What a joy it is to announce Tiffany Harvey as the winner of the 2022 Liz Conrad Art Award! This award honors the contribution Liz made to our region and her legacy of excellence by bringing attention to the artists in our region who are also dedicated to their craft and rising stars in their own right.
Tiffany rose to a difficult challenge presented by the competition this year. Artists were tasked with creating 3-4 consecutive illustrations that showed sequence and narrative related to a S.T.E.A.M. (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) concept. Ward Jenkins, judge for the 2022 competition, wrote “Tiffany’s submission showcased excellent use of storytelling, including clear, concise staging and composition. The use of cut paper as medium of choice could’ve been messy and rather difficult to execute, but Tiffany definitely shows some skill here as the characters – colors, design, and posing – were all clearly readable and easily understood.” He complimented Tiffany on her ability to infuse humor into her illustrations.
We wanted to know more about Tiffany, her journey as an illustrator, how she develops her ideas, and how she brings them to life on the page. So, we had a bit of a chat.
Tell us a little bit about yourself (how you got interested in illustration, who your mentors are, your favorite things to draw).
I spent most of my childhood drawing and always wanted to be an artist. In college my (future) husband encouraged me to try illustrating picture books, but we didn’t have all of the great resources available that we have today and I had no idea where to start! I assumed I’d have to write my own story, but I couldn’t figure out what that ONE story should be about. I dropped that plan for about 15 years and worked on other art (like ambigrams), until he casually mentioned writing a Shel Silverstein-style collection, and suddenly I was flooded with book ideas! The concept of writing lots of different, small stories really freed me up from worrying about that one perfect story, and I dove into the world of writing and illustrating picture books. After starting with a bunch of bad rhyming stories (don’t we all?), I switched to prose, found a great critique group, and won the Southern Breeze Writing Contest in 2020.
How did you come up with your idea for the S.T.E.A.M prompt for the Liz Conrad Scholarship submission?
I knew that I wanted to do something with the science part of STEAM, and thought it should also have some humor in there. My original idea was to have two kids doing a project that shoots foam up to the ceiling (google “elephant toothpaste”)… and then realizing that they now have a room full of foam to clean up. But I worried that might seem didactic, and I didn’t want to discourage kids from experimenting! After some more brainstorming I thought of the classic static electricity trick of rubbing a balloon on your head and sticking it to the wall. In my entry, the little girl is young enough to think this magic might work on any object, and she surprises her dad with her own experiment.
What is your creative process and preferred medium for creating your illustrations?
All of my work is created with cut paper and acrylic paint. I do my initial sketches and line art digitally, using Procreate on the iPad. I love having the ability to re-size, tilt, and move things around until it’s just right. Then I print out a few copies of the line art and use it as templates for my cut paper art. As I’m cutting and arranging, I use paint to add shading, small details, and for all of the faces and skin.
What would you consider your dream project?
I love to work with humor, fantasy, and bold colors. While I think it would be fun to work on a book with another author or illustrator, I’d really love to do both jobs. I can’t wait to see what suggestions an editor and art director have to push my stories to the next level.
Is there a project you are working on now that you could tell us about?
I changed my art style this year and pulled out all of the old, mismatched work from my portfolio, so I’ve mostly been focused on filling that up again. I also took my latest dummy, a high-concept book about a classic childhood game, and re-drew the characters throughout. Next I’m eager to get to work on a dummy about a con artist panda bear that is chock full of silly puns.
What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as an illustrator?
Research! There’s a lot more to picture book illustration than just drawing a pretty picture – you have to practice drawing characters consistently (from different angles), create scenes with lots of action and emotional reactions, mix in different perspectives and scale, and hopefully add more to a story than we get from the text alone. Try searching for blog posts about portfolios from agents and SCBWI portfolio contest winners. You’ll find a lot of great advice for things to include in your sample art.
And join us Thursday nights on Twitter at the weekly #KidLitArt chat! I’ve made so many great illustrator friends there, from beginners to published artists.
Thank you, Tiffany! Congratulations on winning the Liz Conrad Art Award.