Ash Szymanik

Writing

Hi, I’m Ash! I’m a queer Los Angeles based artist who makes all sorts of neat stuff. I have a BFA in Traditional Animation from Pratt Institute, and work as a designer, illustrator, and comics artist/writer.

My art is defined by animal characters, moody colors, and a bit of dark humor. I’m drawn to slice-of-life stories with LGBTQ+ themes and am committed to making art about both the struggles and joys of LGBTQ+ youth.

What is your favorite food?

Anything that is a pasta or a dumpling. Just as long as it doesn’t have mushrooms in it.

What do you love to do for fun?

I love collecting manga/comics, watching movies, discovering little-known indie video games, and cooking.

Mediums:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ASH

Art Process:

I’m a digital artist who does most of their work in Procreate! However, I have a little journal/sketchbook where I scribble down my ideas and doodles of concepts. If I’m experiencing art block, I like to skim through it and mine for ideas!

When I illustrate, I tend to make a very rough sketch to map out the drawing, and once the sketch is legible enough for me, I start inking. I try not to be too perfectionist when doing the lineart, especially since I love a bit of a wobbly line and texture. Then I start coloring. I love picking colors and settling on a palette. After editing, I’m all done!


Andi Watson

Writing

I was born and raised in Kippax, a small town in Yorkshire, England. I spent half my life playing outdoors with my brother and friends and the other half reading, drawing and watching TV. Despite being in awe of the power of stories I was intent on being a car mechanic. Eventually I realised I had no interest in cars and even less talent for fixing things and went to art school in Liverpool. I rediscovered comics, made one of my own, graduated and continue to make more.

I’m still in awe of the power of stories and the satisfaction and challenge of telling my own through words and pictures. I live in Worcester with my wife and daughter.

What is your favorite food?

I like Brussel sprouts and broccoli but shiver in horror at courgettes. Brrrr….courgettes.

Specialties:

Published books:

  • Kerry and the Knight of the Forest (graphic novel)  Random House Graphic, 2020

And many others… click here for a complete bibliography.

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ANDI

Location:

Mediums:

Art Process:

Everything starts with a pencil and paper, whether it’s noting down story ideas or thumbnailing images. I think with a pencil and problem solve on paper. No Moleskine notebooks for me, I use the back of old print outs and bills. Whatever’s to hand and I’m not precious about.

Once I have an idea I’m happy with I’ll move to pencil on paper. When I’m satisfied with the sketch I’ll use pen, brush, ink to complete the art. I try to balance a liveliness of line with control and clarity. Then I’ll scan it in and use Photoshop to tweak and colour.

Available for School Visits:

When I do school visits, I collaborate with the children to create an improvised comic story from their suggestions.

Visit Andi at:

Awards and honors:

Eisner, Best Graphic Album Reprint nomination 2000: Geisha

Eisner, Best Limited Series nomination 2001: Breakfast After Noon

Harvey, Best New Series nomination 2004: Love Fights

Eisner, Best Publication for Kids nomination 2009: Princess At Midnight

British Comics Awards, Young People’s Comic Awards nomination 2012. Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling


Duachaka Her

Writing

Duachaka Her is a Hmong-American cartoonist and illustrator from Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a BFA in Entertainment Design and concentration in Comics and Sequential Art. She creates graphic novels, illustrates picture books, and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators organization.

Hmong-American children's book and graphic novel creator Duachaka Her at her home in Wisconsin

What is your favorite food?

My mom’s slow-cooked pork and mustard greens. It’s simple, savory, and just melts in your mouth with each bite! Definitely one of my favorite comfort foods!

What do you love to do for fun?

Read my stack of unfinished books, watch movies, and spend time with family.

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT DUACHAKA

Art Process:

My process usually starts out with me doing research, reading, or getting inspiration. From there, I do rough sketches in a sketchbook and test out various ideas and compositions. The chosen sketch gets penciled and inked traditionally on paper. I start out with a rough sketch of the entire drawing on paper and then start refining the pencils. After that, I go over the drawing with India ink and brush. Once the ink is completely dried, I erase all the pencil work and scan the piece. I’ll retouch and edit the scanned artwork in Adobe Photoshop and then do my colors digitally.

Awards and honors:

2019 SCBWI Marvelous Midwest Conference Art Show – Honorable Mention

2018 International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival Poster Contest – Grand Prize Winner

Location:

Visit Duachaka at:

Available for School Visits:

Yes. My visits usually consist of me doing a reading of my book and/or a presentation about my life as an artist and my art-making process followed by Q&A.


David Pierce

Writing

Dave Pierce is an Author/Illustrator from the Northwest.

