Author-Illustrator: Jessica Lanan

© Jessica Lanan

May 17, 2019

We are pleased to feature author-illustrator Jessica Lanan and her debut picture book as an author-illustrator, THE FISHERMAN & THE WHALE (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Children May 2019). Enter to win a copy!



Tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I studied sculpture in college, but I had always loved and collected picture books. When I was graduating I applied for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a program which funds year-long solo research projects around the world. I applied for the program with a proposal to study folk tales around different parts of Asia and illustrate my journey with a sketchbook and a set of watercolors. I enjoyed the illustration aspect of it so much that I decided to look into illustration as a career.

© Jessica Lanan


Congrats on your debut as an author-illustrator, THE FISHERMAN & THE WHALE. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you! I came up with the idea of FISHERMAN at a music concert. I was listening to a piece that was melancholy and beautiful and kind of whale-like, and it made me think of a news story I had read about an experience between a fisherman and an entrapped whale off the coast of California. 
I wanted to take that basic story of an encounter between two different intelligent species and infuse it with all that emotion that was in the music. It took five years and dozens of drafts to get from original idea to publication, because I was unagented at the time and I didn't have many industry connections. 

© Jessica Lanan


How does illustrating other people's books compare to illustrating your own?

The biggest difference is the amount of control that you have over the story. As an author you have the flexibility to add and remove elements that change the overall plot and structure in a way that isn't possible when you're illustrating someone else's book. That can be very liberating  but can also make it more challenging, because there are no limitations.

© Jessica Lanan


What is your preferred medium & illustration process?  

I start with sketched thumbnails and work my way up to more detailed drawings. 

© Jessica Lanan

For the more elaborate perspective drawings I like to use Adobe Illustrator to help get everything lined up just right. I spend a lot of time doing color and value studies, either by hand or digitally, so that I know exactly what I'm doing  when I get to the final art. 

© Jessica Lanan
For the final art I use a projector to transfer my sketch to the paper and paint using watercolor. I like the fluidity of water media and the fact that you can work very quickly. 

What projects are you working on now?

I'm preparing for the publication of two other books I've illustrated, FINDING NARNIA: THE STORY OF C.S. LEWIS AND HIS BROTHER by Caroline McAlister (Roaring Brook Press) which should be out in November, and A KID OF THEIR OWN by  Megan Dowd Lambert (Charlesbridge) coming in spring of 2020. I'm currently illustrating a picture book called LOST by Richard Ho, about a package that goes astray and finds a serenipitous route to its destination (Roaring Brrok Press). I'm also working on two of my own manuscripts and getting those ready for submission.

© Jessica Lanan


What advice would you give to illustrators who want to transition to author-illustrators?

It's okay to put a story on the back burner and work on something else for a while. Don't fall into the trap of having one manuscript that you're trying to force and no other stories in progress. Sometimes things need to simmer, and working on new things will provide new insights on problems that you feel stuck on.  

© Jessica Lanan

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I speak fluent French, albeit with a hybrid American-Québecois accent. 

© Jessica Lanan

Where can people find you online?

There's more on my website at www.jessicalanan.com, and I'm also on twitter @jalanan and on instagram @jessicalanan.


Jessica Lanan grew up surrounded by the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and finds inspiration all around her in the natural world. She is the illustrator of several books for children including Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet and The Story I’ll Tell. The Fisherman and the Whale is the first book that she has both written and illustrated. Jessica lives in Boulder, Colorado.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

22 comments:

  1. These are beautiful illustrations! I could see them framed as art. :) Being a non-artist, I love getting to see the process. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What glorious illustrations--and the book sounds very inspiring for kids of all ages! And great advice to let manuscripts simmer as you write/illustrate new stories.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, Wow, WOW... your art is spectACular! And that image of their eyes- so poignant. I just gave a speech this week about the beauty of the human-animal bond (am a vet), and I can tell just from the images that this book captures that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anitha KuppuswamyMay 17, 2019 at 10:10 AM

    Thanks for the chance!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your work is beautiful. ❤️ Très bon. Would love a copy of your book. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm delighted there are so many exciting books forthcoming with your gorgeous work! Lucky readers!

    ReplyDelete
  7. That artwork is absolutely incredible and tells so much story in each image that I can’t wait to see how her work sings when the words AND images are her own! Every piece in this post made me feel something. Off to investigate Jessica’s website!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the range of perspectives -this looks like a powerful work of art.

    ReplyDelete
  9. These look amazing! I also use illustrator to work out perspective lines, its very helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Love your illustrations and the use of light!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This book looks beautiful - story and illustrations. Bravo mon ami!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Those are some dramatic compositions in that book!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Beautiful artwork! Makes me eager to read the story.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your artwork is beautiful and I'm looking forward to reading your book. I added it to my Goodreads.

    ReplyDelete
  15. These are delightful illustrations - can't wait to see the whole work!

    ReplyDelete
  16. What a great-looking book! I'm totally in awe of whales. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Such beautiful artwork. Can't wait to read the book!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Congrats Jessica! The book looks awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  19. LOVE the art -- I am sure the story is as lovely. Can't wait to read it. Best of luck to you!

    ReplyDelete
  20. What a beautiful cover illustration with the juxtaposition of the small boat and the big whale.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is just wonderful. Book and Illustrations. I'm eathing it up-thank you so much for putting this out here for us all to read and enjoy.

    ReplyDelete

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC; more resources at BlogXpertise