Ariel Rutland

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Ariel Rutland is an award-winning designer and illustrator whose work focuses on themes of nature, curiosity, humor, and beauty in everyday objects. She grew up in a cozy central New Jersey suburb down the street from a great big house with a pond. Many weekends of her childhood were spent strolling the neighborhood with her Grandma, who would often take the train from Manhattan down to “the country.” She credits their endless neighborhood walks spent storytelling about the squirrels, birds, and rocks that crossed their path as inspiration for her art… and ability to (bring to her art?) view nature and the world through the wondrous eyes of a child…

Ariel graduated from University of Maryland with a degree in fine art and concentration in graphic design. She worked as a product designer at Martha Stewart, followed by lead designer at a boutique branding agency. Her artwork has been licensed to American Greetings, Minted, Target, and West Elm, being featured on greeting cards and home decor. She is currently illustrating a forthcoming children’s book. When she isn’t drawing and designing, she can be found playing in the backyard with her three young boys and husband in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My bedtime book request was always Stellaluna. The illustrations completely transported me into the night sky. I now read it to my boys, who are equally as captivated and curious about these tender characters as I was.

Who or what inspires you the most, and why?

Watching my kids grow.

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ARIEL

Art Process:

I start by asking questions and diving into the subject matter to find answers and (hopefully) discover hidden gems that I can weave into the illustrations. I want to fully immerse myself in the world that I am about to draw. Then I do a lot of loose pencil sketches on paper, continuing to iterate until I find what’s working. Next begins my back-and-forth dance from digital to analogue and back. After I’ve sketched on paper, I create a digital version so I can easily manipulate the pieces—move the tree a little to the left, add some birds, change the season. After I’ve created this digital foundation of flat shapes, I move back to paper and use various media like watercolor, ink, and cut paper—sometimes scribbles from my kids— to create textures and other hand-made marks that I will eventually scan and layer into the digital file. I love using the Procreate app on my iPad and Photoshop for final refinements. Whether I’m working purely digital or a combination, it’s important I retain a hand-made, “perfectly imperfect,” emotive quality to the final art.

Location:

Visit Ariel at:

Awards and honors:

NYPL Best Teens Book List, 2007
Selected as one of 5 Japanese artists to meet Japanese Prime Minister Abe, 2015

Available for School Visits:

Not at this time.

Forthcoming books:

Apart, Together written by Linda Booth Sweeney (coming 2022, Balzer + Bray)


Katie Risor

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Katie Risor is a professional illustrator, author, and designer creating fantastical storybook art in San Antonio, Texas. Growing up on books like The NeverEnding Story, Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh and playing outside every day with her friends led her to create art and stories inspired by nature, everyday experiences, and a little bit of magic.

Professionally, Katie works on picture books, covers, advertising, product design, and book design. She also enjoys geeking out about art supplies and teaching the fun of creativity to others. You can see her tutorials on Tik Tok and Instagram.

Why do you like to draw creatures?

A lot of ingredients went into my brain and came out as my creatures. The true inciting incident is when I got The NeverEnding Story from Blockbuster when I was about ten years old. I watched that movie, and Falcor’s been flying up in my brain ever since. Before that, Snuffleupagus was my favorite Sesame Street character and I’ve always loved fairies, dragons, gnomes and such. But Falcor was life-changing.

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT KATIE

Art Process:

Every project, whether it’s a single illustration or an entire book, starts with an idea. Ideas can pop into my head anytime, but whenever I want to get a new idea I lay on the floor, close my eyes, and wait. Laying on the floor with properly inspiring music will usually give me something.

Next is brainstorming and iteration. For a whole book, this means sketching and storyboarding. For a single illustration this means doing iterative compositional sketches. I want to choose a composition that effectively delivers information to the viewer but is also pleasant, surprising, or delightful to look at, something that goes beyond the main idea.

The best illustrations I do always come from ideas I can see clearly in my head and for which I have a solid execution plan. However, I do like to leave room in the process for playing around. I think that’s why I like traditional media so much; no matter how much you know about the medium, you can’t be fully in control.

Mediums:

Location:

Visit Katie at:

Available for School Visits:

I love teaching art workshops for kids of all ages, but especially youngsters. I showcase the design process  and inspire kids to tap into their own creativity. I do demos on “what if” storytelling, comics, drawing fantasy creatures, and painting.And finally, I explain the book making process and what sort of jobs creative kids can go into.


