Showing posts with label Featured Illustrators. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Featured Illustrators. Show all posts

[Featured Illustrators] Jade Achoy

In 2014, Plain Vision Publishing published Jade Ahoy's first illustrated children's book, written by her librarian mother Grace Achoy. The Black Lake is loosely based on an Amerindian legend about the formation of the Pitch Lake, the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world, found in the town of La Brea in southwest Trinidad.

The book tells the story of a little Amerindian girl named Tacumeh, the daughter of the village cacique (chief) and how she escapes death when the Pitch Lake is formed. Tacumeh, her brother Hisran and their parents live with their tribe in the lush green fields of La Brea. Their idyllic lives are turned upside one day when the villagers get their god angry, and life changes drastically for Tacumeh.

All of the illustrations were digitally created using Adobe Photoshop. The shadowy palette and heavy, dark lines convey a sense of mystery appropriate for an origin myth, and foreshadow the dark forces at play when "strange men" attack and pillage Tacumeh's village and chaos and fire break out. Achoy commented:

The illustration "Tacumeh with Hummingbird" focuses on the loveliness of Tacumeh and her unique connection with the hummingbird. I spent the longest time working on the details of the "Amerindian Village" illustration; it was fun to imagine and visualize the daily activities and lifestyles of the Amerindians. I wanted the cover of the book to provide the reader with a sense of the story, mood and mystery.
Tacumeh with Hummingbird

Amerindian Village

Book cover

The Resistance

Achoy on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

The Caribbean has a colourful, bright and vibrant culture and upbeat lifestyle. From my perspective, illustration helps to capture this wonderful culture that teems with rich stories of the pursuit of happiness, overcoming trials, and folklore from an amalgamation of people with diverse origins who came to the Caribbean. Ergo, Caribbean illustration can meaningfully showcase folklore and culture, and encourage the love of reading as the illustrations bring the words and ideas to life and provide enjoyment to a reader. Illustration can be inculcated like a hearty, filling and delicious slice of the Caribbean.


Jade Achoy graduated from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in 2010 and from Savannah College of Art Design in 2012. Her work ranges from identity and branding to illustrated children's books. Jade is currently a secondary school teacher, a freelance illustrator and part-time lecturer at the University of West Indies. She lives in Trinidad and Tobago with her family and two dogs, Trixie and Chance, where she likes to draw cute things and artistically depict Caribbean culture and life. Jade's work has been featured by STAN Magazine (UWI), Animae Caribe Festival (2010), Arc Magazine and Trinidad and Tobago's Guardian and Newsday newspapers.

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[Featured Illustrators] Jeunanne Alkins

Jeunanne Alkins' first picturebook project, Ready. SET...HATCH!, merges art, storytelling, and environmental awareness. The book is both written and illustrated by Alkins, and was self-published through her design studio, ESPjr, in 2014. She markets the book toward toddlers but it's a story for all ages.

Hatch is a competitive little leatherback turtle. He and his tiny hatchling brothers and sisters are racing wildly to crack out of their eggs and be first to the sea. Crisis arises as the nearby river breaks its banks, flooding the nest. Narrated by Hatch, this charming story teaches the young turtles a lesson about teamwork - they discover that unless they work together, no one will get out of the crumbling mess!

All of the illustrations were digitally created using Adobe Illustrator. The muted palette of earthy tones centers the natural world and the minimalist imagery makes the turtle world larger-than-life. Alkins shared a bit about her process:

The illustration “Mummy arrived in the Caribbean” uses a turtle’s-eye-view angle to put toddlers in the driver’s seat as the majestic mother leatherback scans the beach. I remember the first time seeing the leatherbacks lay under the glow of the moonlight. It was slow at first but finally one emerged, climbing slowly up the steep beach. As we took our gaze off of her, they started coming out in droves. It was such a surreal experience and we felt like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park. I definitely recommend it for everyone’s bucket list.

In the “Scrambling towards the sea” illustration, readers get right into the action with the mass of turtles racing across the surface of the sand towards the sea. Anyone who has witnessed turtle hatchlings emerging from their nest can attest to the melee depicted in this scene.