He re-discovered his passion for telling stories when he taught reading alongside his wife in the same Elementary classroom. Shortly after, he gained his certification to teach Art (K-12) and dove into the kidlit world via SCBWI. He is motivated by the “Ah-Hah!” moments that come when children read and stories that invite us to explore our place in the world.

He graduated from The Evergreen State College with an emphasis in Illustration, and studied Character Design and Digital Painting through The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling.

What do you love to do for fun?

Snowboard, Soccer, Hike, Music, Board and Video Games, and lots more. I probably have too many interests, but each one is so fun.

Favorite travel spots:

I’ve done a lot of travelling around Europe, but I have to say that Austria is my favorite. Go to Salzburg in the late spring and head into the mountains. Tell me you won’t have the Sound of Music running through your head!

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT DAVID

Art Process:

I try and leverage both digital and traditional media in my workflow.

One of the best things about working digitally is you can always undo things and make sweeping adjustments to composition by transforming and moving. This makes it a powerful tool early on when the ideas are just sketches. (Just don’t forget to click Save!)

As good as digital tools are, there’s something so *tangible* about creating traditionally. The feels and smells are wonderful, and I’ll get happy accidents that can inspire. Plus, you can work outside on a sunny day! (A rare treat in Washington State.)

I’ll usually make thumbnail ideas by pencil and scan them into the computer. Once in digital form, I’ll move its chunks around until I’m excited about it. From here I have a choice to continue digitally or print out the art for transfer via a light table. This works great for moving forward with Ink and Watercolor.

Sometimes I’ll stay traditional if it’s graphite or dry media, or go all-digital if it’s going to be something that demands more control. The important thing is knowing your tools and which approach will be most useful.

Location:

Visit David at:

Available for School Visits:

I enjoy doing visits in the classroom setting. This allows for hands-on learning with the students and making something collaborative together. My goal is to inspire the next generation of creatives, and to encourage anyone to try drawing and storytelling, whether they consider themselves an artist or not.


Black Sands Entertainment

Writing

Black Sands Entertainment is a production studio established in 2016 to develop comics and animated series aimed at African-American families. Their successful series The Seven Kingdoms, Sons of Nibiru, Cosmic Girls, and Mori’s Family Adventures have sold over 25,000 copies direct to consumers and generated $500K in revenue in less than 3 years.

Published books:

Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #1, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #2, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #3, Black Sands Entertainment
Sons of Nibiru, Black Sands Entertainment
Mori’s Family Advantures – South Africa, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands Ultimate Edition, Black Sands Entertainment
Mori’s Family Adventures – Rio, Black Sands Entertainment
Brazilian Culture Exchange, Black Sands Entertainment
World Traveling Coloring Book, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #4, Black Sands Entertainment
Cosmic Girls, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #5, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the First Pharaoh, Black Sands Entertainment


Damon Lehrer

Writing

Born in Boston in 1967, Damon Lehrer attended Amherst College and apprenticed to sculptor Philip Grausman in Connecticut. He traveled in Eastern Europe and lived in London during the 90s, then taught art at schools including the Rhode Island School of Design, Boston University, and Lesley University. In 2010 he started the Boston Figurative Art Center. His first children’s wordless picture book, Rocket Boy, was published by David R. Godine in 2017. He lives with his wife and son in Lexington, MA.

What was your favorite book as a child?

It depends which age… In the Night Kitchen and The Phantom Tollbooth, certainly. And Susan Cooper’s books!

What do you love to do for fun?

Play soccer with my 12-year-old son!

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT DAMON

Art Process:

For a book project, I sit at my drawing table and visualize what I need to express. If things go well, I collect a few ideas that I jot down and use as the basis for pencil sketches. I often photograph these basic sketches and import them to Photoshop, where I can play with their tonal parameters and get new ideas. I might play with color at this stage, too. When I feel good about a small drawing, I make a larger drawing on Canson 14×17 drawing paper. I’ll import these into Photoshop and play with them in the same way, and if possible do finishing work and small adjustments.

I find the alternation between drawing with paper and pencil and working digitally really enjoyable. It helps me separate from the drawing and see it in a new way. It also makes me feel very free to take risks with color, image order, and pencil drawing.

Published books:

Rocket Boy, David Godine, 2017

Location:

Visit Damon at:

New website coming soon.

Awards and honors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in Painting, 2000

Available for School Visits:

I do free-form author visits where I place enlarged posters of pages from my book  at the front of the room. I ask the kids about themselves to loosen them up (what they do, what they like, what they think of the illustrations, etc.) until they start asking me questions. We have fun and I enjoy it.


