Illustrator Spotlight: Gary Fabbri

© Gary Fabbri

Today we welcome illustrator and filmmaker Gary Fabbri. Born in the U.S., he now lives in Stockholm, Sweden. After many years directing and editing promos, short programs, ads, and films, he is now Creative Director at his own company, shed9.

Tell us about your background and how you got into children's illustration.

Doodling, landscape painting, reading, a love of music and the visual arts led me first to working in television. I became a promo director in London and eventually a creative head at Fox Kids and Disney UK. 

All the time I worked in television I kept telling myself that I was going to work on my own book projects. But I was just too busy. Then one day, I decided to do it. So I quit my job and started my own company.

That gave me freedom to work on my own projects. I started writing and illustrating and created a portfolio and a first draft of a book and another. I joined SCBWI in January 2013 and found there’s a whole group of people supporting each other on this journey!

© Gary Fabbri

You are a writer, illustrator, and director. How do you balance all these creative activities?

All of these things mesh together for me. And it feels natural to work with all three simultaneously. Writing is solitary, hard, subtle interior work. Illustration is fun, playful, immediate and intense. And directing is social and a great place for me to meet and learn from others.

What projects are you working on these days?

Right now I’m working on a picture book titled THE DAY THE MOON WAS MADE. It’s about a girl, Luna, who creates the first Moon. I’m collaborating with another filmmaker to make a short film version. I am writer/illustrator and he’s directing. I think it’s great fun and inspiring to collaborate.

Snow White - Mirror Mirror  © Gary Fabbri

I’ve also been working on a few graphic novel ideas to pitch to publishers. One of them is Snow White. I’ve attached a few pictures of it for you all to take a look at.

Snow White - The Huntsman © Gary Fabbri

What is something you know now about children's illustration that you wish you knew when you first started? What advice would you give to your younger self?

The best advice I would give myself would be to say – Don’t Wait.

Get started and pursue the direction that you’d like to go in. When I say ‘don’t wait,’ I mean not even one day. Start now. Draw a picture, sign up for a course, sketch an idea.

I’d also say, Don’t take a roundabout way when you can take a direct one.

© Gary Fabbri

Lots of people have asked me through the years how to get started in television. The answer is simple. Go to the TV station. Be there, make yourself useful, and before you know it, you’ll be working.

5. What is the work flow of a typical illustration of yours? 

I start by sketching on normal A4 (8.5x11) paper or in a smaller sketchbook. I use that size because I can scan it.

I’m seldom happy with my sketches. To me, they often feel clumpy and primitive. But I keep going until I have something that I feel I can fix in Photoshop.

I take loads of photos of different textures, words, situations, landscapes, bits and pieces, scrap and broken things.

© Gary Fabbri

When I work on a piece I think of design, composition and try to limit my color palette. I spend a good amount of time trying things that don’t work. I add and remove texture until it clicks – then I disappear in the picture for a while until it takes shape.

6. Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

I’m very flexible, especially for a kind of big guy. I can do a split and bend myself up like a pretzel.

Also, I love to cook. If you come to Stockholm pay me a visit at Fabbri’s Italian Kitchen  :-)

7. Where can people find you on the internet?

My website:           
You can like me on FB:
Twitter: @garyfabbri

A bonus update: Check out Gary's video, The Eagle Who Wanted to See Everything:

Thank you Gary for sharing your work and advice!


  1. What a great interview! Thanks for sharing your talents with us, Gary!

  2. Hej! Thanks Elaine. It's great to be here :-)

  3. Hi Gary! Love the interview (and your work, as you know).
    Next Europolitan conference, you have to demonstrate your flexibility superpower.

    1. Hej Dana! Thanks :-) I will and can't wait for the next Europolitan conference!

  4. Loved it, Gary! "Don't wait" - best advice ever!

  5. "Don’t take a roundabout way when you can take a direct one." Love that, Gary! Great interview, fabulous art! And I second Dana. Soooo looking forward to witnessing your flexibility superpower.

  6. Thanks Mina! Let's travel the way birds do!

  7. What an inspiring interview, Gary! I can't wait to learn more about Luna's story...and the menu at Fabbri's Italian Kitchen.

  8. So fascinating to read, Gary. Thanks so much!
    I love the intensity and mixed media of The Day the Moon Was Made!! Can't wait to see more.

  9. You are truly multi-talented, Gary! Thanks for the good advice and a peek into how you work and what you do. :) I love men who can cook!

  10. Thanks for the interview, Gary. I really enjoy the energy in your pieces and love your advice not to wait.

    1. Thanks Sylvia! It's great to be here. I really appreciate it :-)


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