Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Skylaar Amann

© Skylaar Amann

May 15, 2020

Today we are pleased to feature author-illustrator Skylaar Amann and her debut picture book, LLOYD FINDS HIS WHALESONG (Page Street Kids), coming out June 30. Enter to win a copy!




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

My background is in drawing, printmaking, and bookbinding. For many years I focused on book arts and zines—along with sciart (science-themed art) because of my love of the ocean and my time growing up on the Oregon Coast, where marine science and conservation is the heartbeat of the community. Eventually, I returned to my childhood love of writing and illustrating for children, which is what I wanted to do since as far back as I can remember and always felt more fulfilling. I used to make little illustrated books when I was 4 or 5, and I never really stopped.


© Skylaar Amann
Once I solidified my goal of working in picture books, I returned to learning. I studied and re-studied the craft of writing as well as the fundamentals of illustration and design. I developed my early drawings and draft for LLOYD as a learning process and retooled it many times over the years until I felt ready to start submitting as an illustrator to art directors. 

Congrats on your debut picture book, LLOYD FINDS HIS WHALESONG. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

Thank you! LLOYD FINDS HIS WHALESONG is the story of a little humpback whale whose voice is too quiet to sing the whalesong. He seems destined for silence until he finds a mysterious ukulele in the kelp forest and must use it and his newfound voice to help his family out of danger.


© Skylaar Amann


I grew up on the Oregon Coast, and the ocean has always been a huge part of my life, including watching the humpbacks migrate offshore. My illustration work has always centered on the ocean, whales, the biodiversity of tidepools, and marine science/ conservation. I’d been doodling whales, including a cartoony humpback for years before one settled into a lonely little fellow named Lloyd. About ten years ago, I started to learn to play the ukulele and it opened up the wondrous world of making music. Somehow, my brain combined these two ideas. Humpback whales really do sing, and I wondered what would happen if one couldn’t … until he found a ukulele. It’s been really rewarding to combine two things I love so much into one story.

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

It feels long and winding, but I think it’s somewhere in between. I wanted to work on books for a long time before I was actively and intentionally working toward that goal. I think for most people, publishing feels opaque until you’re committed to it, doing the research, and putting in the work (and sometimes still does!). Once I dedicated myself to it, I started pursuing illustration specifically because it’s what I’d been doing in one form or another for years. I sent out direct mailers (postcards to art directors) a few times before Kristen Nobles at Page Street Kids contacted me and asked if I had a dummy to share. I sent her LLOYD, and from there, Kristen and Courtney Burke gave me invaluable feedback on my story until it was ready for prime time. It took many drafts and lots of patience, for which I’m eternally grateful!


© Skylaar Amann


When you create stories, do the images or the words come first

It depends! For LLOYD, I guess the pictures came first because I drew a version of him off and on for years before I ever had a story. When I first started learning ukulele, the image of a humpback whale playing a uke came into my mind, and the story developed (through many, many drafts) from there!


© Skylaar Amann

That said, I often get a single line of text in my mind that won’t go away and I develop a concept out from there. Even when I write long-form, I see images in my head, and at this point, it’s tough for me to separate words from images. They go hand-in-hand for me.

What projects are you working on now, and are you able to concentrate?

I have a bunch of picture book WIPs in the works as well as a couple of middle grade manuscripts (which is a newer, scarier field for me, but I love learning!). I regularly do illustration studies to keep my mind and hands learning. And … ha! I am having a very hard time concentrating during the pandemic. I’m focusing on small tasks, like color studies, picture book idea notes, submissions, helping others with writing and art … and eating snacks.


© Skylaar Amann


What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

Keep learning and don’t give up. Things started to change for me when I went from drawing and writing the same old things without results and focused on improving my skills from a technical standpoint, with specific goals in mind. I dug into practicing the fundamentals of color, light, composition, and narrative, which dramatically improved the way I draw and design books. From a writing perspective, I researched outlines, story structure, and writing tools until I found techniques that work for me—and then I adapted them to suit my particular needs. I still use some of the templates and structures I created for my stories today.


© Skylaar Amann


What is something most people don't know about you?

I’m very sarcastic and cynical (but I think that goes hand-in-hand with idealism and resilience!). I also (badly) sing a lot of old show tunes and old vocal jazz songs around the house.

Where can people find you online?


© Skylaar Amann


You can find me at www.skylaaramann.comand on Twitter and Instagramwith the name @skylaara. I also talk about illustration, publishing, and the ocean in my newsletter. You can sign up at https://mailchi.mp/d2b6b9d67a9f/sky-and-sea-signup.



Skylaar Amann is the author/illustrator of LLOYD FINDS HIS WHALESONG, her debut picture book (Page Street Kids, June 2020). She is a member of SCBWI and Women Who Draw, as well as an affiliated artist with Climate Science Alliance, and a picture book mentor for WriteMentor. In 2012, Skylaar was shortlisted for the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. Previously, she received a Kidd Creative Writing Fellowship and Scholarship through the University of Oregon. Her illustration clients include Surfrider, Slate, Sitka Sound Science Center, 826 Seattle, Adventure! Children's Museum, Scientific American, and Paxton Gate. Skylaar has fifteen years of experience in communications and now works as a freelance illustrator, editor, and instructor. You can learn more about her at skylaaramann.com.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

18 comments:

  1. I'm in love with this already! What a fabulous idea and the art is perfect. Congrats on this book, and best of luck with future projects.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excited for this book to be released! Gorgeous illustrations and heart-warming story!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This looks amazing! Congrats, and thanks for sharing your journey!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Congratulations! Whales are awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a sublime looking whale on the cover!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This book looks stunning! I love the idea of a whale having to find his song--don't we all take that for granted?! Good luck!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. The cover of this book is amazing. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love your art and share your love of the ocean (and whales, seals, kelp, etc.)!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Your artwork is gorgeous--the shapes and colors, light and shadow--I can't wait to study it in person. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ahhh... Lloyd. It amazes me how you were able to use the images to capture the underwater scenes. Lovely... :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love the combination of a whale and a ukulele! Congrats on this beautiful book.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Really looking forward to pouring over the art and story of Lloyd's journey!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This book would be great to teach the kids about nature and diversity.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This looks like an amazing story. Love reading how you put the whale and ukulele together.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Lovely illustrations! This sounds like a wonderful book! Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC; more resources at BlogXpertise