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.


Leonardo Quiles

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Leonardo Quiles is an author, illustrator, and educator. His career in computer generated visual effects for feature film and advertising laid the groundwork for his interest in sequential narrative. Visual storytelling inspires his interest in developing original content for children’s graphic novels, as well as animation, editorial illustration, and other comics work. 

Leo studied Illustration at Parsons School of Design and holds a BA is Art History from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and an MFA in Illustration from the University of Hartford. He is an elementary school Visual Arts teacher working and living in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts with his wife, their two children, and their puppy Roxy.

Leo is the recipient of the 2021 We Need Diverse Books Mentorship with author/illustrator Mike Curato, Flamer, Henry Holt, 2021.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book as a child was “Where the Wild Things Are”. I remember wanting to draw like Maurice Sendak, even as a child. I would copy his characters, sometimes tracing them. I especially liked the griffin character from the Wild Rumpus scene. I imagine there is still an element of Sendak’s work influencing my own work today.

Visit Leo at:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT LEO

Location:

Art Process:

I keep a sketchbook and I draw regularly. My design process always begins with drawing. My solution is found somewhere between my head and my hand. As I am cognitively working out the design problem, I am also visually problem solving on paper. Once I have a sketch I’m happy with, I’ll bring it into Procreate to clean-up, to finalize the composition and to set the scale for the final artwork. The sketch is then printed onto a heavy stock paper, like watercolor or vellum. If the final work is a comics page, I’ll ink the line work traditionally with steel nibs and paint watercolor for the fills. If the work is a more traditional illustration, I’ll paint the final steps in gouache.

Mediums:

Awards and honors:

2021 We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Award with author/illustrator Mike Curato, Flamer, Henry Holt, 2021.  

2021 Practice Kindness, pencil, ink, watercolor on paper. Norman Rockwell Museum – permanent collection. 

2019 Charmed, porcelain. 20-year anniversary show for Sienna Patti Contemporary, Lenox, MA. Museum of Fine Arts Boston – permanent collection.

2018  Murray Tinkelman Award for Excellence in Illustration.

Available for School Visits:

I am an elementary school visual arts teacher. In many ways, I feel as though I do a school visit every day! 

For author visits, I read a passage from my graphic novel, HOME, then lead an activity where we create a “mini-zine” with 8.5×11’ paper and pens. I can also work with students to create a folded paper sculpture of a traditional folk mask, a vejigante, that they can color, cut, fold, glue and wear. 


Turtleboat

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Turtleboat is a comic book artist and illustrator based in NYC. He works primarily with pen and ink, and colors either digitally or with watercolor. His clients include Okayplayer.com, Random House, and VOX Media. 

In his free time he watches highlights of PRIDE FC and K1 Championships, or collects reference photos from Pinterest and photo books. He also has a grey cat named Kato.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Favorite comic book growing up was definitely Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama.

What is your favorite food?

Favorite food is Korean braised beef stew made by my mom.

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT TURTLEBOAT

Art Process:

I start off with loose pencil sketches. After that, I spend a good chunk of time finding the correct reference materials. If I can’t find them, I pose for them myself (LOL).

Once the pencils are roughly in place, I utilize a lightbox to ink with a combination of nib pen, microns and brush. I scan the finished inks, and decide to either color traditionally with watercolor, or digitally with Photoshop. Once the back and neck aches start creeping in, I step away and stretch or workout a little bit. Then, back to the drawing!

Published books:

Awkwafina’s NYC 2015 – illustrator, sketch
Pankronicles: Early History of MMA – illustrator for Youtube series under Bloody Elbow, VOX Media

Mediums:

Location:

Visit Turtleboat at:

Available for School Visits:

I’ve spoken at a panel for comics creators at the Queens Book Festival, as well as at a program for high school students at the New School. I enjoy presenting about the craft of comics

Awards and honors:

Silent Manga Audition, Coamix – SMA5, Award Nominee
Silent Manga Audition – SMA4, Award Nominee


Joe Latham

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Joe Latham is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Bristol, UK. He cut his teeth creating custom MySpace Pages (RIP) for bands, which lead to a lot of interesting projects. From designing bespoke Golf Balls for celebrities to animating music videos for Cradle of Filth, Joe has done design work for Jilly Cooper, The Joy Formidable, Five Seconds of Summer, Uniform Dating, Ok Cupid, IndieGoGo, a number of UK Universities, Sony Music, and Warner Music, to name a few.

Joe has self-published a number of comic books and regularly exhibits at UK comic festivals. He’s planning to exhibit at other European and International festivals in the future. He loves meeting people and talking to them about his work.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Winnie the Pooh, or possibly The Giraffe, The Pelican and Me. It’s a tough call, because Roald Dahl was exciting in a way that other books have never been, but Winnie the Pooh has stayed with me forever. I used to take a collected version to my Mum’s piano lessons when I was a kid, and sit there next to a stinky gas fire with a tubby black-haired scotty dog. The dog would lay on its back getting a weird sunburn on its belly from the fire (and it would fart, all the time).

What cool travel spots would you most highly recommend?

Copenhagen, for its incredibly comfortable culture, amazing pastries (get a hot cinnamon swirl, your life will never be the same again), great coffee and beer, cool electric city bicycles, amazing museums and great food. 

