Monday, May 14, 2012

Welcome Jessica Lanan!

Jessica Lanan was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2011 Summer Conference. The 2010 founders of Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Jessica to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience and about what she is up to these days.

Kidlit Artists: Did the feedback you receive during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration? Are there any specific examples you can share? 

Jessica: The mentorship critique feedback guided my progress over the last year and provided me with new ideas to explore and a fresh perspective on my work. Some comments really confirmed things I had a feeling about but couldn't quite put into words. I remember David Diaz pointing out that so many of my figures were looking off into the distance or had their backs to the viewer, and he said that it was because I couldn't resolve how realistically I wanted to render their faces. I was avoiding the issue. That was totally an "aha" moment, and something I've been working to overcome this past year. On the confirming side, E.B. Lewis mostly had advice regarding actual watercolor technique. Here was this great watercolor painter giving me really helpful feedback and I thought "he's right--I can paint better than this." It was really motivating.

Kidlit Artists: Getting such specific and direct feedback on your work, did you find the experience enlightening? Affirming? Confusing? Conflicting? _______ (fill in the blank)? Why?
Jessica: It was a little bit of everything! There was some conflicting information, but I actually found it useful--it made me stop and really think about the direction I wanted to go in. I realized that at the end of the day I have to trust myself and choose my own path. Hearing positive feedback in addition to the constructive critique was also very helpful, since I sometimes focus too much on my weaknesses and keep myself from putting my work out there as much as I should. ("I can't send this dummy book... it's not PERFECT yet...") It was great to have these industry pros who I look up to saying "hey, you wouldn't be here if we didn't believe in you." If there are other kidlit illustrators in my town, I haven't found any of them, so having that community support and feedback meant a lot to me.

Kidlit Artists: Have you seen a shift in your work since you were mentored?

Jessica: I've been tackling some new challenges, particularly working on developing richer characters and emotional impact. My work tends toward the more realist side, and I've realized over the past year that if I'm going in this direction I have to really buckle down and do the work that realism requires, so for me that's meant a lot of hours working on technical stuff. I don't have any formal illustration or watercolor training so I'm going back to the books (and figure-drawing classes) to try to improve my craft from the bottom up. Basically, I'm leaving less to chance. It takes more time, but I think it's worth the extra effort.

 Kidlit Artists: What kinds of projects are you working on now?
Jessica: I have a new dummy book that is coming to life--I'm three pages away from finishing it. It's something really close to my heart and is full of so much of my childhood experience. It's been exciting to watch it grow from this vague idea into a visual story. Now I just have to hope someone else loves it as much as I do and wants to publish it! I'm also working on expanding my portfolio in new directions, which is just incredibly fun. There's nothing so exciting as having a picture in my mind and making it come to life on paper so I can share it with everyone. 

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

Jessica: I'd love to do another book, especially one as a writer/illustrator. Since childhood I've always thought of the crafting of children's books as one of the coolest things a human being can do. (Step aside, Nobel Prizewinners and Olympic Medalists...) Maybe that sounds strange to some, but taking a beautiful idea and turning it into this rich visual and emotional experience and sharing it with as many young people as possible? What's better than that?

Kidlit Artists: Last, please tell us where we can find you online. 

Jessica: I have a blog and online portfolio at
You can also follow me on my sometimes-neglected Twitter feed: (@jalanan)

Or follow my Facebook page:

Thanks for joining, Jessica!


  1. Wow! Gorgeous and lush. I can feel the sky in every one of these images and I am in awe!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, Jessica. LOVE the images you've chosen to share here. And good luck with the new dummy book!