Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 19, 2018

Illustrator Sunday – Alice Faegan

Alice Feagan is a children’s illustrator specializing in digital collage. Her work is featured in picture books, children’s magazines, and on products for clients like Kids Can Press, National Geographic Kids Magazine, The Vail Valley Foundation, & Boston Children’s Hospital. She lives in Edwards, Colorado with her husband, son, and a mischievous pug, Homer.


Hello, Alice!

It’s a pleasure to take a look at your art- here we go!

Your first piece is FULL of amazing tiny details- and you haven’t cut corners anywhere. Each element looks unique and would be delightful to any viewer, as there’s so much for the eye to soak up! The textures are rich and the colors, while subdued, are beautifully sophisticated- there’s a wide range of color without the image ever feeling over the top. It gives the feeling of a dark, quiet study, full of curious objects… and that’s precisely what it is!

My one suggestion here, were I your art director on this book, would be to take a look at the girl standing on the floor. Generally, I think it’s best to avoid looking at a character’s back. I think it’s useful in some scenarios where it adds drama or a pause before the character’s facial expression is revealed, but in this scene, it looks to me like the friends are exploring an amazing collection of specimens. The pose of the girl on the bottom looks impatient and it’s hard to tell what she’s doing- also, there are some inconsistencies in her coloring (arms vs. legs)- or if those are sleeves, all the more reason to see her hands as the coloring of the girl’s arms/sleeves, legs, and hair are all VERY close. I would recommend that she be shown looking up at the girl on the ladder, in profile. I’ve done an edit (shown below) to illustrate what I mean. An alternative could be to show her facing forward and holding something interesting in her hands, or maybe she could be reaching for something.

An example of a perfect scenario in which viewing characters from the back is effective and appropriate would be your second image!

This image, despite showing the girls’ backs, still tells us a lot about what they’re experiencing. They’re supporting each other, holding hands, bracing themselves in front of the unknown. The large black shape towers over them and shows an awesome example of how scale can be used to heighten drama and emotion in a piece.

I think the only issue in this piece comes into play with regards to the texture- specifically on the hair of the girl on the left. As before, her coloring is very consistently burnt orange, and it makes her harder to read visually. Her hair has a texture that feels almost like wood and I think that is competing with the natural textures of their environment. For this specific piece I made adjustments to the coloring to what I think would look best, though this may need to be adjusted when looking at the book as a whole- you’ll want to pick something that’ll work on every spread. Also, this may be an odd thing to point out, but both girls are barefoot. I have a feeling someone might ask “why”, even if it isn’t all that important.

Which brings me to image number 3!

In this image, the coloring on the girls is more coherent and works well. I love the steep angle of the composition- it’s working beautifully to drive home the feeling of not just movement, but the action of CAREENING down a bumpy hill, relentlessly chased by a bear! The area where this isn’t being communicated all the way, would be in the girl’s poses/expressions. I understand wanting to make their eyes bug out wide by adding the white around them. Personally, I think I would prefer to see you push their expressions without changing the style of the eyes like this, but I do also understand how it’s a nod to a cartoonish way of expressing wide-eyed fear! Also, the girl in the back of the wagon is leaning back a bit- while there is certainly going to be wind from their descent blowing her hair behind her, I wonder if she might be more emotive by leaning forward, clinging to the girl in front of her, as if urging her and the cart to go faster so that they can escape!

Lastly, here you might want to consider using color or lighting a little to boost the drama one step further.  In my edit below, I roughly edited the girls to show the pose I mentioned, and I used a gradient to go from darkness behind the bear to light to imply that the girls are headed towards safety (hopefully). The dark shade over the bear is also red tinted- another subtle nod at the idea of “danger”. The more muted palette works better in the more quiet moments, but in these moments of intensity, I think you’d benefit from pushing your palette just a bit more to reflect the action. You could certainly go further than what I’ve suggested below, but it hopefully gives you a hint at what might work!

In conclusion, my general tips would be to be sure that there’s enough contrast and consistency in the colors of your pieces, particular in your people, and to look closely at how poses can help heighten your storytelling. That said, I’m really excited by the palette, shapes, movement, and texture in your illustrations! You have great control over the angles and edges of the cut paper look of your work- Though the edges are never soft, you can still show a great range of objects and characters and keep them all feeling unique but related within the world of your illustration. There’s a beautiful level of sophistication and quiet wonder in your art and I wish you all the best- it’ll be great to see even more from you, Alice!

Thank you Andrea for sharing your time and expertise with Alice and us. Can’t wait to hear about your online workshop with Mira and the illustrator/writers when it is done.

Andrea Miller has designed and/or art-directed many successful children’s books for both Sterling Publishing and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt including, “Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast” by Josh Funk, “Mira Forecasts the Future” by Kell Andrews, “Accident!” by Andrea Tsurumi and “Winter Dance” by Marion Diane Baur. Most recently, she co-art directed and designed the #1 national best-selling children’s book, John Oliver’s “A Day int he Life of Marlon Bundo”. Andrea is also a published illustrator, and is co-creating a series of comics with her wife. She is excited and honored to jump in with the Children’s Book Academy for a rewarding experience as part of their esteemed faculty while looking for fresh talent in this course.


I WANT TO THANK BOTH ANDREA AND MIRA FOR THE EXCELLENT JOB THEY DID WITH ILLUSTRATOR SUNDAY. I can’t wait to see what comes out of the online workshop they are starting on the 20th. The Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Art Director Andrea Miller starting August 20th right here

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I loved reading the suggestions–so helpful! There’s such power in those small details! It’s so fun to see the way the revisions shift things so much.

    I absolutely love the drama of that image with them facing the back. It’s such an evocative image in all the right ways! Beautiful work Alice!! Thanks for sharing it.


  2. Alice is so talented!! I feel lucky to know her and admire her beautiful work!!


    • And thank you, Andrea!


  3. Great pointers from Andrea and so good to see more of Alice’s work. Love your textures, Alice!


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