Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 3, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Shanda McCloskey

Shanda (rhymes with panda) McCloskey comes from a whole family of different kinds of artists and entrepreneurs! She studied art in Atlanta and New York City. But before writing and illustrating kids books, she taught art to high-schoolers. Shanda now lives in Ball Ground, Georgia with her husband, daughters, and dog. She is also co-creator of the Author Visit Podcast and Author Visit Central.

Shanda’s award-winning STEM-friendly picture books (DOLL-E 1.0 and T-BONE THE DRONE) have taken her to wonderful people and places!


I really enjoy drawing on Procreate on the iPad. I do my rough sketches here as well as my final line art.

Then, I print the line art onto watercolor paper (Arches hot press) and add value and texture with black watercolor paint or ink.

Then, I scan this grayscale image (at 400-600 dpi) and open it in Procreate on the iPad where I colorize it using “color” blending layers. Then I open the color file in Photoshop and tweak if needed.


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating for a living for about 6 years.

What was the first thing you did where they paid you for your art?

I had a spot illustration purchased and printed in the SCBWI Bulletin years ago.

What made you decide to Attend Kennesaw State University and study Art Teacher Education.

Even after a few miserable years in art school (Atlanta College of Art) my boyfriend (now husband) thought I should try university life where he attended.  So, I transferred to Kennesaw State University for several reasons – him, money, and a pretty cool art program. I learned a lot about drawing there! More so than I ever learned in art school. But I still wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do as a career. Eventually, I just had to choose something and teaching art made the most sense at that time with a clear path to a paycheck.

Were there any illustrating course available to you?

No. It was a very fine art focused school at the time. (But I later sought some out in NYC:)


Did you teach art after you graduated?

I did! I taught art at Creekview High School in Canton, GA. I had a beautiful classroom, cool students, and support. But after 2 years, I knew this wasn’t what I was meant to do long term.

What is Engine Industries?

It’s my husband’s web software and IT business.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrated children’s Books?

I think I solidified this long standing want when I was teaching. I guess I had to try teaching to know how I truly felt about it. And I found out really quickly that I was not happy making less art of my own in order to nurture students.

What type of things did you do to promote yourself as an illustrator?

I went to SCBWI conferences and did portfolio displays and critiques. I also tried postcards, Twitter, Instagram. I actually found my lovely agent on Twitter (through #PBpitch) and she has proven to be my best promotion of all!

Was Petunia: The Plump Princess the first book you illustrated?

I considered this project practice as I was just beginning and learning. This was actually the 4th book I illustrated in the name of practice.

Was this a self published book?

Yes. Sort of. I think it was through a vanity publisher.

How did you get the job to illustrate Doll-E 1.0?

in 2018 with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Doll-E 1.0 was the story (I wrote & illustrated) that got me an agent as well as my first book deal! This book actually went to auction at 4 publishing houses after my agent submitted it. It was a pretty dreamy experience! Andrea Spooner at Little Brown won that auction, and that was the beginning of my book career.


A year later you illustrated T-Bone the Drone with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Did you sign a two book deal when they hired you Doll-E 1.0?


Did you work with the same people at Little, Brown Books for both books?


When did Erica Rand Silverman at the Stimola Literary Studio start representing you? How did the two of you connect? We found each other on Twitter (through #PBpitch) and she is still my top pick!

In 2020 you illustrated Fire Truck vs. Dragon for Little Brown Books. Was this book part of the contract with other two books?


You started out 2021 with a fourth book from Little, Brown Books with Bedtime Ballet. Lucky you! I assume you’ve already shared this wonderful journey with us, so I’ll ask something else. Did any of your work on the books over lap? Which book took the longest to illustrate?

Actually, BEDTIME BALLET was a Disney Hyperion book until they sold a bunch of titles to Little Brown in 2020. So for my fourth book I was at Little Brown again, weird right?

I just featured Little Red and the Big Bad Editor by Rebecca Kraft Rector and published by Aladdin on Writing and Illustrating. So cute! Did Aladdin share their vision for the illustrations or did they give you free reign to be creative?

Free reign! This book had been pitched to them as a team (me and Rebecca) and I had submitted art samples. So, they knew my vision for this going in.

I noticed both you and Rebecca are represented by Erica Rand Silverman. Did this have any influence on Aladdin to sign the contract with Erica?

Erica pitched us as a team, and I suppose Aladdin thought the match up was good and a deal followed!

Nubby is coming out from Knoft in January. Have you finished the illustrations?

Yes! I just got the F&Gs!

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

Yes! I wrote and illustrated Doll-E 1.0 and T-Bone the Drone, but I want to do more!

Do you find time for School Visits?

I love them!

What book do you think was your biggest success?

DOLL-E 1.0 for sure!

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I always finish my illustrations in Photoshop.

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

I use an iPad pro (for Procreate) and a Cintiq pro 24 (for Photoshop).


Would you be willing to work with a self-publisher picture book writer on a project?

For now, I’m still happy in the traditional publishing space (as crazy as it may be), but who knows what the future holds.

Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

None except the SCBWI Bulletin.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I have a shed studio in my backyard! (Feel free to use pics from-

Do you do any research before starting a new project?

Always. Even for fiction.

Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I’m a big list maker and goal setter. And I couldn’t finish anything without breaking bigger goals into lots of small ones. And I value small bursts of time working. Sometimes 30 minutes is more productive than 6 hours.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Yes! I’m currently working on the illustrations for my first non-fiction project! It’s a picture book about Rube Goldberg and simple machines written by Catherine Thimmesh and will be published by Chronicle.

Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Oh yeah! I found my agent on Twitter. And I’ve done virtual school visits all over the USA and in Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and Australia!

What are your career goals?

I’d like to author-illustrate a young graphic novel series and more picture books. I’d love to create a best-seller and win a big award too! You asked J

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the illustrations for my first non-fiction project! It’s a picture book about Rube Goldberg and simple machines written by Catherine Thimmesh and will be published by Chronicle.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Just keep learning, showing up, and making stuff.

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

See my blog, illustration fixation.

Shanda, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and sharing your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Shanda using the following links:










  1. Great interview! I enjoyed seeing the colorful and movement-filled art!


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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.


%d bloggers like this: