Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 6, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Tara J. Hannon

Tara’s passion for picture books began early and still fuels each piece that she creates. She is the owner and artist of Meant for a Moment Designs, and works happily from her home studio, in Crownsville, MD. Her office assistants include one overly excited dog and two beautiful little girls. 

Tara has illustrated over 20 books for self-publishing authors and is excited to be working with Blue Whale Press on illustrations for one of their upcoming titles to be released in 2019. ​She is a member of 12×12 and SCBWI.  

When not illustrating, she can be found refining her playdoh skills with her two daughters, feverishly writing, jogging at a slow and friendly pace, or drinking strong coffee. It is her dream to find a way to do all of these things at once… one day… She rarely sleeps and is okay with that. Her illustrations have been described as whimsical, playful, and quirky.

She is rep’d by Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary.

Here is Tara discussing her process:

PROCESS:

 

Early storyboard character sketches

Rough Sketch.

These rough sketches are pulled from my storyboard. They are a blueprint for composition and subject matter.

 

 

 

Outline Art

Once the rough sketch is worked out, I can start finalizing details and create the artwork outline.

Fill In Color

Then I create a layer underneath the outline and I fill in all of the colors with solid shapes. This is just like coloring in a coloring book. These color block will the base that I work from.

Add Details

The final step. This is when I add texture, lighting details, patterns, etc. This is when everything starts to come to life. This step gets me to a final polished piece.

Interview with Tara J. Hannon

How long have you been illustrating?

For as long as I can remember. When I was very young I would copy art from artists like Dr. Seuss and Mary Engelbreit. In high school, I was in the Art Honor Society and took an art elective every year. I went to college to study illustration and communication design. And when I graduated my goal was to illustrate my first children’s book by the age of 23. Ha. That was a naive goal. And I laugh about it now, but it is fun to reflect on how laser beam focused I have always been on illustrating. It has been a passion since day one. And I feel really lucky to be doing something for a living that fuels me so much.

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

In college, I created a charcoal rendition of a pregnant woman with a cross-section-type view of her growing baby visible inside her belly. I made a last minute decision to enter the artwork into an exhibition celebrating women. I didn’t tell anyone about it. About a week into the show, the school called and asked to purchase it. I was stunned. And pumped.

What school did you attend to study art?

Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.

What type of classes were your favorites?

I LOVED life drawing. I still do. The timed exercises were my favorite. 30-second sketch / 5 min sketch / 60 min sketch – each one had its own beauty. I just love the human form.

Did art school help you get illustrating work when you graduated?

I wish I could say that it did. But once I graduated I was on my on. I am sure that if I had asked for help, they would have offered. But I have always been a guess and check kind of girl, so I was happy to just feel my way around and see where I fit best.

What type of illustrating did you do first starting out?

I started my freelance career by creating greeting cards. I was working as a graphic designer and I was hungry for a creative outlet. So I used my lunch break to create a line of greeting cards that included about 40 different designs. I called the line, Meant for a Moment and opened up an Etsy shop to sell them. The Etsy shop evolved and helped me get the word out that I was an artist. From there I began to receive commission requests and things slowly evolved.

When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

Illustrating children’s books has always been a goal of mine. So that moment is hard to pinpoint. It was probably somewhere between my sixth and seventh reading of A Light In The Attic, around age 7.

Do your two daughters inspire you to want to illustrate picture books?

Every single day! There is nothing they do that doesn’t inspire me. When I am drafting my stories or creating images I often try to view the story or art through their eyes. It helps remind me to be meaningful and playful.

What was ADA CHEWED SOME GUM your first illustrate a picture book?

I have illustrated a lot of books for self-publishing authors. ADA CHEWED SOME GUM was not the first book I illustrated. But it was VERY early in my career as an artist. I am grateful for all of the experience those early books provided me. And I met a ton of wonderful people in the process.

How did that project come your way?

I was a waitress for a very long time before I was able to work full time as an artist. I loved being a waitress and I worked at a place that had tons of regulars. Many of the regulars knew that I was also an artist. Two of my early book commissions were born from relationships I made while waiting tables. ADA CHEWED SOME GUM was one of them.

I see you are rep’d by Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary. How long have you been with them and how did they find you?

My relationship with Jordan is very new and I am thrilled about it! I signed with Jordan in late May and I am very excited to start this journey. Jordan actually found me, which I felt was a wonderful twist of fate after being battered and bruised in the query trenches for so long. I had posted my website on Twitter and by some stroke of magic, it was shared by a friend. That friend happened to be rep’d by Jordan. Jordan saw the retweeted post and emailed me with interest. It blew my mind to receive an email like that. And I am still in disbelief that I was able to reach this goal in that way. I will be forever grateful to the wonderful friend who shared my tweet. The kid lit world is filled with so many wonderful and supportive people. I love that my story includes such a great example of that kind support. Hopefully, I can pay that support forward in some way for someone one day.

Is NO BEARS ALLOWED your first picture book with a publisher?

NO BEARS ALLOWED is my first picture book with a publisher. In 2016 I was contracted to create the watercolor artwork for a non-fiction book called: Catholic Churches of Hawai’i: A Shoal of Faith, by Evan Ponton and Philip Scharper. The book was published by Mutual Publishing and released in 2018.

Did your rep find that job for you?

I did not have representation when Blue Whale Press approached me to illustrate No Bears Allowed.

How was that experience working with the Blue Whale Press?

Blue Whale Press felt like a family from the start. Working with them was enjoyable from start to finish. They allowed me a lot of creative freedom and provided great feedback when needed. I feel honored and proud to be part of their team.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

A lot of my inspiration comes from experimenting. I really love when I can play with an idea and try out new styles. I use art challenges such as Inktober, Folktaleweek, and Mermay to try out ideas and different styles of art and I have so much fun doing it.

