Today we are going to begin featuring alumni of SVS. This is similar to the Featured Student posts we will also be doing each month, but alumni are past (and sometimes still current) students of SVS that are a little farther along in their illustration journeys and can share some insights on what has helped them get to where they are. For March we are going to feature the very talented:
Charlie Eve Ryan
Below is a Q&A that Austin Shurtliff (@AWSHURTLIFF) conducted with Charlie. They discussed her background and some of the experiences and challenges that have led her to her career as an illustrator, as well as what Charlie still does to improve her skills.
Could you share a little bit about your journey towards illustration and what stage you are at now in your career?
Throughout my childhood, I always surrounded myself with books and journals. I was equal parts book nerd and athlete, so I had a lot of different interests, but my love for reading, writing and art definitely helped me through the more trying stages of my life. I also had an art teacher in high school named Mr. Turner who was very encouraging and had a huge influence on my love of creating something from nothing. Watching him draw and paint felt like a magic show and I wanted to learn all of his tricks. Turns out it takes years and years of hard work and practice. It is a life long pursuit, but I would not have it any other way.
Growing up I never thought I could actually make a career out of art so I ended up eventually going to school to become a nurse and worked as an LPN in a cancer center. My husband and I really wanted to start a family, but life to motherhood was not easy and we lost our second daughter along the way due to her being born prematurely. I was on bed rest a lot through each of the pregnancies so I found myself writing and drawing more than ever. I watched YouTube videos to teach myself art and started joining online writer’s groups. My kids are nothing short of a miracle and I wanted to be home to raise them.
I used art and words to help heal my broken heart after such a devastating loss. It also made me realize I couldn’t keep my art and writing as a hobby and I slowly found the courage to pursue my dream of writing and illustrating my own books.
As a new mom, I couldn’t afford traditional art school so a huge turning point for me came when I discovered Will Terry and Jake Parker. I took their very first course for children’s book illustration and joined SVS from the start. The content was accessible and they are a treasure trove of knowledge and talent. They don’t pull punches and really encourage students to strive for the next level. Lee White has been a huge influence and is so generous with his knowledge. His talent and work ethic really shine through and he has been instrumental in teaching the business side of illustration. They all know how to critique without tearing down and are just really stellar teachers/mentors. I am very thankful to have found them.
I am currently working with three different trade book publishers and have done work with Highlights Magazine and in the educational market. Whether writing or drawing, I live for the blank page. You never know what is going to show up and it is very exciting. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else and I feel very lucky.
Do you have a project you are working on or recently finished that you can tell us about?
I signed on for three book projects this year. The first one is called Blue Cat and it due out in the Fall of 2019. It is with Kane Press out of New York and is my first children’s trade book and my first book as author/illustrator. They were a joy to work with and I am super excited about it! The other two I am working as the illustrator. One is with Amicus Ink and the other one is with Page Street Kids. They are both due out in the Spring of 2020. I’m so excited for all three and know I would not even be close to publication without SVS. It has been surreal and a dream come true.
What are some things you are doing now to keep progressing with your art skills/career?
I subscribe to www.svslearn.com and I love going back and re-watching parts of different classes because there is so much to take in plus there is always new content being added. I put money aside for at least one interactive class a year. I am also a part of SCBWI-EPA and love taking art and writing workshops throughout the year.
How do you achieve a good work life balance between your different responsibilities, like art and being a parent?
I’m not entirely sure I figured that part out yet, but I get the vast majority of my work down while they are in school and after bedtime. Summers are a bit crazy but I will usually tire them out at the YMCA pool earlier in the day, so I can work in the afternoon.
What are some things that help inspire the art you like to create?
I really love drawing people and trying to capture the little moments in life. I love patterns and textures and use Pinterest all the time to come up with color palettes and collect artists works that I love.
Do you have any suggestions for newer illustrators on how to pursue their art goals and use the tools on SVS?
Become a subscriber to SVS, it will be the best money you ever spent! Don’t just watch the classes, actually, do the exercises. They are in there for a reason and you actually have to apply the knowledge to your work in order to see real improvement and it is hard. I have failed at this more than once but have also had successes and personal breakthroughs.
Finally, know your strengths and showcase them in your portfolio. Use the SVS classes to really work on your weaknesses. I still break into hives every time I attempt a perspective class and struggle with the 50 things challenge. My weaknesses outweigh my strengths but that is fine because I never stop learning. As long as you get out of your comfort zone, keep drawing and creating you will grow as an artist.
Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!