Get to Know Our Illustrators: Lisa Johnston Hancock

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Paiting Mural.jpg

Painting Mural

Planting Positivity.jpg

Planting Positivity

Sea Otters.jpg

Sea Otters

The Rescue.jpg

The Rescue

Whale Breach.jpg

Whale Breach

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Self Ended Book Layout Referenced Below

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What is your illustration process?

I’m going to include some photos from a picture book that I wrote and illustrated. It’s a work in progress. I recently received feedback on this dummy and it’s going to change, but this gives you an idea of how I look at the book as a whole. Once I have my story, I start with a character sheet to get a feel for what my character(s) look like. Then I create a 32 page picture book storyboard layout with each spread and sketch thumbnails of the scene. The image from Tara Lazar’s blog is a great reference, and a good example of how I create my layout. I start small, typically “old school” on a piece of vellum with a ruler and pencil. Once I’m happy with the flow, I photograph the storyboard and put it into Procreate. I like working in Procreate because I can move things around digitally, as needed. I used to cut out parts of the composition on vellum with scissors, and move it around, taping as I go. This new process is so much easier and a faster workflow. I redraw each spread in black and white. I’ll usually color 2-3 images and the cover, for submissions. When I finish with the images, I create a file in InDesign (a dummy) for submitting to publishing companies.

Jules Spread.jpg

Are you working on any fun projects now?

I’m working on two projects with my agent. The images with the jellyfish character is one, another about birds which is still in the writing/sketching phase. We also have one out on submission right now.

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 since 2018. The most impactful thing that I’ve learned from SCBWI is how to develop a strong portfolio and get the attention of agents & art directors.

What medium(s) do you use to illustrate? 

I use my iPad, Procreate and Photoshop to illustrate. I’ve also been experimenting with creating textures traditionally and uploading into Procreate. I do the majority of my drawing in Procreate, then basic adjustments and editing in Photoshop. I really like Kyle Webster’s Watercolor brush pack for photoshop so I sometimes add a few layers with his brushes, depending on the project. I don’t have a Cintiq so I use Astropad with my iPad when I want to do that.

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

I have an Art Education and Fine Art background, with an M.F.A. in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I took a job as a high school art teacher right after graduate school and moved up to higher ed 3 years later. I started learning more about book illustration around the time that I had my daughter. I read picture books to her every night and quickly realized that the art was amazing. I knew that I wanted to figure out how to do that. My friend asked me to illustrate a book that she wrote about birds, and that got me hooked. We decided to bring it to the SCBWI conference in L.A. and learned that publishing companies do not typically like when you pair yourself up and present a finished book dummy (rookie mistake). This was in 2018. Since then I’ve learned so much about the industry through SCBWI and online courses.

Are you self taught or did you study illustration? 

Yes and no. I studied Photography, Fine Art and have an M.F.A. in Painting so I’m skilled in various traditional and digital mediums. I taught myself Illustration (specifically) over the past 5 years through the Highlight’s Foundation, Youtube, Skillshare, Domestika, MATs classes and conferences!

Do you have a dedicated art space? 

We have a small Spanish beach cottage and I have a space in the corner of our living room. Since moving to California three years ago, I’ve learned that I don’t need a huge space to create.

What would be your dream book to illustrate?

My dream book to illustrate would be anything nature based. I love kids discovering and interacting with various flora and fauna. I’m also interested in working on nonfiction nature based projects.

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

Yes I do! As mentioned, I’m drawn to nature based books. I tend to write books that have a little bit of magic realism, SEL and STEM themes.

Any tips for illustrators that are starting out?

If you are a member of SCBWI, that’s a great start! It’s always a good idea to keep learning so take any classes that you are able to. Find a good critique group and keep networking.

Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?

I do have an agent! I met her through Twitter. It turned out that we had a mutual friend and that friend introduced us. She liked my work and asked if I would like representation.

If you’ve won any illustrating awards or have any books published, please list them here?

I was the illustrator for Yellow Speckled Blackbird by Dylan Pritchett and Sophie’s New Song by Michelle Whitfield.

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.

I can give myself goosebumps on command.

I’ve met Betty White (RIP)

My cultural heritage includes Lebanese, Italian, French, Mexican and Scottish!

I have a photographic memory for faces (but don’t ask me names).

I play guitar and sing.

Where can people find you?

My website:

Twitter: LisaJHancockArt

Instagram: LisaJohnstonHancock