ILLUSTRATOR OF THE MONTH
ILLUSTRATOR OF THE WEEK
I actually started in publishing in high school. Back then, there was a press called Landmark Editions that used to run a contest for kids. To enter, you wrote and illustrated your own book, and if you won in your age group, you got a publishing contract. I don't think there were very many entries the year I entered, but I was thrilled all the same when I got the chance to publish my book. I fell in love with every part of the process—flying to their offices, drawing sketch after sketch, studying great picture books, tapping out meter and rhyme over the phone with my editor (those calls could get tense! but she was the matriarch of Landmark and I adored her). Most nights I stayed up into the early morning working on that book, just for the love of it. (Interesting side note: Landmark was the same company that gave Dav Piley his start with World War Won). I studied business in college, but when an internship opened up at a local publishing startup, I applied immediately. I started as a graphic designer and creative director there, then became the publishing director. We grew the company into one of the fastest-growing publishers in the US, and then I finally left to start Bushel & Peck with my wife, Stephanie.
I've never not loved working in book publishing, but it's a different level of passion when you run your own press. While you always have to keep your eyes on the numbers, your press eventually becomes an extension of you—what you're excited about, what you're curious about, what you want to share with the world. I remember staring at the ceiling once shortly after leaving my previous job, just thinking for a bit. We were in the middle of starting Bushel & Peck, and it occurred to me that I didn't have to start a publishing company. I could have started a new career, gone back to school, anything! But what pulled me to publishing like nothing else was knowing that making books gave me a voice. There are plenty of careers that are fun, creative, and everything else I love about publishing, but it's that voice that's so different from anything else.
There are so many! I love The Interactive Constitution, because it takes something so dry to kids and makes it compelling and engaging with such a novel format, like its color-changing words to help teach vocabulary in the Preamble. (Plus, I'm passionate about American history and civics education, so it's a book we were thrilled to see do well.) But that's a hallmark of many of our books. Any good publisher looks for the perfect marriage of text and art. You might think of those as X and Y axes. But to me, a great publisher will add a third Z axis: format. Can the physical book itself be part of the experience? If it's a book on music, do you add sound? A book on something physical like anatomy, do you add flaps to enhance the physicality of what the kid is learning? If it's historical, do you choose rough woodfree paper to add a tactile sense of time and place? These are the details that make publishing exciting for me.
Any time we nail the intersection of art, text, and physicality and align the result with the right market, the book tends to do well. Our illustrated poets series is a great example. In that case, we paired beloved poems with vintage collage art that is just so beautiful and really adds to the experience. You can almost feel Poe or Dickinson in the art itself, because so much of it is from the same era. It also created a series of crossover books that sell just as well for adults as they do for children, plus it differentiated our series from those that tend to have more kidlike art, which we felt wasn't the right choice for such celebrated literature.
Both! More than anything, what we look for is an illustrator who can add an extra dimension to a book. Good illustrators draw what they're told and make a beautiful book. Great illustrators enhance the story and add an extra layer of richness, detail, and emotion beyond what the text can convey. Whether young or established, these are the types of artists we like to work with.
I don't know about other publishers, but one of the biggest hesitations we have when hiring an artist is wondering what their work for us will actually end up looking like. Portfolios or past publications help greatly with this, but there's always a bit of a risk in hiring an illustrator you haven't worked with before. For this reason, a couple of pieces of advice come to mind. First, always put your best foot forward. Portfolios tend to be judged on the best and worst pieces, and sometimes the worst pieces tend to get the heavier weight because publishers are afraid that's what they'll get if they hire you. Trim them down to your best, most sensational pieces, and that will get publishers excited. Second, try to be clear about your style. You don't have to limit yourself to one illustration style, but be clear about the different ways you like to create and what a publisher might expect if they hire you. When portfolios are a bit all over the map with medium and style, it brings back that uncertainty for the publisher: what am I really going to get if I hire this person?
