Featured Illustrator

March 2022

 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?

The new Mitten banner

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.

The Slivoski Family

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

Instagram: @gSlivoski

Twitter: @BR33ZZ


Previous Featured Illustrators 

January 2022
Kristen Uroda

December 2021

May 2021

January 2021

October 2020

May 2020

Rebecca Howe

March 2020

Nina Goebel

January 2020

Melanie Bryce

October 2019

Makiko Orser

July 2019

Ruth McNally Barshaw

April 2019

Melissa Bailey

January 2019

Nick Adkins

October 2018

July 2018

Darrin Brege

April 2018

Basya Cohen

January 2018

John Bleau

October 2017

Lori Eslick

Lori painted two banners and they both deserve to be shown, here is the other one:

July 2017

Amy Nielander

April 2017

Cathy Gendron

January 2017

Brianne Farley

October 2016

Bradley Cooper

July 2016

Kara Marsee

April 2016

Lori Taylor

January 2016

Dana Atnip

October 2015

Deb Pilutti

July 2015

Jennifer Scott
April 2015

Diana Magnuson

January 2015

September 2014

Heidi Woodward Sheffield



  1. Will there be any market ideas such as new publications or publishing companies included in The Mitten?

    1. Great idea, thanks for the suggestion! We'll explore this as we grow and add more features.

    2. Keep in mind the most up-to-date market research can be found in the members section of the national site, www.scbwi.org
      You can download it for free or have The Book sent to you for just $5 postage. It's an amazing resource.

  2. Brilliant, Heidi. Huge congratulations and also hugs.
    I'm a mentee now, too -- let's storm the castle and hang up our artwork. ;) -- And let's pull the rest of our Michigan illustrators up the steps too.

  3. GREAT JOB! Kritstin and Jodie.

    Heidi, you know I am already a fan, and your work never fails to WOW me!

  4. Heidi, your art is so beautiful! Thanks for your courage in sharing your life challenge with us. I wish you the very best.
    Kristin and Jodie--this is a terrific idea! Looking forward to reading more.
    Lindsey McDivitt

  5. Heidi, Thank you for sharing your work and your hard-won wisdom. The depth from which you speak comes through in the strength and vibrancy of your artwork as well. Blessings and continued healing to you. Most Sincerely, Elizabeth McBride

  6. This is a question for Kristin and Jody but I can't seem to find anywhere else to ask it---will we still be sharing marketing news, Hugs & Hoorahs, etc? I don't see any of those at this time. Thanks!

    1. I emailed Monica, but for anyone else who is reading this, we will definitely have Hugs and Hurrahs - I'm compiling them now for an upcoming post. We'll have to look at market news going forward, but the SCBWI Bulletin and our listserv continue to be good resources for that info.

  7. Wow! Heidi, I can see why you got the mentorship--touching, heartfelt essay. Impressive!

  8. I'm such a neophyte here that I forgot there might be posts (and replies!). I really and truly very touched by the kind words and feedback. Thank you all, a bit late! XO Heidi

  9. Thank you to Jeff and Heidi for their gorgeous artwork! And, Heidi, thank you for your honesty and inspiration, all wrapped up in your beautiful essay. It's a touching reminder of what matters in life--the perfect start to the new year. Happy 2015 to everyone!

  10. Jeff - thanks for a little insight into your creative world, challenges, and motivations. I'm excited to see more of your work! And Heidi,I want that bronco girl! Love her spirit.

  11. Amazing artwork Jeff (and Heidi). Fascinating that Matt Faulkner suggested the 3-D look. The value of SCBWI is our proximity to working writers and illustrators. The sparks that fly when creative minds meet fuels the forge of inspiration.

  12. Love it, Jeff! Your art is fabulous and it's great to see more of it.

  13. Great art work Heidi and hugs all over for you...And Jeff, the cover is so good - just want to reach out and squeeze the other hand of the tree, or two or more! Love clay too!