Illustrator Spotlight: Julianna Swaney


© Julianna Swaney

March 11, 2022

We are excited to feature illustrator Julianna Swaney and her new picture book, THE GARDEN WE SHARE, by Zoe Tucker (NorthSouth Books) out on March 22! Enter to win a copy.

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

I loved picture books growing up, and often made up and illustrated my own stories when I was little. As I got older I knew I wanted to be in a creative field, but for some reason didn’t let myself think of illustrating books as an option. It seemed so daunting. I did go to art school, but studied printmaking instead of illustration or painting, which might have been more help to me now (at the time I felt more at home in the printmaking department so no regrets). Fast forward almost ten years; I supported myself full time though art by having an online shop, showing in galleries, doing custom logos for small businesses, and so many other things. I always shared my work online and one day I was contacted by an illustration agent. It was still a few years of hard work adjusting and growing my style before I landed my first book, but the fact that someone in the industry thought I could do it gave me a ton of confidence and I knew that illustrating books is what I had wanted to be doing all along! I have yet to both write and illustrate my own book, but I hope to someday.

© Julianna Swaney

Congrats on recent picture book, The Garden We Share! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.

 Firstly the story, written by Zoe Tucker was so warm and so full of wonderful imagery, as soon as I read it I started seeing the pictures in my head. I love drawing old and young characters interacting, and this book is all about the friendship of a little girl and a group of older women who live in her apartment building and the garden they tend together.

© Julianna Swaney

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

This book was a bit winding; I’d just finished the rough thumbnail illustrations when something came up that made the publisher realize they wanted to go in a totally different direction for some details of the story and the setting. So, I started over and did a whole new set of thumbnails.

© Julianna Swaney

What projects are you working on these days? 

Since I finished The Garden We Share, I’ve illustrated two more picture books, and I’m starting on a third. Keeping busy!

What advice would you give your younger self? Is this the same that you'd give to aspiring illustrators? 

© Julianna Swaney

I wouldn’t have gotten into illustration work if I hadn’t been regularly sharing my art on social media So my advice to aspiring illustrators would be to not be afraid to share your work and put yourself out there.

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

© Julianna Swaney

While I’m usually painting cozy and wholesome illustrations, I’m usually listening to spooky podcast about ghosts and spooky stuff, and sometimes getting quite scared!

©Julianna Swaney

Where can people find you online? 

I’m on instagram @julianna_swaney, or my website has links to all my other various social media.

Julianna Swaney has illustrated numerous books for children including I Will Dance by Nancy Bo Flood and We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines. Originally from Michigan she now lives in Oregon and spends her time painting, gardening, and daydreaming. 




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  1. I am excited to read this book. We have several gardens at our elementary school. This story would be a wonderful addition to our garden studies.

  2. I love how this story features inter-generational relationships. Looking forward to reading it!

  3. Gorgeous illustrations that almost smell with apple pie! I love your story of putting your work out there.

  4. Your art is so beautiful and expressive. I'm looking forward to seeing your work in person.

  5. Book looks great, look forward to reading it!


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