Frequently Asked Questions
Where are you from?
I was born in Taiwan and I moved to New Zealand when I was four years old. I lived in New Zealand for 8 years before moving back to Taiwan which is why you might hear me speak with a weird mix of accents! 
How do you pronounce your name?
My name is pronounced LEE-ANN CHO (like cho-sen).
My name in Mandarin is An-Li (安立) so if you switch it around, it spells Lian! 
Where did you go to school?
After high school, I spent my first year of college completing a one year Foundation in Arts and Design degree at Central Saint Martins in London which inspired my Tiny Pig in London illustration series. After I finished my year, I decided I wanted to study illustration and transferred to the School of Visual Arts' BFA illustration program where I graduated in 2019.
What materials do you use for your books?
I like to use a mix of materials for each book but here are some of the common materials I use: 
•Holbein watercolors
•Golden acrylics
•Prismacolor color pencils
•Winsor and Newton gouache
•Nichiban masking tape
•Fountain pen and Noodlers Ink
For digital work I like to use Procreate on the iPad as well as Adobe Photoshop for editing.
If you want to hear me talk more about materials you can watch my sketchbook tour here.
Do I need to go to a fancy art school to be an illustrator?
Nope! There are plenty of artists out there who are self taught, went to community college or studied something completely different. I've never had any client ask where I went to school. Art school tends to have very high costs and I only recommend it if you can afford it and will take full advantage of it. If you're unsure if you want to become an illustrator or artist, it's much more worthwhile to take a gap year and explore your options instead of going directly into art school. My year in London helped me get a better grasp of what it is I wanted to do so when I started SVA I was much more energized to take full advantage of all the classes and opportunities.
If you can't afford it, there are plenty of courses online that are far more affordable. It's simply about discipline. The positive about art school is that it provides you with structure and deadlines that you need to follow. A big appeal of art school for many is the promise of connections but with the internet now, it's also easier than ever to network without school as you can easily find emails for illustrators or art directors that you would like to get to know. 
How did you get started in picture book illustration?
During my junior year at SVA I made my portfolio website which I put up on Women Who Draw, an open directory of female illustrators started by Julia Rothman and Wendy MacNaughton. After a couple months, my portfolio site was discovered by art directors/editors at Penguin Random House and HarperCollins who invited me into their offices to show my portfolio. After total silence for a few months, I was offered my first illustration job which was illustrating the cover and interior artwork for Erin Entrada Kelly's Lalani of the Distant Sea. They must have liked working with me because after I finished Lalani of the Distant Sea, I was offered the contract to illustrate The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom, my first picture book! 
Do you have any tips for creating a picture book portfolio?
When creating art for a picture book portfolio it's important to keep in mind that narrative is a key element art directors and editors are searching for. You should focus on creating illustrations that make the viewer curious about the characters and environment that they can easily form stories in their head about them. 
Another key element is to showcase consistency in your technique. You don't have to stick to the same style for all of your work, but you do have to show that you're able to draw the same character in different situations since it is a big part of what picture book illustration is. If you have different styles, it's important that each style is done well! 
Finally, the best way to create art for picture books is to look at picture books! And not just the classics that you grew up reading. While Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle are absolute geniuses, it's important to keep yourself up to date with current trends in picture books to see what types of work is being published. 
Some subjects that art directors and editors are on the lookout for are illustrations of animals, people, people and animals in environments. But ultimately, make the work that feels right to you, that excites you because your excitement will rub off on others. If you want to make weird monster art, or anatomically correct insect drawings, go for it! 
I made the art! What now?
!t's very important to have a strong website when you're starting out. Although social media presence can play a big factor in getting discovered as an illustrator, it is still important to have a professional portfolio site where your artwork is showcased. Here are some tips: 
•Make sure your website is clean and organized. Separate your website into different sections if you have more than just illustration work, such as animation or comics.
•Put your best work first and treat it as if it's a physical portfolio of work you're showcasing and only put work that you want to make.
•Make it clear how to contact you and prioritize your name. That means having your email very clearly on your website. 
•Make it as physically easy as possible for an art director to immediately get a sense of your work and how to contact you which means no contact forms or landing pages that are just an extra hassle to get through.
You can be discovered in such a wide variety of ways because of the internet now. Instagram, Twitter (make use of hashtags such as #portfolioday), Etsy, Pinterest, SCBWI portfolio showcase, student shows, agency websites or cold e-mailing samples/postcards to art directors and editors are just some of the many ways people are discovered. Now that you have your website it's important to try to link everything to it. Your website it is important because it is what makes you seem professional, as it serves as a reference for your final artwork that an art director can pitch to their team. Every time someone is hired it is basic risk analysis so you have to appear as low risk as you possibly can be. This means having a professional site and email, a consistent portfolio, responding to emails on time and being polite! 
Being discovered is simply based on luck sometimes but I believe everyone comes across multiple lucky opportunities in their life. It is about being prepared when the opportunity arrives! If you put yourself out there and you're prepared for when the time comes, you'll make it far. 
Do I need a literary agent?
A good literary agent is wonderful for any working picture book illustrator or writer. A literary agent will help you negotiate better terms and advances in your contract. They can also help you edit and pitch your own story to publishers and are useful for aiding in communication with editors or art directors if you are struggling. If you are beginning to get work in picture books or have publishers interested in your work, I would highly recommend getting an agent. 
However, the amount with which an agent is guaranteed to get you work is limited and widely varies. Just because you get an agent doesn't mean that work will come pouring in as publishing schedules are generally very slow. If you're struggling to find work, focus more instead on honing your portfolio and getting your website and work out there! An agent may have plenty of contacts but the likelihood that multiple publishers have the perfect project for you is very low. 
I want an agent! How do I find one?
The brilliant author/illustrator Anoosha Syed has a great youtube video with information about finding an agent which I highly recommend! You can watch it here
My advice for finding an agent is to take it slow. Things don't happen overnight and you may receive a lot of rejections.That's okay! Just take some time to lick your wounds and get back to honing your portfolio. If possible, see if they have any feedback you can incorporate! 
When it does come time to choose agents, it's best to treat it like dating! Once you've signed with an agent, it's like a marriage which is difficult and messy to get out of. It's better to take your time, "date" around, and meet with multiple agents before settling down with the right one. It's best to find someone who complements your tendencies. 
Another tip when you do meet with an agent is to ask they can give you emails of some of their clients so you can ask them about their experiences with that agent. If the agent doesn't want to share any details that should be a red flag! 
The industry standard for a literary agent is to take a 15% commission on all projects that they handle for you. Some literary  agencies charge over 15% which I wouldn't recommend. When you work as a picture book illustrator you are working freelance, which means that you'll have to put aside your own taxes. For example, if an agent is charging 25%, and you have to deduct 30% for taxes, you'll be getting less than half of what you earn in the end. 
And lastly...
I have a really good picture book idea, can you illustrate it?
I am currently not interested in working on manuscripts that are self published or independent. However, if you work for a publisher and are interested in hiring me for a project, you can contact my agent Rebecca Sherman at rsherman@writershouse.com



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