Get To Know Our Illustrator: Ellen Kim

How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What's the most impactful thing you have learned from being part of SCBWI? 

I’ve been a member since 2021. The most impactful thing I’ve learned through SCBWI so far is that creating picture books is like a marathon, so don’t give up. Through SCBWI, I found great friends who keep me going.

What medium(s) do you use to illustrate?  If more than one, which do you prefer? 

I prefer color and graphite pencil the most, and I’m also learning Procreate.

What is your illustration process? 

For inspiration,  I’ll scribble, journal, or listen to music. Once I have a story in mind, I research the setting onsite. Then I do storyboards, composition, color and character design. This gets critiqued. Then I make a line draft on 8x10 paper, scan it to Procreate and add values. This gets critiqued again. When I’m happy with everything, I’ll use color pencils on vellum over my line drafts. This gets scanned again and color corrected in Procreate. This would be considered finished until it gets critiqued. Then the cycle continues. 

How long have you been illustrating? How did you first get into illustration? 

I always enjoyed drawing. After college, I became an animator in the gaming industry for a few years before turning 180 degrees to work in pediatric therapy. When the pandemic hit, I started drawing again for self-care. This turned into a desire to create picture books, so it’s only recently been more nuanced.

Are you self-taught, or did you study illustration? If you studied, what school did you attend? 

A bit of both. I studied stop-motion animation in college. When I returned to artmaking a few years ago,  I realized I knew nothing about color theory - I must have skipped that class in school. So I watched a lot of Nathan Fowkes tutorials on Youtube.

Do you have a dedicated art space?  If so, is it inside or outside your home?  

Yes, it’s a corner in my home. I  love my pegboard! I’m a visual organizer so it helps me stay focused. And I display my rejection letters to remind myself that I made an effort. 

What would be your dream book to illustrate? 

Something a little magical, yet funny, that gives readers a bit of escapism. 

Are you working on any fun projects now? 

Actually, I’d like to work on a portfolio for middle grade. I guess that’s my next project.

Do you also write children's books, or have any plans to do so? 

I would love to write a children’s book.  I’m looking for good courses to improve my writing. SCBWI has great conferences and workshops to keep me learning.

Do you have any tips for illustrators starting out? 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s an encouraging book for anyone wanting to start or return to a creative practice.

Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with them? 

I don’t have an agent, but I’m starting to query.

If you have won any illustration awards or have any books published, please list them here. 

SCBWI SoCal Fall Harvest Writers and Illustrators Day 2023

First Place: Picture Book Dummy

Second Place: Portfolio Showcase

Do you have a website or social media account that showcases your artwork? 

Instagram: ellenjkimart

List 3-5 interesting facts about yourself. 

I can eat an impressive amount of chocolate. 

I survived cadaver lab.

My first retail job was at Border’s Books.

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