In this year’s SCBWI-L.A. Twitter Banner Contest, illustrators were asked to submit their most creative response to our prompt: In the Wild. 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. 

We’re excited to announce illustrator and author Nancy Whitesides won! Nancy is an author and self-taught illustrator born and raised in the Philippines. Her middle-grade fantasy novel won first runner-up at the 2016 SCBWI-L.A. Writer’s Day. She loves nature and has participated in environmental causes for more than ten years.

Read on to learn more about Nancy, her tips and tools, and her own illustration prompt for anyone looking for some inspiration.

JESSICA CHRYSLER: How did you come up with your winning design for the contest?

NANCY WHITESIDES: The words “In the Wild” evoke vivid imagery. Immediately, I imagine nature, animals, and children. In the wild is a place where I see children being themselves, running, climbing trees, reading, and playing music. In the wild, opportunities exist. In the wild, animals and children are free and safe, and I wanted to show a bit of that, and how fun it can be.

JC: Your works show a muted and sophisticated palette. Are there certain colors that you’re drawn to? Can you talk about working with traditional and digital media and how they affect the styling of your illustrations?

NW: I think because I’m a quiet person, my colors tend to be muted, but I want to keep exploring palettes to evoke different moods. Whether I use watercolor, gouache, digital, or a combination, the challenge is maintaining my style whatever medium I use. I love the dip pen and ink because it’s almost transformative, hearing the pen scratching on paper and dipping it in the bottle of ink. I imagine I’m working alongside my hero, Van Gogh. I like to have pencil marks and texture-y stuff, and I end up leaving them in the finished work.

JC: A lot of your work showcases the wild creeping into cityscapes and animals interacting with people. What inspires you to create these images? Do you use prompts or other stories to help you visualize them?

NW: Some of my work I’ve created to showcase social issues, and also environmental causes to highlight endangered species and the climate crisis. I post them on social media on special days to help boost awareness. Some of my other work maybe wishful thinking. I would love to push a giant snowball up a mountain with my best friend, the badger. I would love to listen to a mice orchestra, and I would love to talk to birds reading books. They’re fun to imagine and illustrate.

JC: Do you share your work in progress online? Has that helped you, and do you have a critique group? (I often find this helpful myself to keep me inspired and my illustration work fresh!) 

NW: I share my work on Instagram, and sometimes on Twitter. Honestly, I’m always scared whenever I post my work. I don’t remove my old posts because they remind me there is always a chance over and over to learn and make mistakes. This is how I’ve developed my voice as an artist. I have to overcome being unsure all the time, and sometimes things come out well, and sometimes they don’t. But that’s okay. I will try again.

I do have a couple of trusted illustrator critique partners. I’ve put myself out there to receive critique from published authors/illustrators. I would like to give them a shout out here! Thank you! It makes a tremendous difference, a thoughtful, and constructive critique from someone who means well. I have also learned as an artist working alone, the genuine critique partner is myself. My gut usually leads me to the right decision. If it doesn’t, I feel bad for a while or a long while, and then regroup.

JC: Can you help inspire our fellow illustrator readers with an illustration prompt? Readers, please share your images with us on Twitter and Instagram using #KTIlustrators! 

NW: Of course! But first, thank you so much for this opportunity. I cannot believe I’ve won.

I would like to say to fellow illustrators and writers who stay up late, and draw until bleary-eyed, don’t quit and don’t give up hope. Keep writing, keep drawing, and the prompt is “Follow your heart.”

Thanks for the interview, Nancy! You can connect with Nancy via her website:, Instagram, and Twitter.

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!

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Images provided by Nancy Whitesides.