Having the freedom to create what you're passionate about is always one of the top perks of running your own press. That brings a slew of its own headaches and challenges, but if you love what you do, all the stress takes a distant second place. That's not to say there aren't lows and sleepless nights, but they're nothing compared with the thrill of seeing a book succeed or holding something in your hands you carefully crafted from its inception.
All the greats: Harry Potter, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little Britches, Winnie the Pooh, Henry Reed, and on and on.
I learned so, so much from Christopher Robbins, the current CEO of Familius. And along the way, there have been countless people who have shaped my publishing worldview. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn!
Anything that lived years at the top of the New York Times, of course! But really, if a book somehow touches a life, then that's pay dirt for us.
I started making and studying art in elementary school and was part of specialized art programs in junior high and high school. In fact, I went to the “FAME” school (LaGuardia H.S.), which is behind Lincoln Center. Then I attended the historic museum school, The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, for my BFA. It feels like I’ve always been surrounded by creative people.
My career began in newspaper and magazine design in Chicago and Silicon Valley. Then I moved back to NYC and began to pursue my dream of being a Book Designer. I spent the first half of my book career in adult books, first at Avalon, an Indie, and then at Random House Adult. I made the move to children’s books by joining the amazing team at Disney Hyperion. While there, I was best known for my YA and MG cover design, though I did some picture books too. And I found picture book editors and artists were some of the best people to know and befriend. I then became the Associate Art Director at Workman Kids, before co-founding RISE with Cecily Kaiser in 2019.
That’s tough…I wouldn’t say favorites, but the RISE titles I identify the most with are:
Who Was Celia Cruz? Board Book
I AM!: Affirmations for Resilience
Our Skin: A First Conversation about Race
I would say we are looking for thoughtful illustrators who want to work on books that are authentic to them. Books whose subject matter has some connection to their lived or learned experience. Our books help kids (0-5) understand and feel empowered in the world around them. So we don’t have a lot of “fantastical” books. And we tend to hire artists who have more realistic proportions, and who make art about our everyday world. We also like art that can be appreciated by everyone, including the many adults who select, purchase, and read these books to our young audience. We often hire fine artists, editorial illustrators, or artists who have never even thought of illustrating for children.
Make work on the subject you are passionate about.
Hashtag your work’s subject matter.
Write super long bios that tell me a lot about you and the things you are passionate about. I want to know what experience shaped you and your work. Where did you grow up? Are you a child of immigrants? Do you love math, science, food, typography, music? All of that should be in your bio.
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert, art by Chris Silas Neal
Picture Us In the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert, art by Adams Carvalho
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty, art by Alexander Jansson
Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds, with art by the incomparable Kadir Nelson
EVERY SINGLE BOOK on the RISE list, which I am SO proud to have co-founded.
Pretty much anything I get from Edel Rodriguez blows my mind. I literally can’t picture anything he is going to turn in. That really impresses me. When people are unpredictable BUT BRILLIANT. He’s a pro and one of my heroes. I feel so lucky that he was on our inaugural RISE list.
If you look at any page of I AM!: Affirmations for Resilience, you are looking at Edel’s first hunch on each page, with minor tweaks. That spread that reads, My Friends And Family Love Me! That shouldn’t work, but it does. The crazy bend of the kid’s body. It’s brilliant in that it captures the extreme joy of kid gestures. So smart!
I love nurturing and challenging talent. It’s the best part of the job.
My whole career, I have pulled artists I like into whatever age group I’m designing for. Rise is no different. If you are outstanding, I’ll want to hire you. There are many ways to be great. You can be starting out, but already be a stand-out. My job is to see which projects are a match for an artist.
Sometimes I hold on to someone for YEARS, before the right project comes along. That’s what happened with Being You artist Andy Passchier. Andy sent an adult graphic novel proposal to my last job. And I KNEW, Andy was IT. THE REAL DEAL. A smart, insightful, funny, visually powerful artist. That publisher passed on Andy’s project, but I KNEW that eventually I would find a way to work with Andy. When I read Being You: A First Conversation about Gender, I was jumping up and down, because I knew Andy was THE ARTIST, and their project had finally arrived.
