Christopher Silas Neal is an award-winning illustrator and author living in Brooklyn, New York. He writes and illustrates picture books, designs book jackets, posters, and regularly makes editorial art for magazines and newspapers including The New York Times and The New Yorker.
Born in Texas and raised in Florida and Colorado. As a child, Neal enjoyed drawing, dabbling with special effects make-up and playing musical instruments. By high school, he fell in love with music and dreamed of becoming a jazz drummer. Neal hesitated when it came time to move on to higher education. However, encourage by his mother he looked into studying animation or something art related at an Institute, only as a backup plan if music did not work out. A further nudge from his mother led Neal to apply for and win a scholarship to the University of Colorado to study music.
Unexpectedly, Neal found that studying music was not quite what he hoped for and switched his major to mass communication. Michael Signorella was the graphic design course instructor, whom hit it off with Neal right away. As the semester came to a close, Signorella could see Neal’s potential and offered him a job in his small graphic design studio.
Neal skipped his graduation ceremony to start working straight away. For nearly four years, Neal worked with Signorella learning about type, visual communication, colour and composition. Though he was not illustrating, working as a designer provided him the foundation for his art career.
In 2002, Neal moved to New York where he worked as a graphic designer for a couple of larger firms. But, it was not the right fit. Tired of only communicating the objectives of others, Neal wanted to create work which was more personal. So he built an illustration portfolio and mailed postcards to magazines. He kept at it until he started to get work. One year after moving to New York, he decided to start his own one-man business as an artist, illustrator, and letterer. A decision underpinned when the New Yorker published some of his drawings.
Since making the transition from design to illustration, Neal has illustrated multiple acclaimed picture books including Over and Under the Snow written by Kate Messner and Lifetime written by Lola M. Schaefer. Over and Under the Snow was a 2011 New York Times Editor’s Choice and won an E.B. White Honor Award in 2012. He received an award from the Society of Illustrators for his work in motion graphics, directing animated shorts for Kate Spade and Anthropologie. In 2015, Candlewick press published Neal’s first self-authored book, Everyone.
Praised for his retro-style, Neal use a range of tradition media (pencils, pens, brushes, gouache and acrylic) before taking his work into Photoshop. He starts with pencil sketches, then creates digital mock-ups to explore colour and composition. For the final art each colour is painted separately, then scanned as a black and white. Digitally, he colours each separation, then layers one on top of the other to make a complete image.
You can find more of Christopher Silas Neal’s work on his website, Tumblr and Instagram; and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find out more about him in this interview with AI-AP.