Welcome! Oregon SCBWI is proud to feature one Illustrator member each month. Below you’ll find information about this month's artist and links to their portfolio. We encourage you to take a few minutes to learn about this Oregon Illustrator and to enjoy their artwork. If you would like to be featured, contact Robin at: email@example.com
Sheryl Murray (she/her) grew up near Chicago in a lively family of eight kids. Since earning her BFA in Illustration, Sheryl has drawn storyboards for ad agencies, produced handmade tile, helped restore lots of old houses, exhibited her ceramic sculptures across the U.S., and traveled to six continents - all on the way to achieving her childhood dream of illustrating picture books for children. Sheryl believes kids of all sizes, races, cultures, and abilities; and families of all kinds should be celebrated in books. She takes great joy in working collaboratively to help bring such books into the world. Sheryl has illustrated a growing list of picture and board books that have garnered recognition including the ALA 2022 Rainbow List, the 2021 International Literacy Association Social Justice Literature Award, and PARENTS Magazine 30 Best Children’s Books of 2020. Her latest book, My Love for You (Little Simon, May 2023), has been named an Amazon Best Children's Books of 2023 So Far Sheryl has been an active member of SCBWI for 10+ years, and was the former Illustration Chair Assistant for the Oregon chapter. She lives in Portland, Oregon with two crazy cats, two clever kids, and a headful of interesting characters.
Sheryl recently shared some tips about building a strong portfolio that she’s learned along the way in a Q&A session with illustrator Polina Gorman for her blog/newsletter. Here’s a recap:
- What are the top three things you keep in mind when selecting images to add to your portfolio?
I always keep in mind that the main purpose of my portfolio is to showcase storytelling. I'm looking for images that clearly show emotion, either internally in a single character or between two characters. A fantastic portfolio will also show a full range of emotions across all the pieces. I also select pieces that tell a visual narrative - having a few sequential illustrations in your portfolio shows both your ability to develop the storyline and maintain character consistency. Lastly, I hope my portfolio feels inclusive. I'm committed to the idea that kids of all races, shapes, and abilities should be able to see themselves and their families in books.
- What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators when it comes to creating a strong portfolio and maintaining a consistent unique voice?
It pays to listen to your inner instincts. Don't compare yourself to what others are doing on social media or develop work just because it's a style that's trending. The things that make your work uniquely yours is the truest expression, and that's something that will be recognized by others. Also don't be afraid to change things up in terms of experimenting with materials, as long as the key elements that identify your style carry over.
- What are the things that you, as an established children's book illustrator, wish you had known when you were first starting to build your portfolio?
A big challenge that I had to work through when first developing my style for children's books was to consider the intent. My early portfolio pieces received lots of approval for their fine art sensibilities and strong sense of design but those same stylistic elements were overshadowing the narrative and stopping the reader from getting to know the characters and draw them into the story. It took multiple professionals telling me the same thing in different ways before that registered for me, resulting in an "aha" moment (as well as a forehead smacking "doh!").
Never stop listening and learning. Go to conferences and workshops. Examine work you favor on social media or in books and ask yourself what it is that you are responding to in it. Join a critique group that will challenge you. And don't give up!
Visit our past Featured Illustrators by clicking the member cards below.