Exact-o stab wounds, design vs. illustration, "Mouse Meeting" and a 10-month old: Meet Featured Illustrator Gabrielle Slivoski
by Charlie Barshaw
What was your early life like? When did you know that you liked to draw?
My mom was a teacher and she taught me to write and draw very early. I loved it! Art class was always my favorite throughout school. Recognizing my passion, my parents enrolled me into summer art programs as well. I always drew cartoons of friends, family and teachers but didn’t know about illustration careers until college. I still draw humorous cartoons for my family members’ birthday cards each year. I’ve been told they actually look forward to them!
What were some of your favorite books growing up? Which illustrators were you drawn to?
My brother and I had a decent book collection. Our parents read to us often. I was always attracted to the illustrations in The Berenstain Bears and Syd Hoff’s books.
When I began reading on my own, my favorites included the The Beezus and Ramona books, the Amelia Bedelia series, and anything by Judy Blume.
What did it take to get your degree in Graphic Design? How did it prepare you for the real world?
I began taking Graphic Design classes in high school, as well as studio survey/multimedia classes. In my senior year I had the opportunity to do an independent study in art and design for college prep.
I went into college torn between a Graphic Design or Interior Design major (along with a dual-major in Architecture). In my sophomore year, I visited the Architectural firm my dad worked for on “Take your daughter to work Day” (yes, I was the oldest kid there). I job-shadowed Interior Designers to learn the “pros and cons” of their jobs. I then spoke with their in-house graphic designer who had only “pros” and no “cons”. That helped make up my mind to move forward with a degree in Graphic Design.
My degree involved learning about grid systems, layouts, color theory, visual hierarchy, contrast and balance, spatial awareness, visual communication, typography, branding, web design, illustration, marketing, etc. I also took painting, wood working and sculpture classes (where I caught on fire–another story for another time).
The design classes began without computers, and we had to apply those concepts learned by hand. It was frustrating (not to mention, painful and expensive) with all the Exact-o stab wounds, guache paint stains and re-do projects because of a slightly wrong cut or shade. Looking back, I’m thankful to have learned that foundation–but once we were taught how to use all the Adobe software, I appreciated the undo function! In 2005, I landed my first real job–the in-house graphic designer for a computer-connectivity company. Although I knew the “rules” of design, I still had a lot to learn about the real world of design.
You’ve got almost 20 years of experience in the design industry. What is the difference (for us non-artists) between illustration and design?
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I’m still learning all I can about illustration. I take several webinars a year. Although I took illustration classes in college, I honestly didn’t know anything about children’s book illustration specifically, until I joined SCBWI six years ago.
Illustration is occasionally used within graphic design. Graphic design is more layout-based for visual messaging/communication. Some examples are: logos, postcards, invitations, labels, infographics, children’s books, etc). Digital graphics can also be created for websites, apps or presentations.
Tell us about Breezz Designs.
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Breezz (my nickname since birth) Designs creates all of the above. Over the past couple decades, Breezz Designs has had a wide variety of projects ranging from food jar labels to event posters to t-shirt prints. Whether in need of a character design for an individual, swag for book promotion, or a book layout for a self-published author, Breezz Designs can do it.
On your website you mention “Wall Art.” What is it exactly?
Wall art is basically digital art, with or without message, as room décor. My Etsy store has digital instant downloads (and some custom pieces), providing customers the option to print onto wood, canvas, metal, etc at a local convenience/office supply store or printer.
“Mouse Meeting” is a charming piece. Is there a story behind it?
Inspired by the videogame, Little Big Planet, I decided to create small items in a large-scale format for a mini-world and I figured mice would make a cute subject. No completed story, yet.
How did you get involved in 12 x 12 Challenge? What was the best thing to come out of your experience?
I heard about 12 x 12 through SCBWI and as I come up with numerous story ideas, I struggle with completing one manuscript at a time before jumping into a new idea. I needed 12 x 12 to help push me to complete them! My awesome critique group, Suzanne, Sarah, Kat and Linda have helped me refine my manuscripts to query-ready pieces!
How do you balance life with family, full-time work and creative projects?
It’s a constant juggle, especially with a 10-month-old! But with support and encouragement from my wonderful husband and amazing parents I’m able to keep some sanity.
What are you working on now?
I’m querying a few Picture Books and a Middle Grade novel, revising a couple new Picture Books and finishing dummy illustrations. I have several new Picture Books in-progress and a very rough Chapter Book in the works.
What are your goals?
Becoming a published author-illustrator is my primary goal. I would like my work to allow children to become passionate about reading–including reluctant readers. When I moved from reading Picture Books to Chapter Books as a child, I missed the pictures. I lost interest as playing outside and bike riding with friends became more appealing. I preferred to write my own stories rather than read them.
In my creative writing classes in high school, I wrote young adult stories with illustrations (before graphic novels were popular). My job at that time was a library page within the youth section. There, I understood why I was drawn to certain books. I also aspire to write and illustrate a graphic novel one day.
You can follow Gabrielle here:
Illustration website: www.GabrielleSlivoski.com
Graphic Design website: www.BreezzDesigns.com