Get to Know Our Illustrator: Susie Yi

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Illustrated by Susie Yi


Illustration by Susie Yi


Illustration by Susie Yi

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

I've been a member of SCBWI since 2020! The conference was recommended to me by other author and illustrator friends, and after learning more about the organization, I realized that it was exactly what I was looking for. Being in SCBWI, I've had the chance to watch amazing authors, illustrators, agents, and publishing professionals give insight into the industry and their craft. One panel was on understanding what happens to a book when it gets submitted to an editor, and it was so useful to learn about the other side of the publishing process!

What medium do you use?

All of my art for my books is done digitally, but in the past, I have enjoyed watercolor, acrylic, and colored pencils a lot.

What is your illustration process like?

Because I'm a writer and illustrator of primarily graphic novels, the process of illustrating is very closely tied with my writing. When writing, I visualize how the scenes might "play out" on the page, which angles to use and where to place the figurative camera. During the thumbnailing phase, I try my hardest not to focus on perfection but on placement of the characters and laying out the dialogue to match the pacing and narrative. This requires me to really understand the goal of each scene. Before starting the actual drawing, I do test pages to get a sense of what kind of line art I want to use, which style suits the story best, and the types of coloring this book will require. This allows me to select my digital tools, such as my brushes and color palette. Finally, when I'm working on inking, coloring, and the text, I put podcasts and YouTube videos on in the background and enjoy the process!



This is a sketch page of my upcoming YA graphic novel WHEN A TIGER FLIES.



This is a sketch page from my upcoming MG graphic novel A SKY OF PAPER STARS.






And this is the final result of CAT & CAT ADVENTURES: JOURNEY INTO UNIBEAR CITY!

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

My professional illustrating (and writing) career has been since 2020, when I signed my first book deal. As a hobby, I used to draw a lot as a kid, even before I could write! It was so fascinating to me that I could create my own characters, and for me, writing and drawing seemed to go hand in hand. For a while, I stopped drawing because I didn't think of it as anything more than something I liked to do. I got my B.A. in molecular and cellular biology and my M.S. in computer science, and I worked in tech for some time, but illustrating and writing was always something I knew I enjoyed. I got back into illustration when I started drawing every single day for Inktober in 2018. Usually, Inktober ends on October 31st, but even afterwards, I continued drawing comics daily for years. This eventually led me to my literary agent, which led me to sign several book deals, which finally got me to where I am now, publishing and creating graphic novels full time!

Are you self taught or did you study illustration? 

I'm self taught.

Do you have a dedicated art space? 

During writing, I sometimes like to visit coffee shops to get some background noise to help me focus. But when illustrating, I usually am at my desk at home. I decorate my work area with things that make me happy and calming objects like candles to help me get in the creative mood! For inspiration, I also have a rotating mini-shelf of books that I re-read. I don't have a picture, but I did do a desk tour video that I posted online:

What would be your dream book to illustrate?

I have so many dream books that I want to illustrate! If I had to choose one, it would be illustrating something like "Where's Waldo." I love drawing detailed illustrations where people can find little nuggets and surprises. But tied for first place would also be illustrating a graphic novel that tells the story of often unheard voices. It's a very general thought for now, but I want to be passionate about whatever the project is!

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Img - Are you working on any fun projects now?

Currently, the team at Macmillan and I are gearing up for publication this September of my middle grade graphic novel A SKY OF PAPER STARS! It's a story about Yuna, who struggles with feeling like she doesn't belong anywhere. Her other Korean-American friends seem to be doing just fine, but only her family seems to still be stuck bringing kimbap to school and watching Korean TV. Her halmoni (grandmother) once told her that if you make a wish on 1,000 paper stars, it'll come true, and after a big fight with her mom, Yuna wishes to go back to Korea. A few moments later, there's a knock on her door. Her halmoni has passed away, and the family must go back to Korea for the funeral. Not only that, but she finds herself turning into literal paper as grief and guilt consume her. As she learns more about her grandmother, her parents, and their stories, Yuna resolves to undo her wish and bring her halmoni back, before she turns into paper forever. Pictured is a spread from this book.

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More Fun Projects

Other than this dear project of mine, I'm also working on a YA graphic novel titled WHEN A TIGER FLIES, also with Macmillan! The art I provided as a preview is not the final version, but a part of my initial full art drawing process to test what a final page could look like.

Do you write children’s books as well or have any plans to do so?

I write and illustrate all of my books.

Any tips for illustrators that are starting out?

My tip for illustrators just starting out would be to find time to draw every single day. It helped me so much to look at artists whose work I admired and practice different mediums, color palettes, and styles, too! The practice of drawing daily helped me improve immensely from when I began illustrating to now. I still have a lot to learn, so I still try to get out of my comfort zone whenever I am practicing and experimenting with various styles!

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

My agent is Kathleen Ortiz, from KO Media Management! When my Instagram profile grew, an agent reached out to me asking me if I'd be interested in publishing a book with him. Heeding the advice of other authors and illustrators, I did my due diligence and decided to query a couple of other agents and hop on a call with each of them. I think it's so incredibly important that you and your agent have a shared vision of your career, books, and creative styles, and when I spoke with Kathleen, I knew that she was the agent for me!

If you’ve won any illustrating awards or have any books published, please list them here?

The books I have published include:

The World According to Cats

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks (A Junior Library Guild selection, and ASLC Graphic Novel reading list title)

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Goblet of Infinity

Cat & Cat Adventures: Journey into Unibear City

A Sky of Paper Stars (Sept 2023)

... and more books in the Cat & Cat Adventure series, a MG graphic novel, and an upcoming YA graphic novel titled When a Tiger Flies!

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.

A few fun facts about me are:

- I used to attend dental school and even passed my boards exam! There, I got a very deep look at human anatomy through cadaver dissections and lots of medical courses. I believe I spent more time drawing diagrams and realistic muscles than actually studying for my anatomy exams, though, which is probably why I left the medical field and eventually found my way into this creative career!

- My initial inspiration for my cat comics was Mickey, my rescue cat. His story is heartbreaking. Some teens tied him up to a pole and set firecrackers off around him, and he was rescued on the brink of death. His tenacity and goofy personality made me want to draw him into comics! So, really, I can thank Mickey for my career.

- I used to have two pet hermit crabs as a kid.

- My secondary hobby is learning new languages! Currently, I'm learning Russian.

Where can people find you?

My author Instagram where I make my book updates is

My comics Instagram is

And my website is: