start any other way, it just suits me. It’s the one sensation I’ve never been able to duplicate on the computer. I used to work mostly in prisma pencil and watercolor, but it could be very daunting to mail originals to publishers and just hope that months of work made it to their offices! I’ve used the computer for a long time, and I started doing finish work in Painter and Photoshop. It makes a huge difference. When you can send files digitally, you have more time to work, and revisions are so much easier. Not to mention uploading final art!
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
Not usually. I want the things I illustrate to be technically correct, but whimsical and stylized, if possible. I look at lots of reference pictures if I’m illustrating something I don’t quite know how to draw…like horse legs. Aaargh. Horse legs drive me crazy! I looked at hundreds of photos online of monarch butterflies, when I was illustrating Little Butterfly. But the images in my book don’t look photo-realistic, and I like it that way. I like sketching from nature whenever possible too, even more than taking photos.
Have you worked with any educational publishers? If yes, is there any difference working with them?
I typically love working with educational publishers. Much of the time, the projects are shorter and they know exactly what they are looking for, and that can be fun in its own way and a nice change of pace!
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
Yes, almost every job ends with Photoshop! I paint mostly in Corel Painter.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
Yes, I don’t think I could live without it. It’s an older Wacom, but it’s still chugging along!
Has any of your work appeared in magazines?
Yes, I’ve worked with Highlights, High Five, Hello, Babybug, Ladybug and Pockets, possibly some others I’m forgetting.
Do you have a studio in your house?
I do now! I used to have a detached studio in my backyard, but I didn’t enjoy making the trek back to the house at 2 a.m. My mind started playing tricks on me when I’d work that late! And I like being 10 steps from the coffee pot now🙂
Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?
Windows and light. And my stand-up desk.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
Work hard. I try to draw something, everyday. I am usually on an assignment, but even when I’m not, I try to draw. I also like taking classes in other creative outlets, I think it rejuvenates me!
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
I’m about to start a very long project, and that will be a new thing for me. Lots of illustrations and I’m going to have to figure out how to find balance and keep it fresh. It’ll be one day at a time, I think!
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
Definitely. Having a platform to show your work and allow people to see your portfolio is crucial.
What are your career goals?
I’m happy to be a working illustrator. I was thrilled to write my own book, and I’d like to do more of that. I love to work in b/w, and I would really like to illustrate a chapter book or graphic novel at some point! Something for an older audience.
What are you working on now?
I’m about to begin illustrating a year long project, a large storybook.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
I love Winsor & Newton and Sennelier watercolors and Fabriano (hot press/bright white) paper. I can’t live without my dark brown prismacolor pencils. I still like to draw with a calligraphy style pen/nib and india ink. I recently began using liquid watercolors by Dr. Ph Martin, and I love their vividness.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
Read children’s books! The library is your friend. Find a good group of people who can honestly critique your work and share their work and experiences. Develop your style so you know what you want to illustrate, take the plunge and send your work out! Postcard mailers work (I know firsthand) and art directors have to SEE your work to hire you. Make a website to showcase YOU. Be brave!
Thank you Laura 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 Laura’s work, you can visit her at website at: www.lauralogan.com
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Laura. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!