Featured Illustrator - Loretta Schauer

This months' Featured Illustrator is Loretta Schauer. Many will know that Loretta is a long standing volunteer for SCBWI and a familiar face at many a Conference and workshop. She's also a talented picture book illustrator. See more of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

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This was a quick sketch I developed for the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year when I was invited to submit a portfolio to be considered to illustrate the BP National Portrait Award Family Trail. I was one of the final four shortlisted, but lovely Yasmeen Ismael got the gig this year.


I was always drawing and making things as a child and although there were no professional artists in the family, my childhood was a pretty creative one. My lorry driver dad used to make incredible cakes for our birthdays. (I remember scale models of the cars from Knight Rider and The Dukes of Hazzard), and I distinctly remember him painting a very serious portrait of a cowboy using little pots of poster paint that he’d ‘acquired’. That carrier bag full of tiny plastic pots of gloopy paint featured in many projects throughout my childhood.
Dad would make scenery for a local Country and Western club in the back garden too, and I was often called upon for sign writing duties and to help Dad paint things. While neighbouring gardens featured random junk, cars, and the occasional patio, we had a full size Saloon, a General Store, a Jailhouse and a Bank - along with a bunch of cowboys rehearsing their lines and drinking tea! 
I think this gave me a “if you want something – make it yourself” attitude and I often made my own versions of popular toys and created little sets of characters to make stories for. My mum made sure I could read and write before I went to school, which gave me a great head start and a sincere love of reading. Our local library was a very important place, although as soon as I had my own library card I pretty much skipped children’s books and went straight on to reading Stephen King and Dean R Koontz under the bedclothes with a torch! 
Dad gave me these books as a child because I was always drawing.

It was more recently, as a grown-up, that I started to consider drawing as a career. I attended a taster class at City Lit, and the tutor suggested I consider putting together an illustration portfolio. I was far too intimidated by the thought of competing with proper art students at the time so I dismissed the idea - but eventually my interest was piqued and I began exploring the world of children’s books.

I joined SCBWI in 2009 and began attending all the brilliant workshops, masterclasses and critique groups on offer, taking in lots of good advice and feedback on my work. I also attended several of Claire Alexander’s picture book evening classes in North London. In 2011, a group of us from Claire’s evening class put together an exhibition of our work and invited lots of publishers and agents to the opening. I met my agent and signed with Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency as a result.
My section of a group exhibition at the Adam Street Members Club near The Strand.

At around the same time, I entered the Waterstones Picture This competition. I didn’t think I stood much of a chance and I didn’t have a particularly fairytale-ish style of illustration, but I was surprised to get through to the shortlist – and absolutely stunned when they announced I had won. My first picture book commission was to illustrate Michael Morpurgo’s Beauty and the Beast for HarperCollins.
Belle and Beastie - characters from my first round entry to the Waterstones Picture This competition in 2011.

Beauty and the Beast from the final book published by HarperCollins in 2012.

It was during this commission that I developed my current way of working. I draw and paint all the elements of the spread by hand and then put them together in Photoshop so that I can introduce additional textures or patterns that I’ve created or found. I’m particularly fond of making granny wallpaper and textiles, and I’m learning new techniques all the time. 
From Little Red Riding Hood, Little Tiger Press 2013

My favourite part of illustrating a picture book is developing the characters, and I like to sketch my characters in lots of different poses before I get started on the books. 
Percival Proudhorn

Granny from Little Red Riding Hood

Goldilocks from The Three Bears Detective Agency

Since the publication of Beauty and the Beast in 2012 I’ve illustrated two funny fairytales for Little Tiger Press, a Margaret Wise Brown classic for Parragon and most recently A Monster’s Moved In by Timothy Knapman, which was published by Little Tiger earlier this year.  
Barnaby and Burple from A Monster’s Moved in 

I’ve focused on making my picture book characters bright, fun and appealing, but I’ve recently felt that I want to return to a slightly grungier style of working, so I’ve been developing this style for the illustrations in my children’s graphic novel.
A snippet from my graphic novel – a film noir styled tale pitting the Three Bears Detective Agency against the notorious Goldilocks Gang.

Up until last year I’d been fitting in my illustration work around a pretty demanding full time job, scribbling away during the evenings and weekends, but last summer I took the plunge and am now concentrating on illustration and writing full time.

I’m loving having the time to get fully immersed in the world of children’s publishing and am starting to do my first school visits. School visits are a brilliant opportunity to make props and to put together all sorts of craft activities to make with kids, so I’m in my element! Alongside the graphic novel, I’ve also begun writing some of my own picture book ideas and a fiction series for girls.

Going freelance was a scary step to take financially, (I still wake up from time to time in complete panic) so I’m also trying to diversify what I do a little bit and promote myself to a wider audience. I’ve started posting character sketches on sites like Art Rookie and Society6 where they can appear on merchandise such as cushions, mugs and baby clothes. I’ve also recently taken up tweeting @Loretta_Schauer where I share lots more snippets of the graphic novel, and I blog at lorettaschauer.tumblr.com where I often post up new work. If you’re feeling generous, go follow me!
Some little movie buddy critters I’ve been working on to appear on cuddly cushions.


See more of Loretta's work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery!

In addition to her personal website, she has profiles on Art Rookie and Society 6.
Email Loretta here.
Her agent is Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson


  1. Really interesting to about your early ' make it yourself' inspiration and how important the library was! Love reading about different routes into working as an illustrator - and seeing your new grungier work too - thanks!

  2. Nice getting to know you better, Loretta. I adore your work and the DIY attitude. I'd like to see some of this Country and Western scenery one day!

    1. Thanks Rachelle :) Sadly all the scenery is long gone...but you never know when scenery making skills might come it useful!!

    2. Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky6 October 2015 at 11:03

      Oh I don't know Loretta, look at those fantastic props you made for your school visits, that's utilising those skills right there!
      Love how your work's developing, adore the pug!
      Good luck with it all and Well done!

  3. Loretta, I love your banner!
    and Goldilocks! (especially Goldilocks!
    and the noir three bears!
    and the critters!
    hope you don't mind all the enthusiastic !!!!

  4. Thank you Bridget, Rachelle and Jan! It's good to hear my newer work is going down well :) Still experimenting, as ever!

  5. These are great character studies Loretta. Especially the four movie buddies.

  6. This is a great article Loretta, it's really interesting to see how your work is developing - can't wait to see how the graphic novel turns out!


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