Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Get to Know Our Illustrators – Hannah Sease

 How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?

I’ve been a member of SCBWI for about 3 years and I think the most impactful thing I’ve learned is how important it is to be part of a community of other illustrators. I tend to be a hermit and isolate myself so it really helps to have a group to bring me to the surface. It also doesn’t work well to create art in a vacuum, so outside perspectives are always important.

What medium(s) do you use to illustrate?

I use watercolor for color images, and gel pen for black and white images. I occasionally use colored pencil, micron, and gel pen for darkening colors, outlining, and creating contour and texture.

I still find a lot of challenges in color theory, and turning drawings I’m happy with into paintings I’m happy with, so I tend to prefer the black and white cross-hatching process. It’s more like drawing.


What is your illustration process?


I’m usually inspired by houses I want to live in and characters I want to be friends with. From there I start with a detailed pencil drawing, and then if it’s a painting I choose the tone I would like for the image, warm or cool for example, and do a wash of translucent paint (except for areas that are going to be white). I build up washes from there, adding more color and opacity. I finish off the image with select outlining in gel pen to help the foreground and details pop.



For black and white illustrations I start by outlining the image. I then move onto the midtones, doing one layer of hatching with no overlap, leaving white areas white. I then build up and overlap the hatching depending on how dark the area is.


How long have you been illustrating? How did you first get into illustration?

I started drawing as a kid, creating pictures of our pets and horses I wish I had. During my childhood my family and I moved around a lot for my dad’s work and art became a consistent hobby because I could do it wherever we went. I’ve always had difficulty coming up with concepts of my own which led me to create drawings based off of my favorite stories. It wasn’t till late college that I decided to direct my interests towards children’s book illustration.


Are you self taught or did you study illustration?

I didn’t deliberately focus on illustration till my last year of college. At the University of Wyoming where I got my BA in art, illustration classes weren’t offered until my last year so I took independent studies with my painting teacher who had been a freelance illustrator early in her career. After I graduated from UWYO I attended the MFA illustration program at Cal State University, Fullerton, where I realized just how little I knew about the illustration industry, and how much more there was to it than drawing.


Do you have a dedicated art space? Is it in your home or outside your home?

I am currently living in a yurt and the only space for a desk is in the kitchen by the front door. As long as I can create a cozy and inspiring spot with some semblance of a flat spot for my laptop or watercolor pad the art will follow, though dirty dishes in the sink often distract me.


What would be your dream book to illustrate?

I would love to reimagine classic folk and fairy tales. In the same vein, I would also enjoy  illustrating a book of anthologies where I get to draw all sorts of characters in all sorts of situations, something like Aesop’s Fables.


Are you working on any fun projects now?

At the moment I’m working as an illustrator on two texts, one on carnivorous mammals and one on the Serengeti.  They’re about all sorts of different plants and animals and their relationships with each other. I’ve been learning a ton and it really makes me want to get into nonfiction!


Do you write children’s books as well or have any plans to do so?

I would love to write and illustrate my own children’s books, but would like to work as an illustrator alongside an author first, to learn a little more about it.

Any tips for illustrators that are starting out?

Learn how to stand your ground and let someone know if a project isn’t for you. Starting out, it is extremely tempting to take on any paying job, but your time is also money. Though certain challenges are worth accepting, it’s good to consider whether a challenge is a good use of your time and beneficial towards your portfolio and career. Choose projects that fall in line with what you want to do professionally, and curate your website/portfolio to include pieces that exhibit the same. The more you do this, the more likely you will be asked to do work that is in your wheelhouse, and less likely to be faced with the decision of taking on a job that doesn’t fit.


Have you won any illustrator awards?

In 2019 I won the runner up prize for the portfolio contest at SCBWI SoCal Authors and Illustrators day, and this year was fortunate enough to win first prize!

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.

I grew up living around the world with my family in Indonesia, Colombia, and Libya, where I went to highschool and was evacuated from in the 2011 rebellion. The years spent in these places were the best of my life.


In honor of spooky season, when me and my brothers were little we had a Halloween tradition where we could give some of our candy to the “Halloween Badger” in exchange for a toy. Now we have a dog who was born on Halloween named Badger, completely unintentional. 


I enjoy collecting animal bones and recently found a dead pelican on a bike ride and taught myself how to clean and whiten bones so I could have a pelican skull.

I love to swim, ride bikes, and eat quesadillas.

Where can people find more of your work?


Twitter: HannahSease


To see our Previous Get to Know Our Illustrators, click here.