Monday, September 25, 2017

Interview with Shannon McNeill, 2017 SCBWI LA Mentorship Award winner

This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2017 Summer Conference. Please welcome Shannon McNeill to the KidLitArtists Blog! 

About Shannon McNeill:

Shannon is an illustrator from San Diego. Her fate as a young artist was sealed when she took on The Drawing Book of Animals by Ed Emberley and made it all the way to the dragon. The creative momentum that followed led to a degree at Art Center, a stint at Disney Interactive, and lots of freelance work including several picture books. Two countries and two children later, she is back in San Diego doing what she loves best: working with shapes, line, nature, and books.

Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?

The feedback confirmed much of what I had suspected, which was that my work needed to show a stronger representation and range of narrative situations. What I really appreciated were the very specific notes on ways to approach solving this problem, boiled down in a way that may have taken me a long time to get to on my own. For instance, even the simple concept of "action, reaction, interaction" is something that I can easily keep in mind from now on. There were many many other useful tips, this is just a small example.

What kind of projects are you working on now?

This portfolio is a first stab at showing new work after a long hiatus raising family. At this point in time, I am focused on technique refinement, narrative and storytelling practice, and exploration of personal points of view. Now I have a chance to take that even further with the mentorship feedback I've been given, so this opportunity could not have happened at a better time for me.

Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

In the past I loved working with the stories by other authors, which I want to continue. But lately I also have a growing interest in non-fiction, especially related to the natural sciences or historical biography. I would also like to write my own book one day, although that will take more time and practice to successfully sort out. Illustrating poetry could be really great. The musical and rhythmic qualities of language gives me goosebumps, ever since I was a kid.

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

  • Some good advice, that I find repeated and validated over and over again: To accept as artists that we already have innate style, not worry about it, and just get on with making things that resonate.
  • Some bad advice, from college days: That no one is interested in sketches or personal work. I find this to be consistently untrue!

What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference? 

When Vanessa Brantley Newton said that kids do look for themselves in books. Everyone wants to feel seen.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

I have ONE MILLION favorites but two that go straight to my child heart are: The Drawing Book of Animals by Ed Emberley because of how long I stared and studied those elegant and delightful shapes, and In a People House by Dr. Seuss and Roy McKie, because I hear my mother's voice every time I read it.

Thanks, Shannon! Welcome to KidLitArtists!

Find Shannon's work on her website at, or on Instagram and Twitter.

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