Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 7, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Alleanna Harris

Alleanna Harris is a US illustrator who has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would draw on every page of her mom’s legal pads, doodle on her notebooks at school and on the programs at church.

She graduated from the University of Arts with a BFA in Animation with Honors, and it was during this time she realized her love for illustration. Alleanna finds inspiration in the beauty in everyday things. Everything inspires her. In her work, she seeks to create images that are immersive, rich in color and have a sense of warmth. She lives in NJ.

Here is Allenna discussing her process:

Treehouse 1

First, I sketch out my idea. I do it quickly because if I spend too long on the original sketch, I overwork it and lose the energy of the idea.

Treehouse 2

I refine a little bit more and I work in greyscale to figure out the values. I like to figure out where to draw the viewers’ eye. I wanted the attention to go to the treehouse, so I made a lot of contrast between the sky and the treehouse.

Treehouse 3

I block in the colors according to the values that I figured out in the past step. I play around a little bit to see if my eyes like something different than what the values determined. 

Treehouse 4

I continue to add in flat colors and then I add some texture in certain places, like the tree trunk. I like to add texture because it makes the illustration feel more lifelike and it gives the objects even more personality.

Treehouse 5

I add a multiply layer to everything to give it a blue hour-like shadow.

Treehouse 6

I add an overlay layer to everything in the illustration to give them a sunset glow.

Interview Questions for Alleanna Harris

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for two years, since September 2017. I’ve been illustrating in general since I was able to hold a pencil in my hand. As a toddler, I would scribble on every page of my mom’s legal pads and at church, I would doodle on the programs.

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

That’s a great question! In my junior year of college, there was a competition to redo the logo for the local library. The library wanted to rebrand itself with a new logo to replace the 1970s logo, so they held a competition that was open to township residents. I came up with a design that reinforced the new tagline, “Opportunity for Everyone.” I ended up winning the competition and I received a $250 cash prize and a certificate.

Have you always lived in the New Jersey area?

I have! I was born in Philadelphia and most of my family lives in Philly, but I was raised in and currently live in South Jersey.

What made you want to take animation at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia?

I originally went to Temple University’s Tyler School of Art as an Architecture major. I’ve always had an interest in art and architecture, so I thought that it would be the perfect major for me. Near the end of the first semester of my Freshman year at Temple, I realized that I really didn’t like Architecture as a major and that Temple was a little too big of a school for me. I thought about what I would want to major in, and I remembered my love of drawing and my love of animation, so I looked for a school that offered animation. I found the University of the Arts, which happened to be on the same street as Temple U (Broad Street), but on the south side of City Hall. I immediately went to their open house, I applied and was accepted to UArts and their animation program. I started in the spring semester of my freshman year.

Did UArts offer illustration classes?

UArts offers many illustration classes because they actually have an illustration major and minor. I only majored in Animation, but if I did it over, I would have at least minored in illustration.

Did art school help you get work when you graduated?

That’s a hard question! If I went into the animation field, then I would definitely say yes because my animation professors are still working within animation and they’ve worked with a lot of people and studios too. Many of my UArts classmates are actively in the animation field. One works at Disney TV Animation, one is a successful freelance animator who has done some work for Netflix, and another works at Dreamworks. It just happened that I went into illustration and publishing.

With that being said, UArts has a great Career Services program for students and alumni.

Were you able to find a job doing animation?

One of my animation professors recommended me for a small animation job right after school ended. I had to make a rough animatic, which is basically a storyboard timed out with some animated parts.

What type of illustrating did you do first starting out?

I did a lot. I created custom logos for people, I sketched pencil portraits, I offered custom illustrated digital portraits, and I did fun paint and sip events for senior citizens. I then opened an Etsy store, Alleanna Harris Art, which I still operate.

When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

It was pretty serendipitous how I originally decided to illustrate children’s books. My older cousin works within the education field and she happened to be in a meeting with an author of a children’s book that she purchased at an earlier time. The author was looking for an illustrator, so my cousin gave her my website to check out my portfolio. The author liked my work and commissioned me to illustrate a small children’s book based on her son called Daddy, Who Am I. That was my first book ever. After that, I knew I wanted to illustrate more children’s books.

Was The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition your first illustrated picture book?

