Illustrator Spotlight: Christina Forshay

© Christina Forshay

July 27, 2015

Today we are excited to feature Christina Forshay, the talented illustrator of three picture books, with several other projects in the works. Her newest picture book, GOODNIGHT HOCKEY, will be released on August 1, 2015. Be sure to enter her giveaway for a copy of GOODNIGHT, HOCKEY!

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

From books to dioramas to cartoons to puppet theaters, I was always intrigued by imaginary environments. Growing up, my parents used to take my sister and me to Disneyland once a year and I was totally in awe by the immersion experience of the rides and the magic of it all.  I knew I wanted to grow up to build and create worlds for people to explore, I just wasn't sure which path I would take to get there. 

Growing up and all through college, I experimented with lots of different routes: animation, architecture, theater and art. I finally landed in a children's illustration class in college after taking lots of different types of art courses and knew it was the perfect thing for me. But it took me quite a few years to get there after graduating from art school in 2002. 

© Christina Forshay

I had an office job after college for a few years, but quit one day to give myself the chance to pursue illustration full time. It took a few years, but after picking up small educational illustration jobs here and there, I finally got my first picture book deal to illustrate THE REALLY GROOVY STORY OF THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE by Kristyn Crow in 2011 and work has been pretty steady since then.

You were one of the illustrators picked to be part of the SCBWI Illustration Mentor Program. How has that helped your career?

Being a part of the mentorship program has been super beneficial all the way around. I got a lot of great feedback on my art from all the mentors and it's helped me polish my portfolio and take it to the next level. 

© Christina Forshay

But since getting a mentorship spot a few years ago, it has really become about the friendships and bonds formed with everyone else involved in the program. All of us mentees now have a built-in network of illustrator friends at all levels of our careers. It's also a really cool thing to be able to hang out with fellow mentees when we see each other at different events and conferences. A lot of us have become really close life-long friends.  

Relationships with other illustrators is very important since illustration can, at times, be a very solitary career. Making these friends has been invaluable.

Tell us about your next book that is coming out.

The next book I have coming out is GOODNIGHT HOCKEY, by Michael Dahl. 

It's the third book in the GOODNIGHT series published by Capstone and is set for release very soon--August 1, 2015! It's a sweet story about a young family and their evening out at a very exciting hockey game! I had a great time illustrating this book and can't wait to finally see it printed and bound!

This is a question I ask everyone, but I am thrilled to ask it now. What projects are you working on now?

I'm so excited to say that I'm working on a sweet story by none other than the fabulous Sylvia Liu! A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (to be published by Lee & Low Books) is a cute story about an energetic little girl and her grandfather spending time in the garden together. He teaches her t'ai chi and she teaches him some yoga. I'm finishing up the paintings now and am super excited about how it's all coming together!

I'm also working on some covers for a middle grade series, but I don't think I can mention too much more about that one yet...

How exciting on both fronts! Tell us about your illustration process. 

Here is my process from the very first idea I sketched for this James and the Giant Peach piece:

© Christina Forshay

Basically a scribble on a scrap piece of paper that I photographed on my iPhone and uploaded into Manga Studio 5. It is really just in the idea stage here.

2. The scribble is a bit more defined into a still very rough sketch in Manga Studio 5:

© Christina Forshay
3. I've refined the rough sketch into a final drawing still using Manga Studio 5:

© Christina Forshay

4. The final drawing is colored in Manga Studio 5:

© Christina Forshay

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you in your career? What advice would you give others?

One day in art school, I turned in a final piece of art for a critique. As I handed it over to the instructor, she said "Wow, that looks great!" to which I responded something along the lines of "Really? I think it could have been better..." What she told me next has stuck with me to this day. 

She told me that it's hard enough to make it in the art world, especially as a female artist, and being self-deprecating only makes it harder. She told me to have confidence--especially when presenting my work to the world. Her advice really fueled me to show my work and to be proud of it.

© Christina Forshay

So along the same lines, my advice for others would be to get your work out there. Show it. Don't be afraid of what people will say. If you really pour yourself into your work, that will shine through. In order to grow as an artist, and especially as an illustrator, you HAVE TO show your work to people. People need to know your art exists in order for them to hire you! You can do it!

What or who inspires you?

Music inspires me, looking at other art inspires me and exploring new places inspires me. But beyond that, I've come to realize that what REALLY inspires me is watching people doing what they love. Painting, playing music, dancing, acting, playing sports...I really feel that when someone is filling their soul and getting lost in their passion, a super positive and contagious energy is sent out into the universe. THAT inspires me.

© Christina Forshay

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

I'm a sugar-holic and have made it to 38 years old without getting a cavity (I hope I didn't just jinx myself)!!!

Where can we find you online?

I'm all over the place online! You can find me on:

Christina Forshay was born and raised in sunny California, where she lives with her amazing husband and the two cutest kids in the world! 

Of course, as a child she could be found drawing, coloring and admiring her grand collection of crayons.

Christina graduated from California State University Long Beach with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration in 2002. Since then, she has been proudly working as an illustrator for the children’s market. Seriously, what could be more fun?!?

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  1. Gorgeous illustrations! I especially love the one with little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.

  2. Wow! Such incredible artwork! Thanks so much for being featured, Christina!

  3. Beautiful work, Christina!! You are very talented! Hooray for you and Sylvia!

  4. Already couldn't wait for A MORNING WITH GRANDPA! Thanks for sharing some of your process, Christina - and I really appreciate the advice you shared - so true of too many women!

  5. So many of us suffer from self-doubt and self-deprecation; I really appreciate Christina's advice on not doing that. Her whole story is inspiring! I love that she and Sylvia are coming out with the Morning With Grandpa soon!

  6. Christina, thank you for sharing your art, process and teacher's advice. I look forward to reading A MORNING WITH GRANDPA and GOODNIGHT HOCKEY.

  7. Wow! Thank you everyone for such lovely comments! This was fun to do!

  8. Thanks for the fascinating look at becoming an illustrator, especially how you took on board the advice on having self-confidence as an illustrator and taking yourself serious so other will too. I am really looking forward to A MORNING WITH GRANDPA and can't wait till it is released!

  9. I'm proud that Christina is among the distinguished group of artists featured at our exhibition "Writing with Pictures" at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, from now through Sept 13, 2015. More details can be found here:

  10. I applaud you for this great achievement and specially working with Sylvia Lu. I look forward to reading A morning with grandpa and see your illustrations. Congrats!


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