Instructor Stories: Vanessa Brantley-Newton


I'm thrilled that Vanessa Brantley-Newton will be returning to teach live Character Design workshops again this term. Vanessa has illustrated nearly 100 children's books, some of which she also wrote. 

I first met Vanessa Brantley-Newton at a big SCBWI conference in Los Angeles in 2017. She was one of the keynote speakers, and I also attended her breakout session. Both times, she moved me to tears. Vanessa did it again with her intro video for her Character Design class. She's had to overcome challenges, and yet, she speaks from this place of love and joy. And when you add all of that to her storytelling ability, you have an highly relatable, inspirational teacher. 

I want to share the following TED Talk to illustrate my point. It's from two and a half years ago, but if you aren't familiar with Vanessa, it will give you a taste of who she is.

Character Design

I've been selling my writing for about 25 years, in one form or another, but I'm fairly new to illustration. So I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for me to understand and keep up with Vanessa Brantley-Newton's Character Design class. The work is challenging, but a beginner can do it. It's the sort of class that you could take over and over again and improve every time that you did it. Many of our students have done just that.

In Vanessa's class, I learned how to:

  • Design a character
  • Capture expressions
  • Draw more consistent characters
  • Make a Character Model Sheet
  • Dress and accessorize my character
  • Turn my character
  • Move and pose my character
  • Use color and texture so much better
  • Collage more effectively

The following character model sheet is an example from Vanessa's class. She teaches with demos to make sure you don't miss any of the steps.

Best of all, if you're a Makers Pro member, you can ask Vanessa any questions you have in the workshops.

Vanessa's Books

Vanessa Brantley-Newton has been illustrating children's books long enough that I can't post all of them here. She has a joyful, colorful style that's easy enough to pick out. Here are some of her more recent highlights.

Derrick Barnes, the author of THE KING OF KINDERGARTEN, shared an absolutely delightful video of of “Sugar Ray” Leonard reading this book on his Facebook page. Listening to him do voices for the characters will make you smile. 

And Oprah read THE HULA-HOOPIN' QUEEN on YouTube

I highly recommend following Vanessa  on Instagram, where she shares her work and experience freely.

If you'd like to tell us about your taking Vanessa's course or shout out one of her books, please do so in the comments!

Blog Contributors

Instructor Photo: Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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