Short answer, a style that feels universal. That can be many different things. I would say for me, they need to make fearless color choices. Pop colors translate very well.
Career Mentors—David Tran, Elizabeth Rendfleisch, Joann Hill, Rotem Moscovich, Lily Malcom
Design Influences—Elizabeth H. Clark, Nicole Caputo, Charlotte Strick, Jon Gray (Gray 318)
Picture Book Heroes—Minh Le, Isabel Roxas, Raúl the Third, Kadir Nelson, Yuyi Morales
This is my second year as an Art Director at Macmillan Children’s. My very first job in publishing was as a design intern at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I started working there after I graduated from the Illustration as Visual Essay MFA program in the School of Visual Arts. I was trying to publish my picture books then and didn’t imagine having a career on “the other side of the table” of the book industry. I was reaching out to editors and art directors with my portfolio and dummy books. I also invited them to my graduation show where my thesis was children’s books. One of the art directors I reached out to, Saho Fujii from LBYR, came to the show and gave me great feedback. I was blown away that a real art director responded to my invitation, came to the show, and gave me feedback in person! A couple of months later, she emailed me about an open internship position at LBYR. I thought it would be wonderful to work and learn inside of the industry where I was trying so hard to break in. I went in for an interview and got the job, which became my first job in publishing. I thought I would learn all the practical tips from “behind the curtains,” and help myself publish my books! Not surprisingly, however, I fell in love with people and work in the publishing house. It is such a collaborative environment and everyone is so passionate about children’s books. I was surrounded by amazing creators and storytellers! I got to work with illustrators I admired! I felt as if I found my perfect home. I never left the industry since.
Macmillan has three pub seasons (winter, spring/summer, and fall) and each designer generally works on 3-8 titles per season. Because picture bookmaking is such a long process, we are working on anywhere between 8-15 titles at a time all in drastically varying stages.
At the moment, I’m reviewing, color correcting, and making the final adjustments for the books that will publish later this year (2022), hands-on designing and receiving final arts for books that will publish early 2023, reviewing the second or third round of sketches for the books that will come out mid to late 2023, and also setting up a kick-off call with artists who are working on a book for 2024.
A big chunk of my daily calendar is filled with multiple meetings where I review sketches or final arts with editors or other designers on various books that we work together. Communicating with artists is also the biggest part of our daily responsibility. We try our best to communicate our thoughts and feedback clearly and openly with illustrators and make sure that illustrators are fully included in the discussion. We need to learn how each illustrator communicates differently and what they feel comfortable with. Some prefer email communications while some prefer talking on the phone. We do a lot of video calls as well. Working with various amazing artists is my favorite part of the job.
And of course, we need to design the books. Designing a book also takes place over a period of time. We usually create preliminary ones to share with the team at various stages, but once we have the final art in, we pay full attention to the detailed design. We make sure that the design meets the sentiment of the book, enhances the story and the art, and brings everything together. Since the cover is often the face of the book, everyone in the team from other departments gets to see the final design of the cover and give feedback.
As a kid, I always gravitated to an exciting story with a strong story arc. I still think that is very important, and that’s how I try to write and illustrate, too. However, when it comes to the books that I enjoy most working on, I am strongly drawn to the books telling stories with specific cultural backgrounds and elements. They often tell universal stories through a specific cultural lens, with which all the readers can resonate. On top of that, I get to take a glimpse of the culture that I wasn’t familiar with. It is enticing and enlightening. I feel my world gets a bit wider each time I work on those books and spend lots of time with them.
