PUBLISHED: Thursday, April 2, 2015

Priscilla Prentice

Published: 2015

This month we're excited to introduce illustrator extraordinaire, Priscilla Prentice. Priscilla, illustrator of When You Just Have to Roar!, shares the details from her first art show at age 3, to her work as an animator. Read on to learn about her favorite illustrators, how her career developed, her time at Rhode Island School of Design, and more.

Plus, don't forget to see in the video below how Sammi, one of the characters from When You Just Have to Roar!, came to life.


Can you share a brief timeline of your educational and professional life?

I started drawing at an early age. My first art show (at age 3) was on my parent’s freshly painted closet door. My mom painted over most of the scribbles, but they left a big stick figure in the middle and showed it proudly to their friends. I grew up in in an artistic family. Both my father and stepfather were cartoonists. My dad let me help out in his studio after I got home from elementary school. My mom brought me to museums in New York. Here I am photobombing my dad at work. He used a camera to capture poses, then he would use them as reference for his drawings in the comic strip.

I studied illustration and animation in college and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration. I had a great time at RISD.

My first job after college was at an animation studio. Within a year I moved to Seattle. During that time I collaborated with my stepfather on a childrens’ book for a hotel in Florida. While living in Seattle I created animations used in interactive games for kids. Soon I started creating art for video games. I worked in that field for many years. Mostly I worked as an environmental artist. An environment artist designs and builds the 3D world that the game characters run around in. I like to compare it to set design for plays or movies. I also created some characters and concepts for the games.

I took time off from making video games when I had my children. Now that they are older I have time for my work in illustration. I like to explain ideas in a visual way.

Image of Priscilla and her father 

What sparked your interest in illustration and how did that interest grow into the desire and knowledge to illustrate children’s books?

My dad and stepdad were both cartoonists, as were most of their friends. I was always drawing and surrounded by adults who made their living creating art. As long as I can remember I knew I would be an artist. Artists paint pictures, make us laugh, design everyday objects, solve problems, share ideas, and help people interact with the world in new ways. I love telling stories. With a few lines on paper I can introduce characters, an obstacle, and a mood of a story. My skills are helpful in book illustration, painting, animation, and video games.


Do you have a favorite artist or illustrator?

I love so many artists’ work it is hard to choose. My dad, John Prentice, drew an adventure detective comic strip, Rip Kirby. My step-dad, Mort Walker, draws the humorous cartoon, Beetle Bailey. I also love the work of E.H. Shepard (Winnie the Pooh), Beatrix Potter (The Adventures of Peter Rabbit), Arthur Howard (Mr. Putter and Tabby series), and Dorothea Warren Fox (Miss. Twiggley’s Tree.)


Do you have a fond memory from your own education or a story of how education or a teacher changed your life?

I had some really supportive art teacher’s when I was a kid. I was always doodling in my notebook. Several teachers encouraged my interest in art and encouraged me to continue studying art in college. My high school teacher Mrs. “D” let me do my own thing and allowed me to spend as much time in the art room as I wanted. The teachers in college, especially RISD pushed the students to try new things and to learn about different styles of art and design. They had very high standards. I still use the skills they taught me. I especially enjoyed the classes by David Macauley, Bill Drew, and Mary Jane Begin. The work was difficult, but the classes were very rewarding.


What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you began your career?

I wish I had taken more business and marketing classes early in my career. They did not offer those in art school at the time. Artists need to be nimble and flexible with their job situation. Being able to confidently negotiate contracts and do a fair amount of your own marketing is a useful skill. It is never too late to learn.


Where can we find you on a typical day?

On a typical day I can be found at work in my studio. I start my day by sending my boys to school. I usually go for a walk with my dog. Then I head to work. I work from home, so my commute is about 5 steps. I take a break when the kids get home. I help them with any activities they have, make dinner, get everyone to bed, and often return to work in the evening when the house is quiet. Here is an early sketch of Rocket Boots.

Image of Priscilla's sketching for Rocket Boots 

What’s on your bucket list, career-wise or personally?

On my professional bucket list I would love to bring the interactivity and excitement of video games to children’s books and textbooks. I hope to get the chance to do that soon. For my personal bucket list I plan on going to summer camp with my husband and boys. I never went to a sleepaway camp. I recently heard of one that lets entire families attend. Jumping off a rope swing into a lake sounds like fun! I also want to visit some castles in Europe. My whole family loves castles. I built so many in video games, it would be fun to see one in real life.


Are there any fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share? Hidden talents? Special interests?

I have lots of freckles. I love my freckles. When I do a self portrait I usually leave them out. I am so accustomed to seeing them I forget to paint them in. I love animals and insects, including spiders. We don’t have any pet spiders, unless you count the ones in my garage. We have a dog, a cat, and two gerbils. The rest of my family would not enjoy a pet spider.


Learn more and see a full list of titles by Priscilla Prentice.