York was my first illustrated picture book represented by Bright and it was my first picture book with a publisher.

How did the contract come your way?

My agent, James, let me know about the project and he thought that I would be a great fit. Lori, the art director from Capstone, agreed and they got the final go ahead from the author, Hasan Davis.

It looks like you are off to the good start with The Day Abuelo Got Lost: Memory Loss of a Loved Grandfather coming out in September. I am assuming that your agent got you that job. How long did you have to illustrate this book?

Thank you! Yes, my agent Anne worked with me for Abuelo. All together it took me about four to five months. It was tough because in the middle of the book, my older cousin fell ill, so going back and forth to Philly made me fall behind in the artwork. Albert Whitman’s art directors, Rick and Sue, were very understanding and the illustration and revision process was a straightforward one.

I’m looking forward to reading Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe that is coming out in January. In fact, I already have a book giveaway planned to show it off. How did you juggle doing the artwork for four books in 2019?

Thank you! I’m excited for everyone to read it!

I couldn’t have done it without my agents, James, Anne, Alex, and Nicky at Bright. They worked together and with me to organize dates and deadlines. They’re all amazing at what they do and they made it so that all I had to do was illustrate.

My mom was the biggest moral support. She gave me hugs and pep talks when I didn’t think I could do it. I have a really supportive family and that helps a lot.

Other than that, I really learned about time management and how to schedule my work according to how my brain works. Now I know what time is best for me to work and I do well when I work on finishing the hardest illustrations first.

Also in January you have Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight (People Who Shaped Our World) with Sterling Children’s Books. Do you find it interesting illustrating non-fiction books?

To say I find illustrating non-fiction books interesting would be an understatement! I’m pretty nerdy, and I love learning new things, so illustrating non-fiction books is a way for me to learn about people, locations, and historical events.

I see you are represented by the Bright Agency. How long have you been with them and how did they find you?

I’ve been represented by Bright since September 2017. My agent, James Burns, came across my work on the website Women Who Draw. He immediately emailed me, and it’s been great ever since!

What do you feel studying animation influenced your illustrating style?

Studying animation has definitely influenced my illustrating style. I was introduced to visual development and background artists that I otherwise wouldn’t have know about. I think that ultimately, my line-less and filmic style came from everything that I’ve seen within animation.

Do you work full time as a free-lance illustrator?

Yes! I’m a full time freelance illustrator.

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

I definitely do. That’s actually one of my goals in the future.

I noticed you illustrated the cover of A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée published by HarperCollins – March 12, 2019. You did a terrific job. Do you think you will do more?

Thank you so much! I definitely want to do more. Illustrating that cover was such a fun process for me. I loved reading the book and I enjoyed being allowed to have a lot of input with what the main character Shayla would wear. The team at HarperCollins was a delight to work with.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes and no! I work in my room mostly, my drawing desk is there and I’m most comfortable drawing there. My mom and I are in the process of moving things around in the house to try something new, so my current bedroom will become my studio.

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

It all depends on the business side of things, but if I am able to, of course!

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

I’ve illustrated for Highlights Magazine for Kids twice. One was a full page illustration for a poem about a girl named Katie and her Katydid. The other was three illustrations that went along with a story about a kid from Northeast Philly who loved to play the drums with his aging grandpa.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes, I have! I would absolutely love that.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I think I convey mood well using color and lighting. That’s what I love doing the most and that’s what I notice that people comment on.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I have two. First is digital (photoshop and drawing tablet). A close second is ink on paper, like sketching in a sketchbook.

Has that changed over time?

It definitely has changed over time. I used to hate using Photoshop and the drawing tablet, but it took a while for me to learn how to use the software and how to pick the brushes I liked the most. It has a learning curve, but once I got the hang of it, I fell in love with it.

 

 

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

I do my best to draw every day, but I also work on illustration projects almost every day, so I spend time drawing for fun whenever I get the chance. Before I started illustrating professionally, I would do at least a sketch or part of a digital illustration each day. You don’t have to work constantly, but finding a schedule that fits you and being consistent with that schedule is important.