A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart has a special place in my heart. An emotional journey of a young Black boy after the police shooting in the neighborhood is an incredibly difficult subject matter, to say the least, especially for a picture book for very young readers. It was incredible to witness the whole process of how this beautifully and powerfully written text by Elliott Zetta was brought to full life by debut artist Noa Denmon’s masterful and heartfelt illustrations. Noa was new to the children’s book field, but we loved Noa’s art style that was sophisticated and rich. As for anyone new to the field, the process must have been long and draining for Noa at times especially with a heavy and important subject. Nonetheless, Noa persevered, did multiple rounds of revisions over and over again for various scenes, successfully bringing out the full range of emotions from characters and readers alike. Noa won a Caldecott Honor with A Place Inside of Me that year and I am incredibly happy that Noa’s beautiful art that is full of heart got much-deserved recognition.
Without any exaggeration, I am constantly amazed by the sketches shared by the artists every day, so it is really hard to pick an example. Even though I love discovering new artists and finding talents, working with debut illustrators always has a bit of risk and I often mentally prepare myself for unexpected turmoil that could come on the way. Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites was certainly not an easy book to illustrate, covering the life of a renowned chef. Because of the nature of cooking Niki was known to do, fantastical elements had to be very naturally blended in with the factual illustrations. There was a ton of research for the illustrator to do and vigorous fact-checking was to follow.
I appreciate seeing the varying range of environments and settings along with the characters. Very often, I receive art samples or a portfolio mainly consisting of spot arts of characters. Character building is very important, but it is often not just about how the character looks, but also about what kind of setting the character is in, and how that environment plays the role to tell the story. If you pick up any children’s book (or the one you love!), you will see that the book consists of double-page spread art, single-page art, and spot arts with varying degrees of settings. Try to do that in your portfolio.
I often recommend including the urban setting, natural setting, home setting, and everyday setting like school, park, or playground. Including a few pieces where multiple characters interact with one another is vital, too, since it’s rare that we only have one character per page in a book, and children’s book is often all about emotions coming from relationships.
I recommend not including anything that you don’t enjoy doing anymore even if it seems like a wonderful portfolio piece. For example, if you have a beautiful woodcut piece that everyone loves, but if you don’t want to make woodcut anymore, don’t include it. It can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication if the publisher likes that very piece, hires you for that style, but you turn in something completely different.
Open-mindedness to collaborate is very important because picture book making is such a collaborative process, and also a very long one. The reason why I love picture book making so much is that you get to work as a team and bring out the best of each other by constant discussion and brainstorming to make the book better and better. To be a part of that process is very rewarding. Also being an open mind leads the illustrators to experiment more and push their limits. That is extremely rewarding as well. But when an illustrator is closed for suggestions and feedback, the whole process becomes rigid and not enjoyable. And again, it is a long process. When no one enjoys that long process because the communication is closed, the book that comes out of it loses a bit of light.
I often tell illustrators that there is a whole team of people who are rooting for their art and the books they create. Even though they mostly communicate with designers/art directors, and sometimes with editors, there are a lot more people behind the scene who are helping to make the book more beautiful and helping to bring the book to more readers. An entire team is there. I want the illustrators to trust the team, open up their ears/minds, and communicate with us. That will help make the best book.
Author and illustrator Benson Shum created this absolutely lovable character Anzu, in his book Anzu the Great Kaiju. Anzu has such a warm personality and has a big heart. If I could, I will be friends with Anzu. Anzu’s personality is shown through his sunny color, kind eyes, in his bright facial expressions, and open body gestures. Everything builds up to make Anzu very believable and he feels very real. Benson masterfully crafted the whole world where readers can instantly understand this sweet, warm-hearted, sun-colored Kaiju who has a long lineage, a loving family of strong personalities, and a passion to grow up to find his own path. Anzu the Great Listener is the sequel to be published next year, and I am very excited for readers to continue the journey with this lovable and thoughtful Kaiju.
