• Debi Pickler’s journey through illustration and art began when she was a five year-old in New Jersey. Almost from the moment Debi could pick up a crayon, she was fascinated by drawing, coloring and most of all, creating characters and stories around those characters. Already an “experienced” illustrator at the age of five, Debi one day told her father she wanted to hold a backyard art show and sell some of her growing collection of work. Her father, a steel company executive and former Penn State linebacker, worked with Debi to make a sign announcing Debi’s art show, and mounted it to the mailbox in front of their home. Debi’s excitement and joy quickly turned to tears though, as a summer rain storm drenched all of the works she and her father had carefully hung on their backyard fence. Debi’s father came to her rescue though, wiped away her tears and bought the entire, soggy collection for the hefty sum of two dollars.

    Debi’s interest in art, particularly illustration, grew steadily through her childhood and teen years. And when it came time to choose a college and a field of study, the choice was obvious to her: Kansas University and Fine Art. At KU, Debi immersed herself in illustration, working long hours to develop a variety of techniques, sharpening her skills and developing the ability to shift from one media to another.

    Following her graduation, Debi built a career as a graphic designer, while continuing to develop her technique and broaden her skill set. Her career included stints as a medical illustrator at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as several years as a graphic designer with local consumer products manufacturers. And while she found challenges in her work, she never hesitated to develop additional proficiencies outside of work.

    As a result, today Debi is highly skilled in pencil, watercolor, acrylics, oils, airbrush, ink, pastel, clay and computer-based illustration. She has won several SCBWI Mentorship programs, and has served as a speaker at the Missouri SCBWI Regional conference two years in a row. Her love of illustration goes hand-in-hand with her passion for storytelling, and she believes the greatest illustrations tell stories. Debi also recognizes that the key to illustrating children’s books is to not only retain, but to grow her ability to see the world through the eyes of a child. She calls having that perspective “the most important asset any children’s illustrator could ever hope to have.” That asset comes through loud and clear in her work, which features characters whose features are extremely telling, and settings rich in detail: In the worlds Debi creates, tall trees wear hats, spots change color on running leopards and weasels have bucked teeth.

    Since that rainy day in New Jersey, Debi’s works have been displayed at several art shows, the latest of which is the Ann Metzger Memorial National All Media Exhibition, in which she won the Viola Longmire Memorial Award. She is also a member of the St. Louis Artist Guild, and Best of Missouri Hands.

    In addition to her outstanding children’s literature illustration work, Debi continues to develop as a designer working for a local financial investment company. A key to her success in all three fields, is her conviction that the best art is a form of communication. With that in mind, Debi has cultivated a deep understanding of branding, licensing and marketing, enabling her to play a valuable, multi-faceted role in the business world. Debi’s strong suit is in analyzing the goals and needs of her clients and creating unique approaches to fulfilling those goals and needs. Debi constantly looks for not only the best solution, but also for a new, distinctive direction that sets her work and her clients apart from — and-above – “the crowd.” Her work has involved everything from extremely precise technical illustrations and electronic communications pieces to trade show exhibits, innovative packaging and hand-painted 40′ wall murals.

    What’s next for Debi? “I want to continue to explore illustration for children’s books and take it to the next level,” she says. “There is simply no end to what an illustrator can do with children’s books. The choices of styles are endless, the characters have to be vivid, and the readers LOVE to be entertained. It’s the perfect opportunity for an artist. What more could you ask for?”


  • Illustrating children’s books is my true passion. It lets me face my ultimate challenge as an artist:  On one hand, I have to completely understand the author’s goals, see her or his vision, learn how the author likes to work and know the deadlines, budgets and other “real world” considerations of the project. On the other hand, to give the author and the reader my best possible work, I have to purposely throw away limits, break barriers and create visual effects that are communication on another plane. It’s a huge challenge, the ultimate puzzle, but for me, it’s endlessly engaging. After all, if you have no structure, no limits, no expectations, well you just do whatever you want and there’s no real sense of accomplishment.
    Besides, I love working with authors. Each one is different, each has an approach that works just for her or him, and each one has a unique vision. I love developing the shared vision … answering the questions “What does THIS character look like?” and “How does my characters’ world look?” Nothing is better than answering those questions with my work, and giving the author and the reader more than they ever dreamed of experiencing.