With the turn of a page, the “Wait, wait, Nooooo” illustration turns up the drama from zero to one hundred. This is probably my favourite part of the book when I’m doing readings with little kids who are usually on the edge of their seats and wide-eyed. I can’t help feeling really grateful that I am able to hold their attention.  
Mummy arrived in the Caribbean

Scrambling towards the sea

Wait, wait, Nooooo

Thousands of miles

Alkins on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

I enjoy the openness of Caribbean children’s illustration - from hand drawn, to collage, to digital, the types of lines, colour palettes, quirkiness and techniques – there are so many different approaches, but once done well, they work. I love that elements of the artist’s voice are reflected in the work.


Jeunanne Alkins is a creative director from Trinidad and Tobago. Her studio (Everything Slight Pepper) accolades include multiple design, ideation and entrepreneurial awards. She is also the author, illustrator and self-publisher of her debut title, Ready. SET...HATCH! Currently she is working with her team on a picturebook called The Most Magnificent which focuses on the built heritage of the Caribbean, and on an adventure-travel cartoon and comic series called Bim and Bam. She is passionate about edutainment and the difference design can make in how children learn.

View more of Jeunanne's work here:

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Featured Illustrators: Laura James

Anna Carries Water is Olive Senior's upcoming picturebook (Tradewind Books, 2014), set in Jamaica, about a girl learning to balance water from the spring on her head. Laura James illustrated Anna Carries Water, her debut work as a children's illustrator. James created the illustrations using acrylic on canvas.

Anna, the youngest of six children, cannot carry water on her head like the rest of her siblings. In the illustration titled "Hurry up Anna!", Anna's sisters and brothers wait while she tries her best to get the coffee can on her head. They are ready to go and she is still trying to balance her can. They don’t think she can do it and they are tired of waiting.

In the illustration, "Home From the Spring", the children walk in a straight line; all except Anna are balancing water on their heads. James confesses: "This is one of my favorite pictures because I was able to show a lot of foliage and a bit of the countryside, and the orange leaf trees that I enjoyed painting. I was also happy to be able to get the Jamaican flag in this one." The illustration, "Oh No, Cows!", shows Anna as she comes face to face with one of Mr. Johnson’s cows; she is very afraid of them and thinks they are out to get her! Of course they are not, and this fear actually helps her to finally balance her water can on her head. Because she is afraid she doesn’t think about it, but puts the can on her head and takes off running!

"Hurry up, Anna!"

Oh no, cows!

Laura on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

"I was very delighted to make the illustrations for this book, written by celebrated Jamaican-Canadian author Olive Senior, and set in Jamaica. This was my first time illustrating a children’s picture book, and I worked on the paintings for about a year. I like to use vibrant colors and painting foliage and lush scenes, and interesting animals, so making these pictures for a Caribbean story was great. It is also nice to share the story with children in the States who are unfamiliar with Caribbean scenes and language, explaining what ‘dasheen’ is, etc. Also sharing the struggles of having to fetch water for daily use and talking about water conservation with young children has been a plus."

Home from the Spring

Laura James, a self-taught painter of Antiguan heritage, has been working as a professional artist and illustrator for over twenty years. She has organized many exhibitions and special projects, including initiating a successful crowd-funding campaign to bring culturally relevant religious art to a remote area in Haiti. Ms. James is currently at work on an ongoing series of paintings titled Nannies and Other Mothers where she tells the stories of countless women who leave their families to come to America, UK, or Canada in search of a better life, taking jobs as domestic workers. The Nanny Series – A Postcolonial Reading incorporates a paper and slide presentation around this project and was first presented at the 2nd ISA Forum of Sociology in Buenos Aires, Argentina in August 2012. James work is widely collected and exhibited and her images have been published in numerous publications and media. She lives and works in the Bronx, New York.

View more of Laura's work here:

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Featured Illustrators: Sayada Ramdial

Sayada Ramdial
Trinidad and Tobago

Although Sayada Ramdial has not yet illustrated a children's book, she has worked on several design projects for children and hopes to illustrate a picturebook one day. Her Christmas card line, "Designed For a Smile" celebrates the spirit of Trinidad and Tobago Christmas, often through the eyes of childhood. Her illustrations are done entirely digitally in Photoshop with the aid of a graphics tablet.

The illustration "Making Pastelles" captures one of the traditions of Trinidad Christmas: making pastelles! Pastelles are delicious seasonal pies made of cornmeal and stuffed with meat. Ramdial says: "I wanted to show in this illustration the feeling of family bonding through cooking. That, and the inevitable stealing of some meat from out of the bowl!"