There are many and I am incredibly lucky to have met them. Pat Cummings was my thesis adviser in grad school. I learned everything about making children’s books and a lot more from Pat. Without Saho Fujii, I wouldn’t have started working in the industry at all. I am very lucky I trained under her, learning all the basics and best practices of designing picture books. I only worked with Patti Ann Harris for a couple of months before she moved from LBYR to Scholastic, but the way she grew and empowered her team members left a big impact on me and I still frantically reach out to her for questions in my career. Laura Pennock, an adult book division sales executive, might sound like an unusual mentor for a designer, but she has been my go-to person for any questions I have to navigate in the corporate world and has been the biggest support. I was paired with Laura in the mentorship program from Macmillan when I requested that I wanted to learn more about sales, which always felt like a strange, unknown world to me.
All my mentors have been so giving and supportive, they taught me to be that way to others, without even telling me.
When I do school visits or book events with children as an author/illustrator, I am often asked what my favorite book is among the ones I wrote and illustrated. Even after years, I can never answer that question without agonizing over it. And my answer changes every time. For Childrensillustrators.com members, I would like to share my second picture book No Kimchi for Me! because it is the book that taught me the joy of connecting with readers. The book started with my simple desire to illustrate a Korean custom of eating savory pancakes (kimchi pancakes, seafood pancakes, spring onion pancakes, etc) on a rainy day. I grew up with that custom and I always loved it. When it rains, it is common for people to start thinking of eating savory pancakes. It’s fascinating! I went through countless revisions to get the story where it is, with a lot of people’s help (many workshops, critique groups, and first and foremost my editor Grace Maccarone’s invaluable feedback at Holiday House). When the book was finally out in the world, it got more love than I ever expected, and I started getting photos and messages from readers from all over. It was simply incredible to me to witness how a very personal story reached so many people, and how they connected with the story and characters I created. It also opened the door for me to keep working on stories with the same character Yoomi, expanding her world wider and wider, making them into a Yoomi, Friends and Family series including Let’s Go to Taekwondo! and Sunday Funday in Koreatown to this date. I learned so much through No Kimchi for Me! - while I was making it and after I made it. The story itself is not quite about that Korean custom I was inspired by, but for any members of Childrensillustrators.com, if you ever get a chance to see the book, you will recognize that the story does take place on a rainy day, and it will eventually show savory Korean pancakes. Then you will know how it all started. It is a little secret I would like to share here.
I was concerned that this book might be too stressful for Yuko Jones, a debut illustrator we signed on for her beautiful, warm-hearted watercolor illustrations, to work on. It turned out to be a completely unnecessary concern. Yuko was amazing to work with. She communicated very clearly from the beginning regarding her process, the time she needed, and the resource she could use. That assured me that we could work through any difficult parts of the project together. When we received sketches from Yuko, it was simply mind-blowing. I remember reviewing the sketches with the editor, Grace Kendall, and we kept saying “this can’t be more perfect.” Yuko created the beautiful world with her fluid and warm illustrations telling the story of this ambitious and creative chef and her vision of food and art. There were so many details even in the sketches, we could be simply lost in illustrations for a long time.
Although being a psychologist was the biggest dream of my youth, in my first year at university, I realized that while I wanted to learn psychology and loved the subject, I didn't necessarily want to be a psychologist. While contemplating how to build my career after graduating, I channeled my love of writing and submitted an essay and resume to a very well-known literary magazine in Turkey. The editor-in-chief of the magazine said that he was impressed with my writing skills and wanted to meet with me. This meeting was a turning point in my life. The editor became a mentor to me and helped me think about how I could turn my knowledge, interest, and love into a career: children's literature! It was the perfect field where I could combine my psychology background and passion for books and literature.
After this meeting, I began an internship in a children's magazine affiliated with the same publishing house. The experienced and professional team helped me learn things quickly and enabled me to grow. Now that I had made my final decision, I had already immersed myself in the magical world of children's literature. After graduating, I was hired at the same place and started working as an editor for Gonca Children's Magazine. Gonca was not only a magazine but also a media organization that made a name for itself in Europe with its many social responsibility projects. For example, we gifted saplings along with the magazine and planted more than 1,500,000 saplings with our readers in different countries. It was a huge opportunity to be a part of this visionary team.
