Illustrators Spotlight

Each quarter, SCBWI-Indiana is excited to feature an illustrator or author/illustrator from our region. Below you’ll find information about this quarter's featured illustrator. We encourage you to take a few minutes to learn about this Indiana artist and their art projects.

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Illustrator Spotlight

Meet James Newton, an illustrator based in Indiana. James is specialized in story consultation, concept art, illustration, animation, and graphic design.

James Newton

How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist/illustrator?

I can attribute my talents to the doodles in the margins of every church bulletin I could get my hands on! I didn't consider children's literature until I did some freelance work a few years back for a non-profit startup that wanted to promote diversity in literature. From that job, I learned that my style compliments the whimsy a lot of kid lit contains.


What training do you have? For instance, are you self-trained, did you attend art school, do you have an art-related degree?

I studied animation at Huntington University and received my bachelor's in animation. I spent a lot of time learning how to make things move and wound up discovering I work better in individual moments. Some elements from my degree still come in handy, however: composition, character design, color theory, and story development.

What is your style? Do you have a preferred medium for your art?

I work in a hybrid of digital and hand-drawn illustrations. I've found a lot of the energy from my sketches carries over into the final product when I scan pencil drawings from my sketchbook.

Can you share an illustration and describe your process with it?

This illustration is a concept for a picture book I've written called Barto the Burro - an underdog story about privilege. All of the black lines you see here are scanned straight from my sketchbook. I work in Photoshop, so I adjusted the black/white curves on the scan layer and then colored in the characters with a Multiply layer style to avoid painting over my energetic, scratchy linework. The colors and background are all digital, so I have to work around my scans to paint the landscape behind the characters. This is the trickier side of this workflow I'm still ironing out.

Who would you say influenced you in the past and influences you now?

Bill Watterson is hands-down my biggest inspiration. His art is brilliant, and his philosophies even more so. Calvin and Hobbes was entertaining to me as a 7-year-old and is even more entertaining (and thought-provoking) to me now. Watterson never compromises on the universality of his creative work, and as a result, I never felt like I was being talked down to as a kid nor alienated as an adult while reading Watterson. He's brilliant.

What does your creative or workspace look like?

Staring at a computer all day can drain my soul, so I keep lots of plants in my office to remind me that there is, in fact, a natural world out there. I have posters from some of my favorite movies and illustrators up for inspiration, as well as some clay on my standing desk that I sculpt with from time to time to let my hands and brain focus on something more tactile. And most importantly, there's a picture of myself and my lovely wife sitting on my plant shelf.

Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to discuss, or other news to share?

I have several books in the oven that I have written and illustrated, for which I am seeking representation. With these stories, I hope to fulfill a need in a child without compromising with market trends, so if that's the kind of work you're interested in, keep an eye out this next year or so (or if you're an agent, send me a note!).

How/where can people reach out to you?

You can visit my website at  and my Instagram page @james.fignewton. I'd love to chat and learn more about other creatives in my region, so let's connect!

Past Illustrator Spotlights

James Newton
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Chris Sickels
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Amanda M Anderson
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Jonathan Bouw
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Shelley Hanmo
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Sharon Vargo
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Andy Jewett
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