I’d also recommend Berlin. It’s an amazing place, though it changes every year. It never sleeps. Seriously.

One of the happiest times of my life was driving up the West coast of the USA. We hired a car and drove from San Francisco up to Portland. It was the most free I’ve ever felt, and I hope to go back one day for longer adventures.

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT JOE

Art Process:

I like my work to feel tangible and retain a sense of the energy you get from those early drawings, so I try to make sure the final pieces are refined enough, yet expressive. It means that each stage of the process is relatively quick in order to keep some of that feeling.

Typically I draw my thumbnail sketches with a Fountain Pen, then using a smaller paper size I will draw the final piece in rough using Blue Col-erase pencils (these are used a lot by animators – they don’t smudge yet aren’t too hard, so you can be nice and expressive). I then scan this, print it faintly on to smooth finish (hot press) Watercolour paper (it has a touch more tooth than Bristol board so I find it suits my inking style better – less smudges). Then I ink over this, mostly using a Kolinsky Sable no6 brush and a pot of ink, some fine liner work in there too. Scan it, colour it using Photoshop and an array of collected brushes that I’ve picked up down the years. I have a small handful that I return to most often.


Andi Watson

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I was born and raised in Kippax, a small town in Yorkshire, England. I spent half my life playing outdoors with my brother and friends and the other half reading, drawing and watching TV. Despite being in awe of the power of stories I was intent on being a car mechanic. Eventually I realised I had no interest in cars and even less talent for fixing things and went to art school in Liverpool. I rediscovered comics, made one of my own, graduated and continue to make more.

I’m still in awe of the power of stories and the satisfaction and challenge of telling my own through words and pictures. I live in Worcester with my wife and daughter.

What is your favorite food?

I like Brussel sprouts and broccoli but shiver in horror at courgettes. Brrrr….courgettes.

Specialties:

Published books:

  • Kerry and the Knight of the Forest (graphic novel)  Random House Graphic, 2020

And many others… click here for a complete bibliography.

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ANDI

Location:

Mediums:

Art Process:

Everything starts with a pencil and paper, whether it’s noting down story ideas or thumbnailing images. I think with a pencil and problem solve on paper. No Moleskine notebooks for me, I use the back of old print outs and bills. Whatever’s to hand and I’m not precious about.

Once I have an idea I’m happy with I’ll move to pencil on paper. When I’m satisfied with the sketch I’ll use pen, brush, ink to complete the art. I try to balance a liveliness of line with control and clarity. Then I’ll scan it in and use Photoshop to tweak and colour.

Available for School Visits:

When I do school visits, I collaborate with the children to create an improvised comic story from their suggestions.

Visit Andi at:

Awards and honors:

Eisner, Best Graphic Album Reprint nomination 2000: Geisha

Eisner, Best Limited Series nomination 2001: Breakfast After Noon

Harvey, Best New Series nomination 2004: Love Fights

Eisner, Best Publication for Kids nomination 2009: Princess At Midnight

British Comics Awards, Young People’s Comic Awards nomination 2012. Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling


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

Location:

Visit Black Sands Entertainment at:

Available for School Visits:

Yes.


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.


Debbie Fong

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Debbie Fong is an illustrator, designer, and cartoonist from Brooklyn, NY, and currently the (sole) artist behind POMMO Press, where she turns her best doodles into fun products like enamel pins and embroidered patches. After attending her first indie comics festival in 2015, she fell in love with the world of small press comics and has been drawing and printing her own books ever since, exhibiting regularly at comic festivals around the country.

As an illustrator, she enjoys both commercial work as well as longer narrative projects. Past clients include Time Inc. Books, The Strand, and CreativeFeed. Her latest illustrated children’s book is titled How To Be a Person, written by Catherine Newman and published by Storey Publishing (May 2020).

Favorite food:

Noodles! 🙂 I love all types of noodles from Italian pastas to Asian egg noodles, rice noodles, and even noodles made from beans! Growing up as a Taiwanese-American kid in Northern New Jersey, I think I got to eat the best of both worlds – noodle soups with vermicelli and fried shallots at home, and spaghetti and meatballs whenever we went out.

Favorite travel spots:

One of my new favorite things is to go on road trips! In 2018 my partner and I took our first cross-country road trip from New York to California with our dog and it was an unforgettable trip. Since then we’ve done a bunch of smaller road trips, but I can’t wait until our next big trip to the West Coast!

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT DEBBIE

Mediums:

Specialties:

Location:

Forthcoming books:

How To Be a Person, Storey Publishing (May 2020)

Awards and honors:

Ignatz Award nomination, 2018
Broken Frontier Award, 2018

Art Process:

My illustration work is 95% digital, which means there is a lot of fluidity to my workflow that I find helpful when working with clients or other artists on a project. For example, changes to “inked” lineart are not too difficult to make at any stage, and when requested, I can deliver Photoshop files formatted so individual colors can be easily changed. In terms of my approach to a new assignment, I find that establishing clear communication from the beginning can really help to get everyone on the same page, so I always try to be as thorough and communicative as possible!

Visit Debbie Fong at:

Available for School Visits:

Not at the moment!