Illustrator Interview: Sue Shanahan

art by Sue ShanahanAbout six weeks ago, children’s book illustrator and portrait artist Sue Shanahan (@SueShanahanArt) found us on Twitter and sent me a note along with her lovely illustration “Dreams Begin in a Book.”

From that, Sue and I began a conversation about reading, children’s illustrations, and Apps. If you have the chance, explore Her gallery is filled with lovely artwork – what I would call timeless imagery – that transports you to new places and opens your heart.

RT: Hi Sue, and welcome to the Reading Tub! I’ve really enjoyed exploring your site, and the iMovie of your illustrations set to “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant just blew me away!

On your site, you use the tagline “art from the heart,” which says a lot about how you see the world, particularly children. How did you fill your heart as a child … were you a reader? a doodler? an explorer? an observer?

Sue:  I was – and quite honestly still am – a reader and a doodler and a maker of things with my hands. Books transported me into worlds that I expanded on in my mind. My love of drawing fairies originated in the books my mother had as child. She was a huge reader and her books lined the bookshelves in my bedroom. I lost myself in them.

RT: Can you tell us more about your illustration “Dreams Begin in Books?”

Sue: Reading opened up the possibility that I could do so much more than the script life had given me. It made me a possibility thinker. It gave me the notion that “someone has to do, it why not me?”

RT: For several years you created the posters for the Illinois “Family Reading Night” campaign. In the posters on your website, you’ve got lots of classic characters … how did you come to select these few ‘models’ when there are so many children’s classics?

Sue: Well I’d go back to the “art from the heart” tagline on that. The origins of creativity are hard to define with the intellect. When an idea comes to me to illustrate I feel like I’m following directions and try my darndest not to reason them away.

RT: if you were creating a poster in 2011 what characters would you select for your illustration?

Sue: I think it would be fun to have “A Little House on the Prairie” or “Tom Sawyer” type of theme. It would be interesting to explore what school was like in that era and share it with children of today.

RT: You recently published an iPad App called Love You to the Moon and Back, which is available through the iTunes Store. What has it been like transitioning to more interactive media? Do you think this a medium that you’d like to continue to explore?

Sue: Love You to the Moon and Back is a story to share with a child about how much they are loved and how uniquely special they are. In my illustrations I use real, ordinary kids. I am a huge advocate for the individual beauty of each child.

I found it very easy to transition because Auryn (digital publisher) gave me free rein in the layout of it.  I am working on my next iPad story now. It’s a fairy story with a deeper meaning, as fairy stories often have. Auryn wants this story too.

As I work on the art for my next book app I am thinking more along the lines of “how will the illustrations flow with the text?” My illustrations will also be the dimensions of the iPad screen. I had to do that in reverse with the app that is out now. Many of the illustrations for it had to be reformatted to fit the iPad screen, which took a little time and a little Photoshop.

RT: Wow, this is a great video, Sue. Thanks for stopping by!

If you’d like to read more of our interview with Sue please visit the Reading Tub. Sue talks about what books she thinks are must-haves for a child’s library and lists some of her favorite children’s illustrators.

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