If you draw well, you’ll work: Phyllis Pollema-Cahill

Phyllis Pollema-Cahill, children’s book illustrator

What’s made the most difference in your career success?
A mentor told me years ago that if I could learn to draw the figure well, then I’d always have work. Drawing the figure well takes a lifetime, but I think he was right. Other things are: just plain hard work, marketing myself, always trying to do my best, meeting deadlines and being easy to work with.

What organizations do you find useful and would be accessible to newcomers?

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) without a doubt. The information they offer in their newsletters and at conferences is invaluable, plus you can make wonderful new friends and contacts.

What are common pitfalls in managing your time and career?
It took me a while to get over this one, but fear which causes procrastination was a big pitfall. I could find a million things to do before doing creative work. “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron was a big help to me. Another pitfall is being too focused on day-to-day business instead of planning for the future. I’m still working on that one.

Where do you see growth potential in the field now?
It seems publishing apps is creating a lot of interest now. I’m doing more digital art and learning about apps. There’s a lot of growth potential in new technology.

Phyllis Pollema-Cahill has been illustrating for children full-time since 1995, after working for many years as a graphic designer. Her degree is in illustration from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver. She’s illustrated over fifty books for children and regularly illustrates for children’s magazines. She loves to draw people and research different cultures and historical periods. A step-by-step demonstration of how she works can be seen at www.phylliscahill.com. Also see her Great Sites for Art Directors and Editors and Great Sites for Children’s Authors and Illustrators. Some of her clients include: Harcourt, Houghton Mifflin, McGraw-Hill, Scott Foresman, Scholastic, Zaner-Bloser, Highlights for Children and Spider. She lives in the Colorado mountains with her husband and two cats.

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