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Art & Life with Shennen Bersani

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shennen Bersani.

Shennen, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
When I was very young my grandmother entertained me by drawing with crayons on corrugated cardboard boxes. She would collect boxes from the grocer and cut them into square ‘canvases’. In awe, I watched her draw. I thought it was shear magic, seeing her create something out of nothing. Though she passed away when I was five, she kindled that magic flame inside me. I’ve spent my lifetime working to bring artistic magic to blank canvases.

I grew up in Weymouth, just south of Boston on the ocean. After high school I studied graphic design and illustration at the Art Institute of Boston. When I finished I spent eight years hand lettering signs for Ski Town, a chain of stores that were in the Boston area. The main location, in Braintree, gave me my own art gallery in the front foyer. There I hung portraits of workers, and their children, dressed as cowboys. These led to portrait commissions and eventually creating portraits of my own children. (I’m the mother of four.) My main medium for the portraits was colored pencil, and found objects.

After Ski Town closed I worked as a freelance illustrator, illustrating for numerous magazines, corporations, textbooks, and even illustrating surgical tools for Johnson & Johnson, Professional. All this experience led me to illustrating my first picture book for Scholastic in 2002. Since then I’ve made children’s books my career. I am currently illustrating my 29th picture book, and am the author of the award-winning Achoo! Why Pollen Counts. My illustrated books have sold over 2 million copies world-wide.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I have traveled the country doing research for my illustrations and writing. Travel is my inspiration! My work has brought me to 20 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. I have swam with manatees, crawled in Carlsbad Cavern’s Lower Cave, climbed over lava rocks to reach monk seals, held bats, snakes, and sharks, and cuddled cheetahs! Most of my illustrations are still created using colored pencils, though a few books have been created digitally. I want children to be captivated when they open my books. I want magic to jump off those pages. I hope to inspire budding young artists to create their own magic on a blank canvas; while instilling a thirst for reading and lifelong learning.

How do you think about success, as an artist, and what do quality do you feel is most helpful?
Success is not giving up. When my mother forbid me to go to college, I earned a scholarship from high school, sold my sailboat, and took out loans to cover the rest. Success is not listening to naysayers, but believing in yourself and never quitting. If you have that fire in your belly, you can achieve anything in life.

My advice for other artists: Don’t know how to move beyond that blank page? Observe everything. Inspiration can be found everywhere you turn. From the organized lines and design of architecture, to the unexpected chaos of nature. Draw daily in your sketch pad and have fun! You don’t have to strive for perfection, just express yourself. If you follow your muse, success will follow.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Most of my books can be purchased on Amazon by searching my name. I’ve illustrated a wide assortment of books; nonfiction to fiction, toddler to 4th grade. I also have a number of framed original pages as well as framed prints from the books for sale. Email me for availability. BONUS: if you visit www.achoowhypollencounts.com you will find easy craft projects on the blog page, and a page of free coloring pages. Email me your mailing address if you’d like me to send you an autographed postcard, while supplies last. *Shown below are examples of free craft projects.

If you happen to visit Durgin Park in Quincy Market, mozey upstairs. On the right wall, they have framed my illustration of pudding from the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shennen Bersani

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