Saturday, March 23, 2013

Interview with the Astounding Shelley Szajner

ShelleySzajner is a member of the South Jersey Writers Group and also and one of the authors featured in our short story anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Her story, The Feathered Messenger is very good and you should buy the book just to read this story. But there is another reason that you should consider buying the anthology and that is for the book cover. It's featured right above.
Take a good long look...doesn't it fit perfect with the title of the anthology? As the Marketing person for the writers' group, I've noticed over the past few months what is really drawing the crowd to our table whenever we're doing a book signing, it's the cover. The people all love the cover...go ahead...take another peek. It's good, right? Yes indeed, everyone loves the cover and of course the stories inside. It was time to shine the spotlight on Shelley, who I have hounded until she agreed to this interview. 
Shelley, you're the best and thank you for taking time to answer my interview questions. We'll be concentrating on the artistic side of you, so...let's start...
Tell us more about your background as a graphic designer and Illustrator


I love engineering a composition using light, shadow, color and perspective to create an enigmatic story similar to Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World. I was born with a paintbrush in my hand, and at the age of five I was drawing houses in perspective. My favorite subject matter is fantasy, wildlife and nature but I also like to draw people. After high school I got my B.A. in Illustration with aspirations of becoming a wildlife illustrator, but put that ambition aside after I got married and had a child. But I wasn’t idle. I kept right on painting and after I had a body of work, I entered juried art contests that interested me, winning awards for some of my artwork. I also began pursuing children’s picture book illustration, but then put all of it on a back burner so that I could to go back to school to take coursework in graphic design. After a year and a half of training I landed my first job and have been working in as a graphic designer for almost twenty years. I’ve designed book covers, catalogs, newsletters, brochures, direct mail pieces, logos and business cards. Above all, book covers are my favorite.

Currently, I am illustrating my own novel, Oghalon.
I can't wait to see the cover for Oghalon and to read the novel. How did you come up with the cover for Tall Tales and Short Stories?


When I received the title, Tall Tales and Short Stories, I went right to work. Amazon is the first place that I go to get ideas and also look for covers that are similar in genre. From there I went hunting for an image that would reflect the anthology, as well as the flavor of South Jersey. The title also gave me a framework. When I saw the retro image of the tall man and short woman standing together I knew that I had found my image. From there I selected warm colors (burgundy and gold) and a unique typeface that would allow all of the design elements to work harmoniously. Lastly, I created the spine and back cover.


Which do you enjoy doing more, covers for novels or anthologies?


I enjoy anything that allows me to channel my creative energy. What I truly love is the creative process, whether it is designing a cover for a humorous novel about life in the Pine Barrens, or a non-fiction cover for an astrologer, or a cover for local anthology. I like creating them all.


What advice can you give to young people who are interested in becoming an Illustrator and or Graphic Designer.


Firstly, I want to say that you can become an illustrator or graphic designer at any age. I don't believe in 'age' or in 'aging' the way that most people do. In other words, I don't believe that age should be the determining or limiting factor for pursuing anything, since age is just a number (mindset) if you take good care of your body, mind and Spirit.

But I digress ...

If you want to become an illustrator, the most important tool in your arsenal is your portfolio. Get some training, or a mentor if at all possible, and build your illustration muscles. Enter contests to get a name for yourself and join organizations to network. There are very few in-house jobs for illustrators these days, so most jobs will come from freelance work. If you are serious about pursuing a career as a full time illustrator, you will need an agent. A lot of illustration has gone digital and there are lucrative markets for that type of work, but further training will be necessary.


Pursuing a career as a graphic designer is best done at a university or a local college. Online courses are also a great way for getting certified in the field, which now includes web design. Having some art/design training or background will give you a solid foundation to create great designs, and I highly recommend it. The standard coursework for entering the field includes but is not limited to: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dreaweaver; HTML; and CSS.
Shelley, thank you so very much for sharing with our readers and if anyone would like to ask Shelley any questions about becoming an illustrator, just send the question to and I will forward them to Shelley.

1 comment:

  1. What a multi-talented person. Beautiful too. Love the cover of the anthology.


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