I always knew I wanted to do something creative. However, it wasn’t until college that I decided I wanted to be an illustrator. There were so many majors in art school. It was difficult to pick just one. Thankfully, I had a 2D-design teacher whose work inspired me to study illustration. His work was similar to Lane Smith’s traditional illustrations, and it reminded me of how much I loved the The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. It rekindled my childhood obsession with creating books.
From there, it wasn’t a direct shot into doing kidlit. I studied general illustration and thought I would be an editorial illustrator. There was such a prestige about that type of work. Still, outside of class I found myself drawn to children’s book illustration. I even placed in an international children’s book illustration competition called Teatro while I was still a student. Despite that, it wasn’t until the last semester of school when I took a children’s book illustration class that everything aligned.
For the first time, I could play with camera angles, humor, and a rhythm. I could tell stories, something I always loved. I could get lost creating a whole world for a book. I also had an excuse to read a ton of a kidlit! With some hard work and some luck, I started getting interest in the work as soon as I graduated. Then I was recommended to SCBWI by Abigal Samoun, who at the time was still an editor. She now has her own literary agency called Red Fox Literary.
SCBWI really helped launch my career. I received my first small book from Children’s Book Press at Illustrator’s Day in San Francisco. More importantly my book, Maria Had a Little Llama, began as assignment from a SCBWI Spirit conference in Davis, California. I am happy to say I’ve been illustrating for over ten years and writing six years professionally.
I love telling a narrative and being able to draw things that I find amusing. I’ve always been on the sillier side so this is the perfect outlet for me. Also I adore the marriage of words and pictures. As a child, I could get lost reading a book and that never went away. Now, more and more, it’s the interaction with the kids that really motivates me. Seeing what they relate to during school presentations—not just what I relate to—gives me inspiration.
As you've been honing your craft over the years, what's one of the biggest things you've learned so far.
Luckily, I studied illustration, so my learning curve with the craft has been easier. I think the biggest things is learning how to draw kids well. It’s been a bunch of practice and studying different illustrator’s work. I’ve even created a graduate character design for a children’s book course at the Academy of Art University. When it comes to being an author, the learning curve has been larger. I often force myself to write for practice and I read children’s literature as much possible.
Probably the biggest learning curve though, is realizing the amount of promotion and business skills you need to have. People assume because it’s a creative field and everything can be done at home that you don’t have to network or promote, but that’s a huge part of the job. After all, this children’s literature is its own business.
My favorite books to illustrate are ones that either feature animals and/or have plenty of room of interpretation. Probably one of my favorite books to illustrate was MARTA! BIG AND SMALL. It has minimal text so I was able to come up a with concept for where these animals lived. That was great collaborative project. I also love illustrating my own stories because there is even room to be creative!
What are you working on now and are you having fun?
I am working on a picture book with Candlewick. It’s still in the early stages, but it’s about a girl who is scared of bees. Coming up with expressions and reactions has been so much fun. I’m also working on a few story ideas. I find that it’s important to always be generating new projects for myself. It keeps me busy and hopefully it turns into a book!