Do you work full time as a freelance illustrator?

I work from home with my two young girls by my side. So the time I use for working is not during regular business hours. I wake up super early and go to bed late and work through naps, 7 days a week. This sounds miserable. But it is not. It is perfect for me. I think I get energized by being creative so it never feels like a drain. And I love that my schedule allows me to be home with my kids.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a book?

Absolutely. I hope to have a long career as an author-illustrator. I have been writing for a few years and have a nice collection of stories to tell. I am hopeful that one day I will get to see those stories in bookstores, on bookshelves and in the hands of my girls.

Have you ever illustrated a book cover?

I have and it was really fun. I did a series of illustrated book covers for Tule Publishing. The covers felt really feminine and romantic and they were a lot of fun to work on. Especially because a few were Christmas titles and I was creating them in the Spring. I am one of those folks that never tires of Christmas music, so I jumped on the excuse to play some “Let It Snow” in the offseason!

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I have a lovely studio. But ironically I do most of my work at a tiny folding table that I set up in my living room. Ha. I like being where my people are.

Are you still open to illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Right now, I am open to any opportunities.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Not yet

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

The thought has crossed my mind, but no ideas have come to me yet.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Starting. In my early 20s, I had a job doing graphic design that didn’t fulfill me. It was a steady job that paid my bills but I was bored out of my mind. I knew that if I wanted to reach my goals I needed more inspiration and more time to practice my skills. So I quit my job and started waiting tables. That was the first step. It was scary, and I felt like I was moving backward at first but it really paid off in the end.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Right now, I love the versatility of digital painting.

Has that changed over time?

Yes. I have always colored my art digitally, but I used to draw and ink by hand. This worked well for many years. But once I got a drawing tablet digital painting really took off for me.

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

Not really. I am really energized by creating so I spend most of my available hours doing it. That usually breaks down to the hours before my kids wake up, while they nap and after they go to bed. I don’t get much sleep, but as I said, I am energized by creating so it seems to be working out.

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

Yes. I am a big fan of google images. If I am drawing something that I don’t have access to, like a Bear, for example, I scan through loads of images to get a feel for how they look and move, etc. Then, once I have an idea of what they look like, I draw my own version and start playing with proportions and angles until I have something that feels like my own.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. Social media has been a catalyst for many connections in the kid lit world, including my agent. I found many of my CPs through 12×12, an online writing challenge and community. And communicate with all of my critique partners via online forums such as FB and google docs. I do all of my work with clients via email. I rarely work with a local client, so the internet is how we exchange drafts and ideas. I really could do the work I do without the internet. It has allowed me to stay time with my children while I work. So, thank you, internet.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use photoshop and I love it.

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

I got a Wacom Cintiq about a year ago and it changed everything about the way I draw. I have really enjoyed experimenting with different styles and ideas. I love it so much.

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

I hope to have a long career of writing and illustrating picture books. I am very interested in illustrating Middle-Grade Chapter books. And I have one really stellar YA novel idea in my head that I would like to see out of my head on paper one day. Anything else would be the icing on the cake.

What are you working on now?

I am finalizing a dummy and getting it ready for the submission process. This will be my first author-illustrator submission. I have no idea what to expect, but I am very excited.

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.

If you are working with a digital tablet, my advice would be to experiment with different brushes. There are so many incredible brushes available right now and some create such a unique effect. At https://grutbrushes.com you can purchase a bundle of 350 brushes for $20. Whoa, right? Start there and see where it takes you.

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

Just keep going. Keep practicing and enjoy the process. I know we hear that a lot in this industry, but that’s probably because it is true. If you work hard, practice your craft and strive to improve you will get there.

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

Website: https://www.tarajhannon.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meant4amoment/

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Very nice- Wish I had your flexibility ! What kind of artwork are these? Is it all Digital? What programs do you use? Did you learn them all in college?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such amazing talent and art! May you become very, very famous! Loved your works… ❤ 🙂

    Like

  3. I enjoyed your interview with Tara, and getting to see her talent on display with such a wide variety of characters. I believe she is on her way to an active and successful career. The combination of ability, passion, and persistence will get her there.

    On Sat, Jul 6, 2019 at 12:04 AM Writing and Illustrating wrote:

    > Kathy Temean posted: ” Tara’s passion for picture books began early and > still fuels each piece that she creates. She is the owner and artist of > Meant for a Moment Designs, and works happily from her home studio, in > Crownsville, MD. Her office assistants include one overly exc” >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You have such a distinctive style. Loved seeing all of these covers. All I can do is draw stick figures and write words. Your work is fantastic, Tara! Congrats on your first “official” book! Can’t wait to see your first author/illustrator book in stores! Soon soon soon….xo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Perfectly charming illustrations. Thanks for another interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tara and Kathy. Included in this interview is a treasure trove of valuable information. Thank you for sharing, Best of luck to both of you.

    Like

  7. Wonderful interview

    Like

  8. I wasn’t done yet!!! Wonderful interview! Love the variety of illustrations and the life a real mom. LOL. Best wishes!

    Like

  9. Great interview! Thank you for sharing your process and beautiful illustrations. Congrats on your new agent and yay AJ!

    Like

  10. Tara is a natural talent! I’m privileged I got to work with her…

    Like

  11. I enjoyed seeing so many illustrations to complement Tara’s creative journey as told in this post. With her talent and dedicated, upbeat approach to her career, she is sure to have continued success! I am so happy I read to the end, since I loved the final illustration, “THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF MY MORNING”!

    Like

  12. Just beautiful, Tara 🙂 So lively and colorful! LOVE the nighttime skating…so magical 😀

    Like


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