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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

Illustrator Brad Sneed talks with Horace Mann students about the process he uses to design and illustrate children's books. Sneed's visit to Northwest was part of a collaborative learning project involving Horace Mann students, faculty and Northwest education majors.

Illustrator Brad Sneed talks with Horace Mann students about the process he uses to design and illustrate children's books. Sneed's visit to Northwest was part of a collaborative learning project involving Horace Mann students, faculty and Northwest education majors. (Photos by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

Jan. 15, 2014

Children’s book illustrator shares process with students

Sneed presented four sessions to Horace Mann and Northwest students, capping each session by demonstrating how he draws a sketch.

Sneed presented four sessions to Horace Mann and Northwest students, capping each session by demonstrating how he draws a sketch.

Sneed signs some of his books for a group of Horace Mann kindergarteners after one of four sessions he presented at Northwest.

Sneed signs some of his books for a group of Horace Mann kindergarteners after one of four sessions he presented at Northwest.

Students at Northwest Missouri State University and its Horace Mann Laboratory School on Wednesday received a glimpse into how the illustrations they find in some of their favorite children’s book are created.

Brad Sneed, an illustrator based in Prairie Village, Kan., visited Northwest as part of a collaborative learning effort coordinated by Horace Mann Art Instructor Erin Oehler and Vicki Seeger, who retired last year as a faculty member in Northwest’s Department of Professional Education.

Horace Mann fourth graders are working on a writing and illustration project with Oehler as well as Northwest faculty and education majors. In March, the students and their instructors also will attend the Children’s Literature Festival in Warrensburg, where Oehler met Sneed last year.

Sneed presented Wednesday to all Horace Mann students during four separate sessions, which Northwest students majoring in elementary education and art education also attended.

Growing up on a farm in rural Kansas, Sneed told the students, he often lost himself in his imagination. He built forts, looked for critters and dreamed of one day being a cowboy or a football player. He also loved to draw and paint and soon realized he could maybe make a living as an illustrator.  

Sneed earned a degree in illustration from Kansas University and then set off to New York in an attempt to catch the eyes of picture book editors and art directors.

Not long after returning home to Kansas, Sneed received a call from an editor who was looking for someone to produce illustrations for a new book about a grandfather “with a large belly and a big voice who loves to sing.” The story, “Grandpa’s Song” by Tony Johnston, published in 1991, was the first book with illustrations credited to Sneed.

His career is now 25 years old and he has completed nearly 30 book illustrations.

“I love that I can go to work and spend all day drawing and painting,” Sneed said. “I love telling a story visually with pictures.”

In addition to sharing the story of how he became an illustrator of children’s books, Sneed talked through his process – from the raw doodles he creates for story boards to assembling a practice book with polished sketches to completing the water color paintings that appear in the finished book. Sneed said his illustration process for one book typically lasts six to nine months.

Sneed also read one of his illustrated books for the students, drew sketches for the children and signed books for a small number of children who brought their own copies of his work to the sessions.  

Oehler said she hoped Sneed’s story helped students understand that practicing art can be a viable profession. She added that professional opportunities in creative fields are increasing.  

“Everything takes practice, but to do something well you have to have a purpose and art is in everything,” Oehler said. “We see it in the books we read, the clothes we wear. It’s pervasive in our culture.”

The Horace Mann Laboratory School, located on the Northwest campus, is an innovative program that provides clinical experience for pre-service teachers and a diverse and interactive learning environment for children. Housed in Everett Brown Hall, the laboratory school serves about 130 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Early childhood classes for children age 3 through pre-kindergarten are offered in the Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families in Brown Hall.

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468