Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Featured Illustrator

PAL Illustrator of the Month for September 2019

Jeanne Conway    

We are happy to announce that Jeanne Conway is the Kansas/Missouri PAL Illustrator of the Month!

For so many years I’ve loved art in all kinds of medium. I’ve painted in oil and acrylic but found that watercolor was the one I loved the most. As a child in St. Louis, Missouri, my mother would often take all of us to the Art Museum. And I have to thank both of my parents for the endless paper, pencils and paints which they provided for those of us who loved to draw and paint.

I got a degree in Art Education from Webster University in St. Louis and went on to teach art for 35 years in St. Louis and London, England.  In 2013 I started illustrating children’s books part time and when I retired from art teaching in 2016 I started full time illustrating.  I’m a member of SCBWI and would highly recommend this organization to anyone who is interested in writing and/or illustrating for children’s books.

My husband Tom and I have been blessed with three children: Adam, Julie and Suzanne. I am so grateful to them for their constant encouragement for my art.

You can view my art on my website, or on my portfolio page on the SCBWI website.


Interview Questions for PAL Illustrator of the Month:


                                   Jeanne Conway                                 

  1. How did you get started in illustration? What is your background?

My main focus in art for many years has been painting in oils and watercolor. I never had been interested in illustration until 2013 when Pearson Educational Publishing approached me to illustrate a children’s book.  I loved doing it and that has been my main activity in art ever since.  It wasn’t until I retired from teaching art in 2016 that I was able to devote myself full time to illustrating.

2. What is your preferred medium, method of working?                     

My preferred medium is watercolor with additions of ink or colored pencils. After I’ve hand drawn and painted the illustration I’ll put it in Photoshop to clean it for final art. I still love other mediums such as oils and pastels but I really love the fluidity and surprises that watercolor holds.

3. How did your style and technique develop?

Originally my style was tight realism and I’ve been trying over the years to loosen up and experiment more with color and light to define shapes and compositions.

For a while I painted ‘plein air’ and this is a great way to develop a good eye for the important features in an illustration. When I joined SCBWI I learned so much about the qualities of a good illustration and I am so grateful to this organization.  

4. Can you describe a typical work day for us?

I work most days for 8 hours or more just like I did when I was teaching.  Fortunately I’ve had illustrating assignments back to back and have been busy. I remember one of the SCBWI mentors wrote that we have to remember that illustrating is a job like any other and needs a serious commitment of time.

5. What do you find the most challenging in your work?

That’s a good question because there are so many challenges to illustrating any story.  For me it’s the initial thought that goes into how I see the main characters of a story, the mood of the story, the movement of the story and then how I see the story unfolding over the pages of the book. The artistic style and the color scheme play a huge part in planning the illustrations.   I aim to tell the story so that the viewer, a child, can tell the story from just the pictures.  I know the text is the heart of the book but the pictures have to entice the reader to move to the book’s conclusion.

6. What would you love to try?

A comic book or a graphic novel.

7. Do you have a favorite book(s) from your childhood? How about more recently?

There are so many! Many of the books I loved as a child I read to my children – Charlotte’s Web, anything by Dr. Suess,- by Roald Dahl,- by Eric Carle,- by Beatrix Potter, Eloise, Madeline. More recent books that have really inspired me are Owl Moon (the watercolors are amazing!), anything by E.B. Lewis (again such wonderful watercolors) – so many more terrific books and illustrators that I’d take up too much space for this interview.

8. What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?

Recently I illustrated a children’s book about the wind called The Wild, Wild Wind by Jodi Heaton Hurst.  The main characters are swept up by the wind and this was terrific for me as I could play around with the various figures (human and animal) as they move through the air. The locale was in the country so I could use a palette of daylight colors.  It was so much fun to do that book.

9. Any words of advice for folks just starting out in illustration? What do you wish you would have known sooner in your       author/illustrator career?

To quote many fellow SCBWI-ers – never quit! Always keep trying new artistic media and techniques and keep your eye out to see what other illustrators are doing. Keep working on your own style so that your illustrations have a unique view of the world for the viewer. Get your individual artistic voice out there with a website and social media.

10. What’s next for you? Any upcoming book releases we should be on the lookout for?

Two books that I recently illustrated will be coming out later this year. The Brown Rose by Katy Chow is a children’s picture book about a young Muslim girl’s experiences on her first day in a new school.  Louie Finds A Friend (A Louie The Duck Story) by Vivian Zabel is another children’s book featuring the ongoing adventures of Louie the duck and how he finally makes a friend who understands him.