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In SCBWI-L.A.’s first Twitter Banner Contest (a bi-annual event), illustrators were asked to submit their most creative response to our prompt: GROW. The winning contestant’s artwork is featured on the Los Angeles Region SCBWI Twitter Profile until the next contest with a feature article published here on Kite Tales. Illustrator Gail Buschman won! Read on to learn more about Gail, her tips and tools, her own illustration prompt for anyone looking for some inspiration, and to see her winning image!

Gail is a children’s book illustrator, graphic designer, and gamer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Art from California State University, Northridge with emphasis in both graphic design and illustration and has continued her professional development at the Animation Guild in Burbank, CA. She has illustrated her  for Reading A-Z. She currently works as a senior graphic designer for SAGE Publishing.

SARAH PARKER-LEE: How did you come up with your winning design for the contest?

GAIL BUSCHMAN: I challenged myself to draw the image for this contest while I was travelling for both a work conference and on vacation. The turtle watering flowers appeared while I was on a train from NYC to Connecticut to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a year. We’ve recently been studying native California gardens, since we would like to begin updating our own yard to one that is a bit more wild and biodiverse. The turtle’s garden feels a bit like the gardens we fell in love with: a bit wild, with little dips and mounds and winding paths — and very colorful!

The rabbit appeared accidentally when I initially misread the contest instructions and thought I also needed to add a kite into my image, instead of just the SCBWI kite logo. But when I added the rabbit, I really enjoyed the interplay of the two characters — separate but together — and the allusion to the Tortoise and the Hare. I named this piece Slow Growth, Fast Flight after I started coming up with a story about them that made me laugh: a turtle who complains about how slow it is to grow something and a rabbit friend who wants to do anything more exciting than gardening. I hope to explore this story thread more, but for now it’s…germinating.

SPL: You create your art using brush pens, ink, watercolor, and colored pencils. What did you use to create this image? Any tips on trying these mediums for those who haven’t used them before or are looking to improve their skills?

GB: This image was created in bits and pieces in my sketchbook and composited digitally — a digital collage, if you will. I used for the line work. To add in the color, I used multiple media: watercolor, pastel pencils, and a white marker. I have recently been using Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils both on their own and with a Pitt Artist Pen marker in white. When applied over the pastels, the marker blends and smears them, softening the vibrant colors. Then more color and details can be added on top. Once everything was scanned, I tweaked the layers and adjusted the colors in PhotoShop until I was happy with the overall composition of the piece. I probably ended up with over 30 layers in the final file.

I recommend that artists get a decent but inexpensive sketchbook. Find something with a nice texture that responds well to your favorite medium, but nothing so expensive that you would balk at using it for taking notes and lists as well as creating art. The one I use is a black Piccadilly Inc sketchbook I found at Target for about $10!! It lays flat, has a lovely surface and is 240 wonderful acid-free pages. I do keep a second, fancier sketchbook for watercolor studies, but the Piccadilly sketchbook is my workhorse. It goes everywhere with me.

Once you have your sketchbook, the second key step is: FILL IT. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be neat and orderly. Go ahead, make a mess. Draw a bad drawing. Try out tools you thought you’d never use. Experiment with media outside your comfort zone. Play. Let it be imperfectly perfect.

SPL: Your website lists some excellent resources for other illustrators. Can you share a few of your favorites with us and let us know how they’ve helped you? (Readers, feel free to add to the list in the comments!)

GB: With a 60-120-minute daily commute, I am a podcast junkie — and 90% of them have to do with art, with books, or both. I have loved The Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner for many years now and am excited whenever an episode comes up on my playlist. Another podcast I am working my way through is Art for Your Ear by The Jealous Curator. What I love about both of these podcasts is listening to the stories behind these artists’ and writers’ creations: the struggles, the missteps, and challenges they faced along the way to becoming “successful” and creating something beautiful. I may not always fall head-over-heels for each and every art piece or book, but I always love their journey. I keep this in mind when I’m stuck on a story beat or an illustration is not turning out the way I want. And when all else fails and I need to clear my head, I’ll listen to the amusing interplay of Fuse 8 n’ Kate as they determine whether or not a picture book is a classic.

For pure visual eye-candy and inspiration, I always go to Julie Danielson’s blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. It just makes me smile, even when I’m having a bad day.

SPL: Your characters “evolve from exploring the world while traveling and experimenting with drawing wacky shapes.” With that in mind, can you give our readers their own illustration prompt? Readers, please share your images with us on Twitter and Instagram using #KTIllustrators!

GB: After much deliberation, and given my love of travel, I think there’s only one prompt I can give: JOURNEY.

I hope everyone’s artistic or written journey is a good one. Thank you for this opportunity!

And thanks for the interview, Gail! To learn more about Gail, follow her on Instagram and Twitter and check out her website: nightengailart.com.

If you want to learn more about the next Banner Contest, log into your SCBWI account to learn more here. Dates and prompt will be updated before the contest reopens. Stay tuned to SCBWI-L.A. Twitter and Facebook for its announcement!


For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.


Sarah Parker-Lee is a Los Angeles Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators board member & the Managing Editor of Kite Tales, a book reviewer for Dwarf+Giant, a content creator for non-profits fighting injustice all over the interwebs, & is available to edit your writerly endeavors. She writes YA alt. history, sci-fi, & is the creator of Dogs & Zombies: Dog’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Twitterings: @SarahSoNovel, @DogsAndZombies



Images provided by Gail Buschman.