The illustration "Christmas Eve" was inspired by a personal memory: "When I was very young, my sister and I would wake up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve and go with flashlights to the Christmas tree to sneak a peak at what Santa had brought us. It was all fun and games until we got caught and were sent straight back to bed!" Sounds familiar?

Making Pastelles

Sayada Ramdial on what Caribbea children's illustration means to her:

"Caribbean children's illustration to me means representing our culture in a way that educates, engages, and delights children, and makes our young people feel included in media meant especially for them." 


Sayada Ramdial is an artist and illustrator from Trinidad and Tobago. Her love of drawing from an early age was nurtured and grew, eventually leading to her pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art & Design. Since graduating in 2012, she has returned to Trinidad to work as a freelance illustrator. Her illustrations appear in the poetry collection Through The Eyes of Innocence by Tessa Pascall and are also forthcoming in books by Andy Campbell and Jan Westmaas.

View more of Sayada's work here:

Christmas Eve

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[Featured Illustrators] Caroline Binch

Caroline Binch

Caroline Binch's latest picturebook project, Look Back!, celebrates the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson Christopher as she tells him about her Caribbean childhood adventures in the rainforest in search of a mysterious creature called Ti Bolom. Is Grannie’s Ti Bolom real or just one of her stories? Written by Trish Cooke, a British children's author of Dominican heritage, Look Back! was published by Papillotte Press in May 2013.

The illustrations "Grannie as a little girl" and "Christophine is frightened" depict Grannie as a little girl searching for the mysterious Ti Bolom in the rainforest. The illustration "Christoper Ponders" depicts the grandson Christopher reflecting on Grannie's story about Ti Bolom and wondering if it's true.

Grannie as a little girl

Christophine is frightened

Christopher Ponders

Caroline on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

"I hope that all my books that focus on the Caribbean, including my latest, Look Back!, can lead to better understandings between children from different countries. Gregory Cool, for example, is now read by children in both the UK and Tobago and has led to exchanges between the two countries. I hope my books can lead to making the world a more friendly place where children can identify with the similarities between them and not the differences."


Caroline Binch is the acclaimed illustrator of Amazing Grace, which has sold more than one million copies and was named "One of the Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year" by the New York Times. A winner of the Smarties Prize, she was twice shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Prize. Among her work set in the Caribbean is the picture book Gregory Cool (set in Tobago) which she also wrote; Hue Boy (with words by Rita Phillips Mitchell) and Down by the River: Afro-Caribbean Rhymes, Games and Songs for Children (with Grace Hallworth). She lives by the sea in England but has traveled widely in the Caribbean, having visited Jamaica, Belize, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica where she researched Look Back!

View more of Caroline's work here:

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Featured Illustrators: Danielle C. McManus-Sladek

Danielle C. McManus-Sladek
United States/Jamaica

Danielle C. McManus-Sladek's self-published e-picturebook, My Grandma's Journey is a fictional story inspired by her grandmother, Evelyn Brissette's, journey from Jamaica. It tells of Evelyn's adventure on a ship destined to America when she was seven years old, and her special friendship with a girl named Edna Marsh. You can preview My Grandma's Journey on

In the illustration "Evelyn Leaves Kingston", a sad Evelyn is held in the arms of her mother Edith as she waves goodbye to friends and family. For this illustration McManus-Sladek used watercolor, pastels, and brown sepia ink outlines. She channeled her own memories of moving across town as a child in creating this illustration.

The illustration "Evelyn Remembers" shows Evelyn thinking about all the things she left at home including her cat, Murry; Evelyn is flying back to Jamaica with her favorite blanket that her mother made her. Her blanket reminds her of home and the smell of home. McManus-Sladek used cut-out paper along with watercolors, colored pencils, and sepia ink.

Danielle on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

"Caribbean children's illustration means education and history to me. I think it is important to educate everyone about different cultures other than your own and to educate yourself about your own culture as well. I have noticed there are many negative depictions of the Caribbean and definitely a lack of children's books that speak about it in a positive and beautiful way. It is important to me as an illustrator and author to educate children and adults about a culture that is both special and meaningful."