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

I always research! I usually look up examples of locations and clothing on Google Images. In terms of poses, sometimes I take pictures of myself, and other times I look that up on Google Images too.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Without a doubt. Location and distance isn’t a limiting factor anymore. If it wasn’t for the Women Who Draw database, Twitter and Instagram, and blogs, my art wouldn’t have been exposed to as many people as fast. It would’ve been a much slower process.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop for my final illustrations, and lately I’ve been using Procreate (iPad app) for my rough illustrations.

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

Yes, I use a Wacom drawing tablet. In college, I used a small Wacom Bamboo and then graduated to a medium sized Wacom Intuos Pro. Now, I keep it simple with a small Wacom Intuos. I also love using the iPad and Apple Pencil.

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

A have a lot of dreams. One day, I would like to be an art director in charge of visual development for an animated series or film at a major animation studio. I want to write and illustrate my own book. I want a book that I’ve illustrated to be a New York Times Bestseller. I’d like to win illustration awards. All of these dreams make me smile just thinking of the possibility of achieving them some time in the future.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m finishing up a four book educational series. I’m about to start working on a picture book with Lee & Low about the first African-American figure skater, Mabel Fairbanks. It’s called Marvelous Mabel and it will be released Fall 2020.

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.

Sure! If you’re into digital art and you want to use a drawing tablet, you don’t have to buy the biggest or most expensive one. Start out with a small one so that you can get the hang of using it and you can work your way up. I use a small Wacom drawing tablet and I love it. Wacom is my brand of choice.

If you use an iPad, if you’re able to, please download the app Procreate. It’s a one time $10 purchase, but it’s a really powerful program. It almost rivals Photoshop. I love to use it.

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

One of my animation professors shared a piece of advice with my class in our sophomore year and I’ll also share it here because it’s true.

There are three great qualities as an animator/illustrator/freelancer: Finishing your work on time, doing great work, and being a kind person. If you have only one of those qualities, you might find a job. If you have any two of those qualities, you’ll find a job. If you have all three of those qualities, you’ll always have a job. I always do my absolute best to go for all three.

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. What a lovely interview! Your illustrations are beautiful and your kindness and enthusiasm shines through. I’m sure you’ll do exceedingly well in your career.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading about your process. Wonderful illustrations! Looking forward to reading these books. Thanks for the great interview!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Angie! Can’t wait to hear what you think about them!

      Like

  3. Thank you, Kathy for your always-wonderful blog and for interviewing Alleanna.

    Alleanna, I agree with the comments you’ve received in the past for your lighting, especially the girl in the window seat with her guitar and the drama you gave the Patricia’s Vision cover. (I can’t wait to read it, The Journey of York, and Making Their Voices Heard.) But I also love the way you show the children’s interactions with each other and the world, like the children in church, the lunch queen, the girl out for a brisk stroll, the tiny girl looking up at that huge plane, and the teen looking at the huge array of beauty supplies.

    Inspiring work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Siri! Thank you so much. Interactions are one of my most favorite parts of illustrating!

      Like

  4. I feel so blessed to have Alleanna’s amazing illustrating talent bringing the characters of Making Their Voices Heard come alive. She has the magic touch, for sure! What a wonderful interview, Kathy…I learned so much about her and I LOVE getting to see the spreads from some of her upcoming books! She is going to be in even more demand when editors get a look at these!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you! What a great interview. I have a wacom that I love but still haven’t mastered. Now I’m inspired to keep working on it. Love your work Alleana – will be following you 🙂 What a lovely person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Julie! Thank you so much. Good luck with the Wacom, you got this! 🙂

      Like

  6. Reblogged this on Alleanna's Art Blog and commented:
    Hey everyone! I was featured on Kathy Temean’s blog for Illustrator Saturday. Check it out!

    Like

  7. Wonderful interview and stunning art. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such great art, and thank you for sharing you process with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Alleanna’s work is gorgeous! The evolution of the first series of images, ending with the lighted windows of the treehouse, made me gasp. So lovely! I can’t wait to log on to my library website and request some of these books, especially The Journey of York. I look forward to seeing more of Alleanna’s work in future!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love illustrator Saturday posts, even when I don’t get to them until Monday morning. What wonderful images you’ve created, Alleanna! Combined with Vivian’s text, this book will be treasured for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Awesome illustrations, Alleanna!

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: