Saturday, September 9, 2017

Meet our 2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee Kerry Dwyer

by Patti Buff

Taking part in a mentor program is a wonderful opportunity to "up your game" by working intensively with a publishing professional. Joining us on the blog today is Kerry Dwyer, an illustrator from Switzerland to talk about her work and why she chose to apply for a mentorship with Bridget Marzo.

2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee
Kerry Dwyer

Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start taking your art seriously and thinking that you wanted to illustrate for children? Do you have a preferred theme or topic you love to illustrate?

I am originally from Massachusetts and I lived for many years in California where I worked in television animation and other areas of illustration. I moved to the land of the Alps some years ago where I now live with my husband and two step-children. I always liked to draw, kept sketch books at an early age and used to create my own children’s books, as many children do, in very 1980’s wallpaper. I am really drawn to funny stories and would even like to illustrate more dry-ish humor; but at the same time I love very emotional sweet stories. I like to draw people-they tend to be the focus of my work and am interested in stories that reflect humanity’s quirkiness. Non-fiction and historical fiction content also interests me a great deal.

Sample from Kerry's portfolio
What is your preferred method of creating your illustrations? And how long does it take you to go from a first draft to a “finalized” piece?

I like to create work in many ways but for my last portfolio I was mainly using a mixed media technique where I actually collage different painted elements of the characters, foregrounds and backgrounds. I ended up with this technique because I wanted to loosen up with how tightly I was drawing and painting. (from years of work inking in animation) As well, I am working more digitally now in Photoshop now. I also do love drawing with line as well and hope to someday incorporate this as an additional style. As for timing, I tend to sketch and do the color studies rather quickly – the real work comes with the mixed media technique. It takes me anywhere from 1 to 3.5 days to do a piece.  A very detailed piece could take up to 4-5 days.

Character sketches

You had to submit up to 16 pieces of your portfolio for this mentorship program. How difficult was it for you to choose the pieces you ended up sending? What was it about them you felt gave you the best chance?

I submitted most of the pieces featured on my last on-line portfolio. As well, I included a dummy and some artwork from that story I had finished for the Europolitan conference. I thought the pieces would give her a sense of what my style is as of now.

What attracted you to try out for the mentorship program?
Illustration by Kerry Dwyer

Well, I really respond to Bridget’s work- so I thought her feedback would be very valuable. As well- One thing I love about working in illustration is the independence of it but also I like the times of collaboration. I thought it would be very nice to share the process of expanding my portfolio with a mentor and have access to her thoughts and insights.

Kerry's studio in Switzerland
And finally, what do you expect to achieve by the end of this mentorship?

I look forward to seeing what this collaboration will bring. 2016 was a busy time with my other
work- so I look forward to this time of focus on evolving my techniques and getting Bridget’s feedback on some projects and ideas I would now like to illustrate. I have a list of changes I would like to make and I am keen to receive her thoughts on them. I am also interested in getting Bridget’s reviews of some digital pieces. As well as how she would advise varying my portfolio but still keeping it cohesive. It would just be very nice to work with someone of her talent.

Thank you for joining us, Kerry! We wish you lots of luck on your new adventure and we'll check in with you again next Spring.


  1. Bridget and Kerry...looks like a perfect pairing to me! All the best to you both!

  2. Hey Kerry - really excited to be working with you - and your wonderful range of characters too! And I so agree about working in that nice balance between independence as an illustrator-author and the collaborative process with others both in the same field and ultimately with publishers.