Whimsical Illustrator – Shirley Ng-Benitez

Shirley Illustrator

My inspiration are my kids and nature.

Celeste: Hi Shirley! Thank so much for chatting with us today. I must say I love your work – it is very whimsical! Can you tell us a little about yourself, before I start bombarding you with questions!

Shirley: Hi Celeste! You are so kind to ask and thank you for your generous words, I really appreciate that! I am a children’s book illustrator and writer living in the Bay Area, California and have been illustrating for the children’s market for about five years. I made the transition to illustration in 2011 from many years in the graphic design field. I started out after college working for American Greetings, Inc. as a Professional Lettering Artist, and then worked for different design firms specializing in the toy industry, direct marketing, product marketing, and technology. I continue to work with my clients in design through gabbyandco.com, my company established in ‘98.

Typewriting Piggy
Typewriting Piggy

Celeste: A lot of your work looks like it was done through traditional media. Am I correct in assuming there is pencil crayon and watercolour? A lot of illustrators struggle to get these mediums scanned it and hold their detail. What is your secret?

Shirley: Most of the work I do starts from pencil sketches, then is either traced or redrawn directly onto watercolor paper and then painted with watercolor and gouache. I finish the piece in Photoshop cleaning up highlights and such. I scan at a very high resolution so that you can hold the detail and adjust/clean up in Photoshop at the end..it makes for large files, but I’m grateful to Apple for my trusty and swift computer! I scan with an Epson at about 1,200 dpi..some of my clients have asked for that large of scanning!

Celeste: Your children are lovely, but I can tell you are a real nature lover and your heart is with the animals. Is that where you find your inspiration?

Shirley: Thank you so much! My goal this year is to actually push myself working on the human form. I tend to go to animals as I’ve always loved animal books as a child. My go-to books were by Beatrix Potter, Arnold Lobel, Lillian Hoban. My inspiration are my kids and nature. My walks in the mornings with my pup are so inspiring as I get to walk a path that surrounds a cattle grazing field, where there are, throughout the season, squirrels, snakes, coyotes, wild boar, birds of all sorts, and a tarantula or two. I stay clear of those for sure!

Red Riding Hood
Red Riding Hood

Celeste: A lot of illustrators branch out into other things, such as making illustrations for pillows and cards. But I see you have created stamps, which is most unusual. Can you tell us how that came about?

Shirley: Thank you for asking! The recent stamp work came about from an email from a lovely woman who works for a stamp company and I believe found my work online. Through a series of conversations, we developed two lines of stamps and it has been a great collaboration. If I can recommend something, it’s to put your work out there..whether it’s through social media, such as your blog, or primarily through your website, the exposure can lead to some very different potential projects. This was one of those happy and lucky situations.

Celeste: I know you also have a love for all type and letters. Can you tell us a little about your love of typography?

Shirley: I started hand-lettering from scratch in high school, admiring a young fellow who had a great knack for three-dimensional letter-forms. I started scribbling a lot and found that letters were so interesting, especially if you sketch out forms and then fill them in. This led to an interest in calligraphy, which I dabbled in, and then decided to start working on a “portfolio” while in college. I was in design school, with a concentration in illustration, so I needed to have an illustration portfolio when I graduated. So I thought, “why not a lettering one too?” My parents paid for my graduation gift, which was to print a self-promotional mailer (which had my illustrations and lettering on it) and I sent them everywhere; card companies, design firms, anywhere I could potentially work in illustration, design or lettering. American Greetings phoned a week later asking if I’d like to interview for their lettering department. And that was the beginning of my career. I have been a member of the Friends of Calligraphy, and Pacific Scribes (Bay Area groups) for many, many years now and still love letter-forms, hand-lettering and calligraphy..truly, it is a fine art that is fascinating. Mastering letters was once a direction I wanted to pursue, but alas, painting became a bigger fascination.

Stamps
Stamps

Celeste: Are there any personal projects that you are currently working on that you would like to share with us – or maybe a favourite project that you have done in the past?

Shirley: I’d love to answer both. My favorite project in the past was a personal one, a “post 365 sketches in 365 days” and although it was tough, I managed to complete it and I believe it truly helped my sketch-abilities, and my confidence in drawing. It also was a huge factor in my current agent finding me online.

I’m currently working on three aspects this year: 1) people and the human form, 2) telling stories through illustration, and 3) writing. I’m incredibly excited about the year ahead.

Celeste: Before you go, where can people find you online?

Shirley: Thanks Celeste, so very much for the kind interview and your patience with me while I was away at a conference. I appreciate it and wish you and all your viewers well with their creative journeys and hope to see/connect with you all! You can find me at the following:

My website

My design site

My blog

Twitter

@shirleysillos – Instagram

Facebook

Etsy shop
Thanks again, it was an honor to be interviewed!

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