Thursday, January 17, 2013

Welcome Lisa Anchin!

Lisa Anchin was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2012 Summer Conference. The Kidlit Artists Blog would like to officially welcome Lisa as a contributor to the blog! Today we 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?

Lisa: The feedback I received confirmed the direction of my illustration. The mentors’ comments were, for the most part, technical in nature. I heard, fairly consistently, that the “bones” of the illustrations were good – composition, color, and character all worked well – but that I should try to loosen up and go further with value. One of the mentors suggested doing black and white value studies for each piece and really focusing on getting darker in areas. She told me to hold onto my voice and the elements that make my work uniquely mine, while pushing the technical elements.

I also do work for older audiences and had worried about showing more than one style in my portfolio. The feedback I received here was also fairly consistent. They suggested maintaining both styles but really separating them, specifically by age: keep the colored work for a younger audience and the black and white or limited palette work for middle-grade and chapter books.

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?

Lisa: The experience was overwhelmingly affirming. I spend most of my day alone in the studio. When you work in a bubble, it’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral of doubt. Having five widely respected professionals talk to you openly about your work is amazing. They didn’t sugarcoat any of their comments, and I really appreciated the blunt honesty. It made all of their positive feedback that much more meaningful.

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

Lisa: My work has only gotten stronger since the mentorship. When I first got home, I started making black and white value studies for each new piece. This practice has really helped me focus on keeping a realistic light source as well as getting significantly darker shadows into the pieces. I’ve always been a little bit scared of getting too dark and only applied darker values very hesitantly in my pre-mentorship work. Because the value study acts as a mini road-map, I don’t get quite as worried about the actual application of darker values now. These added darker values have only improved my work, popping the light colors in the pieces and adding further drama. I’ve also let myself be much looser with the paint and let myself play without worrying quite so much. It’s freeing, and it shows in the new work. I’ve also been experimenting with various methods of painting and with different brushes, and I’ve been buying nicer paper for finishes.

Kidlit Artists: What kinds of projects are you working on now?

Lisa: Right now I’m working on a handful of projects. I’m working on an all new book dummy based on a manuscript that I developed from one of my November PiBoIdMo ideas. I’ve also been returning to a few old favorites; I’m in the process of editing two older dummies and giving them a complete facelift. I also do editorial illustrations for a bimonthly column, InsideOut, in the Jewish Daily Forward. And finally, I’ve been doing some work on spec for a major publisher; I can’t talk about the details yet, but keep your fingers crossed. Doing this speculative work has been a really positive experience. It’s given me the opportunity to work closely with an art director, learning firsthand about the back-and-forth process that goes on between the illustrator, art director, and editor.

Kidlit Artists: Is there anything, looking ahead, that you’re excited to be working on?

Lisa: I’m actually really excited about all of my new personal work. I love stories, and making dummies is my favorite thing to do. I love drawing, and a dummy gives you 32 pages to create an entire world and fill it with wonderful, quirky characters. I actually work best when I have text as a base for my illustrations, so I get really excited when I have a new dummy to play with.

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

Lisa: Books! My hope and goal is to work in books. The editorial illustration work is great; it allows you to think in an entirely different way. But my heart will always be in picture books.

Kidlit Artists: Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you've gotten since pursuing illustration?

Lisa: It’s not a piece of advice, but Mo Willems said one of the best things that anyone in this business has ever said to me. When we first met, I introduced myself as an aspiring children’s illustrator. He held up a hand and corrected me, “No, you’re already an illustrator. You’re an illustrator aspiring to publish.”

(Click to enlarge)
Kidlit Artists: Last, please tell us where we can find you online.

Lisa: My website is and my blog is

Kidlit Artists: Thank you, Lisa - and welcome!!


  1. Great interview, Eliza and Lisa. And Lisa, thank you for sharing this info. I so agree with your "When you work in a bubble, it’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral of doubt." The honest feedback from the Mentors was so helpful to me as well.

  2. Great interview! I totally resonate with making black and white value studies for each new piece. I find it so helpful. Glad your mentor critique was so helpful!

    Also, thanks for sharing the Mo Willems quote. That is so true. It works for writers, too :)

  3. Hi Lisa, I found your work by accident and I love it! I have a childrens book I want to publish and I think your work is perfect for it and would love to get in touch.