Kaia Tseng

Writing

Born in Syracuse, New York and raised in Cupertino, California, Kaia Tseng is a Taiwanese-American illustrator, designer, and entrepreneur. Kaia has been drawing ever since she learned how to pick up a crayon, and has always loved bringing ideas to life in the form of art. By age 15, she began selling her artwork and handicrafts at local conventions. She made her lifelong hobby into her profession at age 24, with the launch of her brand, Kaiami, with the goal of designing products that make people smile and brighten up their day.

Her artwork uses dreamy colors and brings a touch of the fantastical to ordinary moments. In addition to designing for her own brand, Kaia has also produced art for books, games, fashion brands, and galleries.

What is your favorite food?

Carrots have been my favorite food since I was a kid! I have eaten them to the point where my skin turned orange. I also generally like Asian noodle soups (Taiwanese beef noodle and tonkotsu ramen are among my favorites).

What do you love to do for fun?

I love to hold tea parties! I love to get dressed up and drink delicious tea and eat small desserts, but casual tea parties where I can get together and catch up with friends are great too. Aside from that, I’m also a big fan of birdwatching and reading comics.

Mediums:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT KAIA

Art Process:

I thumbnail my ideas in a sketchbook before starting, and usually the sketch will be done with pencil and paper before moving to the lining phase. I sometimes line using a lightbox on top of my sketches, or scan and line digitally. Nowadays, I do most coloring digitally, but I started out using traditional mediums so I am comfortable with markers and colored pencils as well.

Location:

Visit Kaia at:


Shauna J. Grant

Writing

Shauna J. Grant is a cartoonist and illustrator with the magical power to create cuteness. Born and raised in NYC during the boom of Japanese anime and manga, her artwork is heavily influenced by shoujo and magical girls, with a mix of Western cartoon flare. Adding diversity into the comic world is her biggest goal and she’s on a mission to create stories starring Black girls as the adorable heroines of their own tales.

She’s most proud of being part of Black Comix Returns, curated by John Jennings and Damian Duffy, and Encyclopedia of Black Comics by Sheena Howard. She’s currently signed onto two graphic novels to be published by First Second.

What do you love to do for fun?

For fun I love reading romance books! It feels like the dorkiest thing ever but I love seeing two characters butting heads as they get used to each other’s differences, and discovering a mutual love and respect for each other.

Who or what inspires you the most, and why?

It’s easy for me to say (and, well, I often do say) that Sailor Moon is my biggest inspiration! Watching it as a child made me want to create characters and stories of my own and even now, having reached my thirties, I still get swoony when I see anything Sailor Moon-related. There wasn’t a lot of media geared towards girls that felt so empowering while also recognizing the strength in femininity and relationships. Sailor Moon was clumsy, struggled with school, and preferred to just eat, sleep, and play games all day… but when duty called, she was always there to save the day.

Even more importantly than Sailor Moon, I must say my mother is a true inspiration. She has always been my biggest cheerleader from day one. She was a single mother who raised me on the tough streets of the Bronx and made sure I knew what love was and always put me in places that would foster my growth. Mother-daughter relationships can be very intricate, even when full of love, and it’s something that I’m interested in writing about in my stories as well.

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT SHAUNA

Art Process:

I start my art process with lots and lots of doodles to get my ideas down. They tend to be very loose as I’m just trying to get down the feel of the piece. What emotion am I focused on? What composition best suits it?

From here, I’ll tighten up my doodles and start my penciling process. Either I’ll draw right on top of the doodle, cleaning up areas as I go, or I’ll put a new layer on top and redraw everything neater with the doodle being used as reference. Once I’m satisfied, I’ll ink the image on a new layer and from there I give the illustration a quick coloring to see what colors will work before I decide on a palette.

I tend to do best with pastel colors and go for a whimsical, dreamy, and eye-catching color scheme. I try to keep things as simple as possible with my coloring, with a little bit of airbrushed shading, some crisp shaded areas, and lots of highlights to make the colors pop. Once finished, I’ll color the lineart so the whole piece looks delicious like candy!

Mediums:

Specialties:

Location:

Visit Shauna J. Grant at:

Available for School Visits:

I’ve done school visits in the past where I show off my illustrations (on projectors) and read through my comics with the kids. I use these moments to encourage a love for creating art, being yourself, and feeling no shame for liking something that’s not stereotypically masculine. With older kids I go more in depth over the art process and pursuing art as a career.

Forthcoming books:

Untitled Memoir, First Second (TBA)

Published books:

Natural, Alien, Virginity, Backstage – Dirty Diamonds issues #6- #9, 2015-2018
My Cute Girl! – Can I Pet Your Werewolf, Kel McDonald, 2017
Our Story – Secret Loves of Geeks, Dark Horse, 2018

Awards and honors:

Top 20 Up and Coming Black Artists, Comics Alliance, 2016
Best artist, the Glyph Awards, 2018


Matt Loux

Writing

Matthew Loux is the author and artist of the graphic novels The Time Museum Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (published by First Second Books), Sidescrollers and the five volume series Salt Water Taffy (originally published by Oni Press).