In the first years of my career as an editor, I started my master's degree in publishing. It was one of the first publishing master's programs in Europe and enhanced my knowledge in the field to a great extent. I continued my publishing studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.
Later, while continuing my freelance work as an editor in Canada, we met with a group of children's publishers with the dream of making a new children's magazine and studied the market for months. Our biggest goal was to create the best magazine on the market, especially visually. Thus, Atlasia was born. We attended to every detail, from creating the name to the most minor page details. And now, in our second year, we proudly and happily reach thousands of readers from all over the world.
Atlasia is the fruit of a Ph.D. project. Our editor-in-chief, Hasan Ahmet Gokce, during his doctoral studies at the University of Waterloo, designed a children's magazine as a project to facilitate the integration and integration processes of Muslim immigrant children into Canada. With the help of such a magazine, children would be able to improve their English and at the same time develop their religious knowledge. The magazine would also reinforce the sense of being a part of a society in children and increase their self-confidence. Therefore, we built Atlasia's main goals around these missions.
We designed Atlasia as a new world for children. When we researched available options for Muslim kids, we found that we could create more fun and inspiring magazine than those on the market. Our goal is to meet the needs and expectations of today's children, both in terms of content and visuals. Atlasia presents children with a fun and exciting world to engage with while also validating and strengthening what is often a marginalized identity.
At Atlasia, our main goals are to provide quality content to English-speaking children worldwide and introduce them to universal moral values. In addition to these, the magazine is not only used as a reading material; we position it as a playmate and as an opportunity to enable family communication. We recommend most activities presented in the magazine be conducted with family or friends. Thus, we aim to respond to our target audience's psychological and social needs.
Atlasia is the very meaning of a dream coming true. We've always dreamed of an inclusive magazine that embraces all kids, including Muslim kids worldwide, and offers them the best quality content. Atlasia is the fruit of this dream and years of hard work with a dedicated team.
At the heart of Atlasia, there is our editorial team of 6 people. The entire curriculum, content, and visuals of the magazine are imagined and designed by this team. Our editor-in-chief, Dr. Hasan Ahmet Gokce, is an academic who has devoted 20 years of his life to children's publishing. He is a publisher specializing in literature, theology, and Islamic arts. Sarah Bayza, the most creative editor of all time, studied sociology and has a natural talent for writing for children. She observes the market very closely, which keeps us up to date on the latest trends and ideas. Betty Oz, the funniest member of the team, studied graphic design, and she adds that humorous touch which is the essential part of children's publishing. Ishmael Bay is an award-winning children's illustrator and graphic designer at the heart of our magazine's visual quality. And Maya Salem is a curriculum expert actively working with children in the field. Each team member is committed to integrating their knowledge into children's publishing. I am in love with this team's energy that works wonders together!
Of course, besides this core team, we have a great marketing team that aims to bring Atlasia to the best place. They are literally the best at giving us feedback by attending to the reader participation and activity feedback and marketing to our young readers in the best possible way.
In addition to these two teams, we have writers and illustrators from all over the world. They reveal what we dream of in the best possible way. I would say I cannot imagine the absence of even one of them.
After returning to our home offices due to the pandemic, I can say that I am currently doing my dream job as someone who likes to be at home, be on my own, and deal with books. The first thing in the morning is to check my mailbox and respond to urgent emails. I prefer not to leave any unanswered or delay my response to them. Then we hold our daily editorial meeting with the team and plan a division of labor on what we need to get done during the day. The rest of my day is spent meeting with the writers and illustrators, making plans for new content, and smiling at our readers’ emails. My dearest fluffy cotton candy cat is with me the whole day; my best luck. Really, who wouldn’t want to spend their workday with their best furry friend!
