Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
I fell in love with picture books as a child but I didn't realize it was something I could do until I was in college. I was studying illustration at UMass Dartmouth and I was lucky enough to have an illustration professor, Karen Klingon, who both inspired and encouraged me. She suggested writing and illustrating for children and encouraged me to pursue it. She pointed me in a direction and that is when the seed was planted. It took a number of years after graduation to refocus and commit to children's books.
Are you an author/illustrator?
Yes, I am an author/ illustrator although I like to say I’m an illustrator first, writer second. My background is in animation and comics as a colorist and a painter, so my career began as an artist. I am completely enamored by children’s books, and I love that feeling of getting lost in the story. For me, the storytelling begins with the pictures and jotting down thoughts. I’ve learned that if I can stay in the pictures first, I won’t get too lost. My stories begin with doodles, and loose sketches until I have a sense of the character and setting, then I begin to jot down story notes and slowly watch the story take shape.
Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.
I write, sketch, and paint in my home studio in Southern California. My studio space is a carved out nook of our home. It was once a den-style living room but now functions as a studio space I share with my husband. I have a small light table I bought back in college that I still use. It fits nicely in this space, along with my computer and drawing table. The only work I put up on my walls are the projects I’m working on. I use the wall to spread out and see everything in one glance, which helps me focus.
I love having a bookshelf near me while I work. I rotate books because they don’t all fit in this space, but I feel I need to have them near me. I adore children’s books, especially picture books; they bring so much comfort, wonder, and possibilities. I often will make a stack to revisit, and usually have a hard time deciding which ones need to be put away to make room for new ones.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?
I would say that if writing for children is something you really want to do, be passionate about it. Read, read, and then read more children’s books, especially books that have been published within the last five years. Be gentle with yourself. If you don’t have hours blocked out for writing that doesn’t mean you put off writing; it means you become determined to carve out creative time when you can. Know that you will grow with each story you write and first drafts are meant to be just that, first drafts. You will follow your first draft with a second, and third and onward until it is as polished as you can make it. Please know you can do this, it just takes time. Keep writing, keep showing up, keep creating and it will click for you.