Matthew also illustrated the graphic novel F-Stop and the board comic Good Night Gabbaland based on the Nick Jr. television show Yo Gabba Gabba and has contributed comics and cover art for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Matthew lives in New York and is currently working on his first watercolor-painted graphic novel aimed at early middle grade readers, soon to be announced.

Favorite food:

Pepperoni pizza

Favorite travel spots:

Just about any place in Japan but particularly the Shinsekai neighborhood of Osaka and the Shimokitazawa and Nakameguro neighborhoods of Tokyo.

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT MATT

Art Process:

Matthew’s art process involves a foundation of hand pencils, which are then finished with line art using a Winsor & Newton brush and ink.

Colors are either done using Photoshop, resulting in a slightly more polished and modern illustration look, or hand-painted with watercolor for a more classic, vintage feel.

Published books:

The Time Museum Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (First Second Books)
Sidescrollers (Oni Press)
Salt Water Taffy Vol. 1-5 (Oni Press)
F-Stop (Oni Press)
Good Night Gabbaland (Oni Press)

Awards and honors:

Starred Kirkus review (The Time Museum)
Texas Library Association’s Maverick list, 2018 (The Time Museum)
Panda Book Award winner, 2018 (The Time Museum)
RI Children’s Book Award nomination (The Time Museum)
American Library Association’s YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2008 (Sidescrollers)
Texas Library Association’s Maverick list, 2009 (Salt Water Taffy)

Location:

Visit Matt Loux at:

Available for School Visits:

Matthew’s main school presentation (aimed at middle grade readers) begins with a personal look at the influences throughout his younger life that led him to a career in comics. He discusses the steps it takes to actually create a graphic novel from idea to finished book. The presentation includes live drawing and a slideshow.

Matthew’s second presentation (accessible for all ages) begins with a shorter version of what brought him to making comics, then quickly focuses on live drawing and an interactive “create a character” game. In the end, the drawings will be left for the school to display or give to student participants.


Dave McDonald

Writing

Dave McDonald has worked as a television producer/director, a theme park entertainment show writer (Scooby Doo) and a puppet/costume (Rugrats, Angry Beavers, Richard Scarry) and mascot (NFL Panthers, NBA Hornets) designer and fabricator. He was a puppeteer for a kids TV series and for a touring school production.  He’s the author/illustrator of two humorous early reader graphic novels featuring his original character, Hamster Sam.

When he’s not freelance writing or illustrating, McDonald works as a visiting teaching artist in elementary schools throughout North and South Carolina. His teaching can be found online through the educational platform EPIC! as well as Professor Garfield and on Youtube.

Favorite food:

Steak, medium; with a local craft IPA.

Who were some of your influences growing up?

Silly, slapstick humor is at the heart of what I enjoy most, and so I consumed ample doses of comedy from television cartoons created by Jay Ward (Rocky & Bullwinkle, Super Chicken), Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny), Jim Henson’s Muppet Show and from record albums featuring musical satire and parody by Stan Freberg and Spike Jones.

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT DAVE

Art Process:

The bulk of my work is black and white “comic strip” style illustration and spot art.  I work ‘old school’ using pencil, paper and ink pens. For contracted illustration work, I begin with pencil roughs; typically will send a pic or jpg to the client, and we’ll go back and forth until a “final rough” is approved.  I then ink the work and send along for approval. If color is desired, I’ll use Photoshop for a flat fill (I am not a colorist). Occasionally for puppet designs that include color costuming details, I’ll use Prismacolor markers to create a textured look.

Published books:

The Secret Adventures of Hamster SAM: Attack of the Evil Boll Weevils! (DM Creative) 2008
Hamster S.A.M.  Odd-ventures in Space! (DM Creative) 2013

Awards and honors:

Cartoonist in Residence at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA, 2011
Graphic novels panelist at the NYC School Librarians Conference, 2013
Featured guest author/illustrator and presenter at the South Carolina Book Festival, 2014

Location:

Visit Dave at:

Available for School Visits:

For over 10 years, “Mr. Dave” has presented education-based arts programming to schools, libraries and museums through his “Kids Make Comics!” assemblies, artist in residencies and workshops.  His programs have been accredited by several state and local arts agencies in North and South Carolina, where he works with hundreds of kids each year through grant-funded visits. His programs combine the best of a traditional author visit with dynamic interactive drawing and writing exercises.  School assemblies are 45 minutes long; students draw along step by step with Mr. Dave to create exciting and original characters, and discover that writing can be just as much fun as drawing!