Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 21, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Carrie Anne Bradshaw

Carrie Anne Bradshaw is an alumnus of  U.C. Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Fine Art, and The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she earned her Master’s degree in Illustration.

Her work is often described as expressive, warm, and charming.  Carrie Anne currently resides in Moss Beach, California, with her husband Clyde, and daughter Lily.

Carrie Anne’s clients include: Raven Tree Press, Sleeping Bear Press, Papodopolous Publishing,  Byrnes Publishing, and The California Transplant Donor Network.

Carrie Anne is a member of SCBWI and can also be found on


First Sketch: 

First sketch starts with basic character ideas. They are usually scratchy line drawings to get an idea of a character.

Final Sketch:

I go through drawing a character a few times before I settle on a look.  To make tweeks to the character, I use a piece of tracing paper to redraw the character.


After transferring a drawing to watercolor paper (I like Canson Montval water color paper- it does well with lifting color to white without damaging the paper) I paint my shadows first using two colors, Prussian blue and burnt sienna.

Light Washes:

Then I build up the layers of watercolor, being patient to allow big washes to dry before working in on it. I also always keep my painting hand on a piece of tissue paper to keep my work clean and avoid leaving oils on the paper.

Layer by Layer: 

Continuing to layer the washes to enrich the colors.

Final Details:

When my washes are complete, and I lay detail on with my smallest brush, and then go in and punch up highlights and brighten colors with a touch of colored pencil, or pastel pencils. To get precise whites, I use a small brush with white gouache.

Carrie’s Book Covers:

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating for 10 years.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

My first paid job was my first book, Nathan Saves Summer published with Raven Tree Press in 2010.

Did you go feel getting a BA in Fine Art helped you in your illustration work?

Getting my BA in Fine Art helped with my basic art understanding of color, composition, and theory, but I was always told in critiques that my style was too “Illustrative.” I thought that was a bad thing until I looked into what it was to be an illustrator, and the career Bingo! That’s what I wanted to do. But at that time, there weren’t any classes that focused on illustration at UCSB. So I believe my education for my MFA really gave me the building blocks I needed.

What made you extend your education to get an MA  in illustration?

I still felt like I had a lot to learn. And when I started at the Academy of Art, I realized I was right.  There I was pushed to learn more about perspective, technique, and most importantly, what to do after you graduate. I got an opportunity to be taught by some incredible working artists- Stephen Player, Bill Maughan, Shawn Barber, and Leuyen Pham to name a few.

Did the Academy of Art University in San Fran help you find illustration work when you graduated?

After I graduated, they did have a job bulletin board that I followed for a while, but I was excited to try what advice my teachers had given me to get out there and find my own way.

Do you feel art school influenced your illustrating style?

I do. I had instructors that made me push myself to look for a better drawing, a better composition, better expression… things I still strive for when I sit down to work.

I see that you also do fine art. Do you exhibit this work?

Not yet… but I hope to soon. I’ve always loved to paint and draw. If I’m not working on a book project, I like to work on personal pieces in oil, acrylic, and charcoal.  I also picked up needle felting this past year, and I make small, posable art dolls for fun.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

My first year of graduate school. In my first ever illustration class, the teacher went over the different ways an illustrator can find work.  When children’s books were mentioned a big bell went off.  How fun, to draw for children and get paid!  Luckily my school had a class for children’s book illustration, and I focused on that for my degree.

Was NATHAN SAVES SUMMER your first book?

My first everything in illustrating!

How did that illustrating job come your way?

I got that job by making promotional postcards with the best work I had out of college.  Grabbed a copy of “Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market” and started doing my research into what publishers are interested in new, unsolicited illustrators and is my style something they would be interested in.  I also went to book stores and looked through the racks at what was publishing.  If I found a book where the style seemed similar to mine, I made note of the publisher and found out how to submit to them.  After three weeks, and a few dozen cards mailed out, I received my first offer.

How did Sleeping bear Press find you to illustrate TRACK THAT SCAT?

With Sleeping Bear Press, they found me through the website That is another resource I have used and has brought me other freelance work, like a series of small books I did for Battat Toys in Montreal for their Lil’ Woodzeez line.

Do you have an artist rep. to represent your illustrations?

No, but I am looking for one currently.

Have you done any book covers?

Not yet!

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

Sadly, I have no writing bug. Writing was never my strong suit.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

I have been approached several times, but I find that it is really hard to have artistic freedom to create the character when I work directly with the author. They usually have the character in their mind and don’t want to deter from that, where working with a publisher, there is a little more room to see what I come up with.

Have you worked with educational publishers?


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?


Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes. I would try it, but I think that would be a huge challenge.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Getting my first contract. That made me feel like I had broken through.  Plus, I had a wager with my husband at the time of me sending out the postcards, that when I get my first contract, we can try for our first child.  The next year, I had a published book… and a baby!

What is your favorite medium to use?

I like to use watercolor with a touch of colored pencil or pastel pencils to bring up the highlights.

Has that changed over time?

I would like to try illustrating in oils at some point, but watercolors still give me the vibrancy I like.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to spend at least a few hours a day in my studio working on something. Or at least a doodle in the sketchbook of an idea.

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

Yes. Especially if it’s a specific subject matter. I try to have a file of images I can peek at for reference or inspiration.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes and no. I think the internet can open doors, but you still have to put in a lot of work to be seen.  It’s not about just putting you work on a site and waiting for things to come to you.  You still have to create, post, and research constantly to keep going forward.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use photoshop, but in the most basic way. I have never been very tech savvy, so I don’t know a lot about computer programs.  Just paint brushes and paper for this girl right now…. Although, I would like to try an iPad Pro, I see a lot of artists doodling on those, and they do look fun.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?


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

My only dream is to have an agent, be able to illustrate full time from my home, and be free of having a day job.

What are you working on now?

Now, I am researching art agents, painting my own fine art pieces, and managing a new Etsy shop I’ve recently opened to sell small pieces, prints, and some of my felted creatures.

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.

Right now I’m obsessed with my Arches oil paper.  It is such a cost effective way for any one who wants to dabble or illustrate in oils.  I’m just waiting for them to come out with more available paper sizes!  I am also a fan of a small art supply company here in California, named Trekell.  They hand make all their brushes and have a fun program where they make an unusual shape painting panel available each month.  I am nuts about art supplies.

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

Keep working. Even if you’re between jobs or don’t have anything on the horizon, keep creating something to post, share, and keep your portfolio fresh.  It also helps improve your work when you stay busy.

Thank you Carrie Anne for sharing your talent, process, and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Carrie Anne’s work, you can visit her at her website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Carrie Anne. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Hi Carrie Ann,
    I really enjoyed reading about your progress to become an illustrator. The information that you shared about your preference for watercolor and colored pencils is good to read. I love working in watercolor. I have also tried acrylics and they can be a nice medium, as well.
    Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your portfolio.
    Best wishes for continued success!
    Janet O’Connor


  2. Thanks for sharing. I love how your bunnies are working together to ride a bike. Looks like a mystery is unfolding. Best of luck!


  3. Delightful work! Thank you for sharing!


  4. […] I love reading an artist’s story. […]


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