Black Sands Entertainment

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Black Sands Entertainment is a production studio established in 2016 to develop comics and animated series aimed at African-American families. Their successful series The Seven Kingdoms, Sons of Nibiru, Cosmic Girls, and Mori’s Family Adventures have sold over 25,000 copies direct to consumers and generated $500K in revenue in less than 3 years.

Published books:

Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #1, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #2, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #3, Black Sands Entertainment
Sons of Nibiru, Black Sands Entertainment
Mori’s Family Advantures – South Africa, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands Ultimate Edition, Black Sands Entertainment
Mori’s Family Adventures – Rio, Black Sands Entertainment
Brazilian Culture Exchange, Black Sands Entertainment
World Traveling Coloring Book, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #4, Black Sands Entertainment
Cosmic Girls, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the Seven Kingdoms #5, Black Sands Entertainment
Black Sands, the First Pharaoh, Black Sands Entertainment


Kaia Tseng

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Born in Syracuse, New York and raised in Cupertino, California, Kaia Tseng is a Taiwanese-American illustrator, designer, and entrepreneur. Kaia has been drawing ever since she learned how to pick up a crayon, and has always loved bringing ideas to life in the form of art. By age 15, she began selling her artwork and handicrafts at local conventions. She made her lifelong hobby into her profession at age 24, with the launch of her brand, Kaiami, with the goal of designing products that make people smile and brighten up their day.

Her artwork uses dreamy colors and brings a touch of the fantastical to ordinary moments. In addition to designing for her own brand, Kaia has also produced art for books, games, fashion brands, and galleries.

What is your favorite food?

Carrots have been my favorite food since I was a kid! I have eaten them to the point where my skin turned orange. I also generally like Asian noodle soups (Taiwanese beef noodle and tonkotsu ramen are among my favorites).

What do you love to do for fun?

I love to hold tea parties! I love to get dressed up and drink delicious tea and eat small desserts, but casual tea parties where I can get together and catch up with friends are great too. Aside from that, I’m also a big fan of birdwatching and reading comics.

Mediums:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT KAIA

Art Process:

I thumbnail my ideas in a sketchbook before starting, and usually the sketch will be done with pencil and paper before moving to the lining phase. I sometimes line using a lightbox on top of my sketches, or scan and line digitally. Nowadays, I do most coloring digitally, but I started out using traditional mediums so I am comfortable with markers and colored pencils as well.

Location:

Visit Kaia at:


Misako Rocks!

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Misako Rocks! is a Japanese manga artist based in Brooklyn, NY. At age 19, she won a scholarship to come to American as an exchange student. Her first break came when The Onion decided to use her illustrations for their “Savage Love” column.

Since then, she has published seven books in both the United States and Japan, and teaches manga students privately and at several schools throughout New York City.

What do you love to do for fun?

Kickboxing! Everyday!

Why did you leave Japan to America?

When I was a kid, I watched a movie Back to the Future and got a huge crush on Michael J Fox. I wanted to be his girlfriend. That’s the main reason why I moved to America. Hahaha!

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT MISAKO

Art Process:

If I’m working on comic books, I like to start with a finished manuscript first. It’s easier for me to work this way. My thumbnails look like a bunch of eggs are talking. Once I complete the entire thumbnails, then I can move to the “pencil” process. I normally use awesome manga paper from Japan. I start drawing carefully on these papers. Meanwhile, I draw backgrounds like cities or streets separately. Then I move to the “inking” process. I use Japanese calligraphy brush pens and Copic ink pens to trace the pencil lines. Once it’s done, I scan every page to color them with Photoshop. That’s my favorite part!

Forthcoming books:

Bounce Back, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, Fall 2021

Published books:

Biker Girl, Hyperion 2006
Rock and Roll Love, Hyperion 2007
Detective Jermain, Henry Holt 2009
How to Find a Gaijin Boyfriend Discover 21, Japan, 2014
New York Life Style: How to make your life fun and exciting Discover 21, Japan, 2015
How to speak English with Misako’s method, Ascom Publisher, Japan, 2015

Location:

Visit Misako at:

Awards and honors:

NYPL Best Teens Book List, 2007
Selected as one of 5 Japanese artists to meet Japanese Prime Minister Abe, 2015

Available for School Visits:

I’ve been teaching manga at so many schools! I offer a Manga Drawing Workshop for all ages, where I teach students how to create their own manga characters step by step. I also offer a motivational talk aimed at middle and high school student called “How Misako became a manga artist in America!” I use a slideshow with photos of Japan and comic books to talk about why and how I left Japan and became a manga artist in America.