SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Featured Illustrator

Katie Schaefer
October 2021 Featured Illustrator


Katie Schaefer is an illustrator working in St. Louis, MO, though she’s called small-town Arkansas, Savannah, Georgia, Mexico City and Brooklyn, New York home as well.

Of all the places she’s been, her favorite place to be is in her colorful home studio with her hairless pup Mysterio and mustachioed honey bunny David. When she’s not illustrating, you can find her in her garden trying to make things grow.

 

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

I studied illustration in college at Savannah College of Art & Design, but was eager to teach art after undergrad in addition to pursuing freelance illustration work. I went to the School of Visual Arts and earned my master’s in Art Education. Then I started a 12-year teaching career.

While I did some freelance work at the beginning, teaching eventually took over. I enjoyed working with kids, but I could never escape this nagging feeling of having given up on illustration. Over the last 5 years, I’ve shifted my career path back to illustration, and am now focusing on it full time. In many ways, I feel like I’m at the start, and it’s exciting!

 

What is your preferred medium, method of working?

I absolutely love working digitally, which was a shift for me about four years ago. Working digitally makes me feel so free and confident to take more risks and experiment with my work because of the ease of editing. Playing with color palettes is also one of my favorite parts of the process now that I’m working digitally.

 

How did your style and technique develop?

In hindsight, I feel like I spent too much time agonizing over what my style should look like when I was younger. In reality, I ended up leaning into what felt like my natural way of drawing. I didn’t want the process to feel labored trying to force a style. The more I drew the more clear a style took shape.


What do you find the most challenging in your work?

The finish stage is the most challenging for me. I hate to admit it, but I find it’s the least interesting stage of a project for me. I am so energized with the planning and sketching stages and love experimenting with color comps. Everything is so new and fresh! Once the finishes start it’s more about endurance for me, and keeping my confidence up.

I’m collecting lots of ways to make this part of the process more enjoyable. I try to make sure I don’t just work on finishes every day. I also like to create a schedule where I’m working on finishes in lots of small chunks of time throughout the week. Getting feedback from an art director or my agent has also been invaluable.

 

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

Last year I was one of the contributing illustrators in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg issue of Bravery Magazine. I was a big fan of the magazine already and was thrilled to be asked to work with them on the RBG issue, no less. The icing on the cake was that my niece subscribed to their magazine. It was amazing to see her get her copy in the mail and spot my illustration.

 

Do you have a favorite book(s) from your childhood?

I was just at my parents’ house looking through the collection of picture books my two sisters and I had growing up. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood, Eggbert the Slightly Cracked Egg written by Tom Ross, illustrated by Rex Barron, Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban and If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond

 

How did you get signed with your Natalie Lakosil?

It was through SCBWI actually! Natalie found my work in the Portfolio Showcase at the SCBWI Online Summer Spectacular in 2020.


Do you have any art supply-type tips you can share with us? Paint, paper or software that you love, a favorite art store or website to buy supplies or a new product that you’ve tried, etc.?

I primarily work in Procreate, as I find it such an intuitive program. Choosing a program for me was easy, but when I started out, I was overwhelmed with the number of brushes and definitely struggled with decision fatigue. There are so many included in digital art programs, plus there are so many amazing artists and designers creating custom brushes – definitely check out those custom brushes! They are amazing! Ultimately, I narrowed it down to a smallish set of digital brushes and use the gouache brushes the most.

 

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

Style develops over time from continued art-making and reflection – trying to decide on a style overcomplicates the process.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Research and learn about the varying illustration markets, and consider pursuing multiple. It can be so beneficial to your work schedule and bank account.

 

 

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

I’m trying to take my own advice and have been dipping my toes into the illustration licensing market. Most recently, I’ve been working on some greeting card projects. I’m looking forward to seeing those on shelves at one of my favorite national grocery chains next year!.

 


To learn more about Katie, visit katieschaefer.com

 


 

Previous Featured Illustrators

 

Dayne Sislen has enjoyed a career as an art director and an instructor in Design Graphics and Illustration at Maryville University. After retirement, she reinvented herself as a children’s book illustrator. Dayne lives in St. Louis with her husband Don and their wee Scottish Terrier, Ghillis. daynesislen.com

 

Lisa Harkrader is an author/illustrator who has published twenty-five books for children, including the award-winning AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS and THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY. She lives in Tonganoxie, Kansas, with her husband and two children. www.ldharkrader.com

 

Maja Anderson creates illustrations for greeting cards, apparel, gifts, home decor, memory keeping albums and books. She lives in the Kansas City area. majaandersen.com


Rob Peters
has worked with a number of self-published authors and worked on a variety of licensed sport books for the Kansas City Chiefs, KU Jayhawks, and others. He lives with his wife Janie and four kids in Topeka, KS. rob-peters.com


Blayne Fox
has illustrated books for Scholastic Publishing, Brown Books Publishing, Double Ink Publishing, and Benchmark Publishing, as well as several self-published authors. Blayne currently lives in St. Louis with her partner and three cats. blaynefox.com


