Illustrator Spotlight: Alleanna Harris


© Alleanna Harris

Dec. 20, 2019

We are pleased to feature author-illustrator Alleanna Harris and her new picture book, MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING STORY OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE, by Vivian Kirkfield (Little Bee Books, Jan. 28, 2020).
Enter to win a copy!




Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.

Hi, I’m Alleanna! I started out doing illustrations and selling them on my Etsy store, Alleanna Harris Art. I also would do custom portraits and logos for people. One day, my older cousin contacted me and let me know that a children’s book author was looking for an illustrator. I passed along my website, and the author contacted me because she loved my work. I ended up illustrating her book, DADDY, WHO AM I. It was during that process that I realized I wanted to illustrate for children. After that, I illustrated some portfolio pieces and my friend persuaded me to join Women Who Draw. It was there that my agent, James Burns, saw my work. I’m now represented by Bright Agency and I illustrate full time!

© Alleanna Harris

Congrats on forthcoming picture book, MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD, by Vivian Kirkfield. Tell us about this story and how you went about researching for your illustration.

Thank you so much! MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD is about the friendship between the two legends, Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, and how they helped each other in their amazing careers. 

To start out, Courtney Fahy (the editor at Little Bee) and Rob Wall (the art director) sent me a picture of Ella and Marilyn together. I did a lot of looking around online (thank you Google!) for 1950s era pictures of Ella and Marilyn so that I could get their likenesses down.

It took me a long time to get the likenesses correct. Courtney sent me better pictures and examples of the dresses they should wear in each scene. That was extremely helpful.

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

In terms of my personal road to publication, it was short and sweet. I was signed to Bright Agency in late September 2017, and I started illustrating my first picture book with a publisher, THE JOURNEY OF YORK by Hasan Davis (Capstone) in mid October. I’m thankful that I was able to start illustrating professionally so quickly. I owe that all to the team at Bright!


What is your illustration process?  

First, I sketch out my idea. I do it quickly because if I spend too long on the original sketch, I overwork it and lose the energy of the idea.

© Alleanna Harris

I refine a little bit more and I work in greyscale to figure out the values. I like to figure out where to draw the viewers’ eye. 

© Alleanna Harris
I block in the colors according to the values that I figured out in the past step. I play around a little bit to see if my eyes like something different than what the values determined.

© Alleanna Harris

I continue to add in flat colors and then I add some texture in certain places because it makes the illustration feel more lifelike and it gives the objects even more personality.

© Alleanna Harris

My last step is to add shadow and lighting on separate layers, and then I adjust it to my liking.

© Alleanna Harris

© Alleanna Harris


What projects are you working on now?

I’m illustrating a picture book about the first African American woman inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, Mabel Fairbanks. It’s called MARVELOUS MABEL, written by Crystal Hubbard and published by Lee and Low Books. I’m also working a couple educational projects as well. 

© Alleanna Harris

What advice would you give to other aspiring illustrators? 

My advice would be to illustrate and to share your work despite the fear and self-doubt. Self-doubt can keep you from doing a lot of things. It can keep you from putting the pencil on the paper, it can keep you from finishing your drawings, it can keep you from sharing the artwork that you have. No matter how hard it is, move through it. That has helped me. I share my illustrations even if I think they’re not quite good enough to be shared. It’s odd, but the illustrations that I feel most nervous about do the best.

© Alleanna Harris

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

I play piano! I’ve been playing since I was four. I read sheet music, but I can play by ear too. I don’t play as much as I used to, but I still enjoy it.

Where can people find you online?

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @alleannaharris. My portfolio website is alleannaharris.com. 



Alleanna Harris is a illustrator who has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would draw on every page of her mom’s legal pads, doodle on her notebooks at school and on the programs at church.

She graduated from the University of Arts with a BFA in Animation with Honors, and it was during this time she realized her love for illustration. 

She has illustrated several children's books, including The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, The Day Abuelo Got Lost, Making Their Voices Heard, and Patricia’s Vision.

Alleanna finds inspiration in the beauty in everyday things. Everything inspires her. In her work, she seeks to create images that are immersive, rich in color and have a sense of warmth. She lives in New Jersey.

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17 comments:

  1. I am looking forward to seeing this. I have heard and read about it from Vivian; this is the first time I’ve see any of the interior art. The illos are wonderful!

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  2. This book looks amazing! What a brilliant idea to combine the lives of two influential women...

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  3. Hurray for Alleanna...what a talented artist and children's book illustrator you are!!! I am so thrilled she was chosen to do VOICES...she captured the spirit of these icons perfectly! Thanks os much, Kidlit411, for a wonderful post!

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  4. Wonderful post. I love your illustrations, Alleanna!

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  5. I'm a huge fan of both of these ladies, thanks for the chance to win this cool book.

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  6. I LOVE your process description! As a non-artist, I was able to follow and actually understand what you do. I know you know your picture of the girl playing guitar at sunset (above) is hanging in our Kidlit recording studio. But did you know it is over keyboards? I didn’t know you played, so that is kind of a cool thing. Also, yours was the first piece of Art I bought from the #kidlitart community, and I knew you would be hired by more authors & publishers soon. This was summer 2017. I guess I have good taste and instincts right? You have been paired with one of the loveliest, caring humans alive, and when I heard, I told Vivian you were hanging in my studio 2 yrs ago! It was another nice surprise. I can see you both working well together and I am so so excited to see this book (I saw a pic or two so far). I wish you much luck and hope you always love what you are doing, cause we love it too. Happy Holidays. Peace, Annie

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  7. Oops, totally forgot....please enter me in the drawing, lol.😆

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  8. Beautiful illustrations and I love the advice you gave in regards to doing things despite any fear or self-doubt. I am really looking forward to this book. Thank you for this opportunity to win a copy!

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  9. This art is gorgeous! The tree house is a dream of mine. thank you for sharing today!

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  10. As someone who can't even draw a stick figure, I'm always intrigued by the illustration process. The way you sketch sounds like the way I write my initial manuscript. I love the illustrations of these two female "giants"--you captured the warmth between them!

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  11. Alleanna, Thanks for sharing your process! As a writer, I think of each draft as adding a layer of emotion and meaning. Your final treehouse illustration is magical!

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  12. Love that tree house! And LOVED seeing your steps in developing it.
    Great advice. Fear and self-doubt are always nearby!
    Look forward to seeing much more of your amazing art.

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  13. Can't wait to read this book! Love the illustrations, Alleanna! Congratulations!

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  14. I love this story from the beginning and can't wait to see all the illustrations. Vivian is an outstanding NF Bio author and friend and from the cover I just know the pages will be rich with color and depth.

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  15. Eeek so excited for this! Thank you for sharing

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