Today we’d like to introduce you to Susi Schaefer.
Susi, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I first started working as a commercial artist in my teens when I was an apprentice to a glass painter in the Austrian Alps. My boss was also a neighbor who used to babysit me when I was little, so the job interview was pretty easy. I suppose such are the perks of growing up in a small village. I worked in a glass shop in the medieval town of Rattenberg and spent my days creating folk art-inspired paintings; the style I used back then still influences my work today.
Eventually, my quest for warmer weather and adventure brought me to Southern California. When I arrived here, I worked as a nanny, and I took night classes for graphic design at UCI. I ended up working in the graphic design field for a long time.
What got me interested in illustrating for kids were all those picture books I read out loud, first to my nanny kids, and later to my own kids. Also, volunteering for an in-class art program that I was doing at my children’s school reconnected me with my life-long love for creating art.
Over the next couple of years, I studied all that I could about the picture book industry by taking online art classes, joining literary organizations, and finding a critique group. To my surprise, there was much more to learn about creating picture books than knowing how to write and illustrate.
Once I felt good about the work I produced, I sent it out to literary agents, and after about a year, I signed with my wonderful agent. Within a month, I was working on illustrating my first picture book titled ”Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids,” written by Kristen Fischer (Sounds True, 2017).
My next goal was to create a book that was both written and illustrated by me, and I’m thrilled to announce that ”Cat Ladies” is slated to be published in spring 2020 (Abrams Books for Young Readers).
I feel lucky and blessed to have this dream come true!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I heard my fair share of the word ”NO” along the way, so developing a thick skin was important. So much of the journey was about timing and luck, aside from the quality of the work, so being open and putting myself out there was key. I’ve talked to many friends in the industry, and everyone has a different path. No two stories are exactly alike.
School visits were very difficult for me at first. As much as I’m a chatterbox in everyday life (ask anyone), when all eyes are on me, stringing together coherent words becomes a challenging task. I had to work hard on overcoming that fear. But I powered through, and I’m now able to speak to hundreds of kids, something that I could have never imagined when I first started. As it turns out, kids really do say the funniest things, like the student who offered to give me her mom’s number to help me with my accent (her mom is a speech therapist) or the one who told me that the frog I drew next to my signature looked nothing like a frog.
Susi Schaefer Illustration – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Lucky me, I get to write and illustrate books for young readers who are incredibly smart and observant. My illustrations are mostly digital collages achieved by creating textures using traditional media that I then layer in Photoshop.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
There are actually two moments. One was seeing my work on a store shelf for the first time. It took a long time and many amazing people to get to that point, so seeing the finished book was pretty neat.
The other moment was when I participated in a gallery show, and the attending kids selected my illustration for the ”People’s Choice Award.” It still means the world to me that it was given to me by children. That purple ribbon is one of my most prized possessions, and it has a special spot in my studio!
- Website: www.susischaefer.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: susischaeferart
- Twitter: susischaeferart