Elizabeth Baddeley
is the New York Times Best selling illustrator of I DISSENT: RUTH BADER GINSBURG MAKES HER MARK. She resides in a historic neighborhood in Kansas City with her husband and young son. ebaddeley.com

Lois Bradley


Lois Bradley
is an author, graphic designer and visual artist working in acrylics, watercolor, pen/ink and mixed media. She served as ARA for the New Mexico chapter of SCBWI from 2008 through 2012. She now lives in Kansas City, MO. www.loisbradley.com

 

Phyllis Harris is an author/illustrator who has illustrated over 35 children’s books. Her debut book as an author/illustrator, GIFT SHOP BEAR is scheduled for publication on Oct. 5, 2021. She lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and pup, Brinkley. phyllisharris.com


Il Sung Na
is an author/illustrator and illustration teacher. He lives with his wife and small dog in Kansas City, MO. ilsungna.com

 

Heather Bell is a picture book author and illustrator. When she’s not illustrating or writing, Heather searches out story ideas as an undercover school bus driver. heatherbellbooks.com

 

Sandra Ure Giffin is an author and illustrator. Her creative work depicts our relationships with each other and our planet. She lives in St. Louis, MO. instagram.com/sandraugriffin

 


Wendy Leach
is a picture book author and illustrator. She lives and works in Overland Park, KS. artofwendyleach.com

John Hare

 

John Hare is a picture book author and illustrator. His latest book FIELD TRIP TO THE OCEAN DEEP comes out Sept. 8, 2020. He lives in Gladstone, MO with his wife and two boys. john-hare.squarespace.com


Daniel Miyares
is a picture book author and illustrator. Some of his books include FLOAT, NIGHT OUT, THAT IS MY DREAM and BRING ME A ROCK! He currently lives in Lenexa, KS with his wife, their two wonderful children, and a dog named Violet. danielmiyares.com


Violet Lemay
has illustrated nearly 40 books for children, several of which she also wrote. Her husband’s job as a PGA teaching pro has taken her family all over the world. Her family lives in the St. Louis area, so Missouri is Violet’s home base. violetlemay.com

 

Morgan Hutcherson is an illustrator, graphic designer, and author. Morgan is currently enjoying first-time-homeownership in Maplewood, Missouri with her rescue Corgi Scout, and her long-time boyfriend, Rutger. morganhutcherson.com


Stephen T. Johnson
is an author and illustrator of many children’s books, including ALPHABET CITY, a Caldecott Honor and a New York Times Best Illustrated book of the year. Look for his upcoming book MUSIC IS, which is slated to be published in the fall of 2020. stephentjohnson.com


Heather Hatch
is a writer and illustrator. She teaches art classes and volunteers on the board of her local art museum. She lives with her family on an Ozark, Missouri farm with a Big Red Barn and a chicken-coop-turned art studio.


K.L.B. Barsotti (Kate)
is a writer and artist specializing in illustration for children, special commissions, fiction (middle grade and below), and poetry. Kate lives in downtown Kansas City, Missouri with three cats, a bundle of rats, her husband and father. snawfus-tracks.com


Jeanne Conway
has written and illustrated many children’s picture books. She has also been an art teacher in elementary and secondary schools. Jeanne lives in St. Louis, Missouri. jeanniespaintings.com

 

Polly Alice McCann is an author-illustrator, critical writing professor and managing editor of Flying Ketchup Press. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri. pollymccann.com


Joe Mohr
is the author/Illustrator of ROBOT+BIKE=KITTEN: 34 OF JOEM’s POEMS. He is also a cartoonist, dad, hubby and bicycle lover. Joe lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and three kids. joemohr.com


Daniel Wiseman
is the Illustrator of over 16 children’s books. Daniel also hosts a podcast with his friend Rob Bennet called REMOTE with Rob & Dan about working remotely. He lives with his wife and two sons in Knoxville, Tennessee. danieldraws.com

 


Lynn Alpert
is a writer, illustrator and graphic designer. She can usually be found reading, writing or drawing in St. Louis, MO where she lives with her husband. lynnalpert.com


Kathy L. Perry
is an author, illustrator, speaker and publisher at Chicadee Words. A former elementary teacher, Kathy still wants to make a positive impact in today’s youth. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri. kathyjperry.com


Ed Koehler
is an illustrator living in St. Louis and working nationwide, primarily for the Christian publishing market, creating art for children’s books, curriculum, activity books, and a variety of kid-friendly products. edkoehler.com


Kim Wilson
is an illustrator, designer, artist and writer. She runs the Dittmer ArtBarn, which offers year-round art classes for children and adults. Kim lives just outside of St. Louis in Dittmer, Missouri. kimwilsonillustration.com

Karen B. Jones’ illustration work has been featured in magazines, books, and the educational market. She lives in living in Olathe, Kansas with her husband and two daughters. karenbjones.com


Brad Sneed
has illustrated more than twenty picture books. He enjoys visiting schools to talk with students about illustrating picture books. Brad lives near Kansas City with his wife and daughter. bradsneed.com


Deborah Zemke
has written and/or illustrated more than fifty books for younger readers. These include picture books, chapter books, drawing books, early readers, and humor books. She lives in Columbia, Missouri. deborahzemke.com