Danielle C. McManus-Sladek is of Jamaican descent and currently resides in New York where she works as a freelance illustrator. Some of her clients include Crain's New York Business, Easy Spirit/Jones Apparel, MacsWomen, and Lam Design. She has currently written and illustrated five children's books. Presently her work is being shown at Mystic Seaport in the exhibit entitled, 'Restoring a Past, Charting a Future.' As an ambitious artist and entrepreneur, she launched her children's book company, Little Timeless Tales, and a greeting card store on Etsy.

View more of Danielle's work here:

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Featured Illustrators: Mike Blanc

Mike Blanc
United States/Haiti

I Came from the Water: One Haitian Boy's Incredible Tale of Survival is a picturebook based on the real life experiences of an eight year-old Haitian boy called Moses. Moses was a baby when he was found floating in a basket during the Gonaives floods of 2004. He was taken in by nuns at the St. Helene’s orphanage in Haiti who named him after the biblical character.

Award-winning US children's author, Vanita Oelschlager, a well known philanthropist, wrote I Came from the Water after she visited Haiti on a 2010 service trip. At the St. Helene’s orphanage she met Moses, then 6 years old. When she asked him where he was from, Moses replied "I Came from the Water."

Blanc's illustrations for I Came From The Water began as pencil sketches followed by detailed drawings which were scanned in digital format for templates. He used Corel® Painter™, computer software for artists, to paint. With the support of a pressure sensitive drawing monitor he used a variety of the many paper textures available like dotted and wiggly line patterns. He combined custom “real bristle” brushes, color sponges, and blenders with the traditional oil paint color palette. The finished result is a book with varied textures and saturated colors.

Mike on what Caribbean children's illustration means to him:

"Illustrating Vanita Oelschlager’s I Came from The Water introduced me to the true story of a remarkable people– the Haitian people. The tragedies, difficulty and triumphs of the people inform and inspire the highest human qualities. Charity, kindness, humility, fortitude– all the cardinal virtues are displayed within the heart of the characters. The illustration is challenged to present these qualities and the face of Haiti to children worldwide. To me, Caribbean illustration is spirituality and celebration of life through attitude and color! I am grateful to be associated with this Caribbean story, full of life and teeming with hope."


Mike Blanc was born in 1953. In 1997, after 25 years of traditional drawing and painting he added digital illustration to technique. Mike has collaborated with Vanita Oelschlager on two other children’s books: Francesca: Postcards from a War and Porcupette Finds a Family. He is also the illustrator of Bonyo Bonyo: The True Story of a Brave Boy from Kenya, written by Kristin Blackwood. Mike lives in Doylestown, Ohio, USA.

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Featured Illustrators: Leizelle Guinness

Leizelle Guinness 
Trinidad and Tobago 

Leizelle's (unpublished) picturebook, Poppitz: The Frog Who Flew is "a story about believing in your dreams and never giving up." Poppitz the frog desperately wishes he could fly. Will he find a way to fulfill his dream? Wishes, the book suggests, do come true but not always in the way we expect!

The illustrations in Poppitz were first sketched by hand and then digitally inked on a computer to produce the cartoonesque vector illustrations in the book. In the illustration titled "Poppitz and the Chicken", Poppitz shares his dream of flying with a chicken who laughs at the idea, while "Poppitz Does Some Sewing" shows Poppitz putting his plan into action. In "The Fly is Puzzled" a fly tries to figure out how to get out of its, err, predicament (well frogs do eat flies you know!) You can read the entire story of Poppitz: The Frog Who Flew  online.

Leizelle on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

"For me, Caribbean children’s illustration means an opportunity to tell our stories, the stories of a people from various cultural backgrounds, the story of our heritage. We are a growing community and I feel very blessed to be a part of this melting pot."


Leizelle Guinness is an Illustrator and Art Director from Trinidad and Tobago. Her style, she says, is "a reflection of my life experiences and a wide assortment of music." In 2008, her children's animation, Chootsies, won the Adobe Photoshop People’s Choice award. She illustrated the picturebook The Promise of the Pawi, her first children's book project, for the Asa Wright Nature Center in Trinidad. Poppitz: The Frog Who Flew, her second children's book project, she both wrote and illustrated herself. Recently, Leizelle's short film Pothound, co-created with her husband Christopher Guinness and shot and filmed in Trinidad, won 8 international independent filmmaker awards and was a finalist at the Vimeo Festival Awards.

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This Month's Books