Oh, thank you so much! Atlasia’s most outstanding achievement is undoubtedly its visual quality. All the illustrators we collaborate with are so good that I don’t know which one to talk about. I can mention the first one that comes to my mind. One of our monthly sections is a puzzle page that we created by illustrating over 50 characters. Our editor, Sarah, builds all the characters one by one and fits her dream scene into a Word document. A short document of 20-30 pages :) We prefer to free our artists by saying certain things on most of our pages, but since this is a puzzle section and there are many scenes we want to have, Sarah describes every detail. Our talented illustrator, Vikke Samson, brings all of Sarah's characters to life so beautifully that we are amazed every time. There’s such a bond between them now that Vikke wonderfully adds new characters to the composition that Sarah didn’t write, and “I thought you might want something like that,” she says. That demonstrates this closeness that we have with our illustrators and that understanding each other is the most important thing to us.
Here are my favorites from this section:
Although we have just completed our first year, we have such beautiful covers that I don’t know which one to choose. Let me start with the most recent. This is our March 2022 issue’s cover drawn by Sara Nikforouz. Sara’s colors and unique style fascinate me. All she needs is the theme, and the rest is up to her incredible imagination.
Another is the cover drawn by Sepideh Baratian for our September 2021 issue. Sepideh’s style is entirely different; she is a cut-paste master! She first visualizes it in her imagination; then, she creates her illustration by cutting and pasting her papers.
And third, the first cover of Atlasia, a drawing by our beloved artist Olga Surina. Olga’s vibrant colors and cute characters exemplify the bar we want to set in our magazine. As you can see, even on our covers, we aim to include children from different backgrounds so that all children find something of themselves. While we created our magazine as a product for Muslim children, it is inclusive, and we hope that all children will find something for them in it.
Rather than styles or subject matters, the first thing I personally look for is the artist’s love for children. Don’t be surprised if I say this; it’s usually clear from a portfolio whether the artist does their work with such passion or if they are simply using a skill. Regardless of skill and training, an artist who loves children can enter that world more easily and effortlessly bring us into the world they have created. Before technical details, I look for this magical atmosphere in portfolios. Other than that, the works that draw our attention in terms of style are those of artists who use colors very well. As for character designs, we care about facial expressions, body movements, and anatomy. For us, it’s great to see both editorial drawings and different character designs in portfolios.
Most of the feedback we receive from our readers is about our modern and high-quality visual identity. I want to quote one of them directly because it is a summary of what Atlasia intends to do:
Dear editorial team of Atlasia Kids,
I wanted to commend you on the brilliant graphics, illustrations, and marketing you have done for this magazine. I will be subscribing for my girls - as a huge fan of Highlights Magazine yet never seeing the representation, and it is lovely to see what you have created here in such a modern yet Islamic way!
We see the magazine not as ordinary reading material but as a new world that offers different reading experiences. At this point, we use the power of graphics. We have an icon set we call Atlasia Toolbox. These icons are designed because our readers have different intelligence types, enabling them to have different experiences on our pages. For example, we present some folk tales and stories as audio stories for our auditory-intelligent readers and show them on our page with the “listen” icon. For our readers who like to do hands-on activities, we have a “do it” icon.
In addition, we include special instructions on some of our pages for different reading experiences that will improve the reading culture and, at the same time, entertain our readers. We write down notes such as “Read this page in the kitchen,” “Read this page under the table,” and “Read this page on the bus.” Thus, the reading experience becomes different for each child.
As I mentioned above, we include guidelines to enable social communication in the magazine. For example, we encourage them to share the personality quiz with their friends or recommend that they do the activities on some pages with their parents. In short, we aim to include fun and interactive activities on as many of our pages as possible.
Atlasia, for me, is like a message in a bottle. Every month we write a message on a piece of paper, roll it up, and put it in a nice bottle. Then we leave it adrift in the ocean. We do not know which shore it reaches or which child receives that message. All we want is to put a smile on the face of every single child who receives our message. Yes, this is our biggest dream!
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Robert Pizzo - Children's Illustrator