Illustrator Spotlight: Santiago Casares

© Santiago Casares


Sept. 23, 2016

Today we present illustrator Santiago Casares, a graphic designer, freelance illustrator, comic maker, and children's illustrator.


Tell us about how you came to illustrate for children.

That is a great question, believe it or not.

The short answer is that I came into children's books illustration through winning a picture book writing contest back in Mexico and deciding that I wanted to do the whole enchilada. 

© Santiago Casares


The longer answer is a little bit more complex. Writing and drawing have been passions of mine my whole life. As well as comics. And comics are related to picture books as both mediums combine words and pictures. I’ve been doing webcomics in one way or another for over 10 years. Then I went to art school in undergrad, and have worked as a Graphic Designer ever since. As I mentioned before, I won a picture book writing contest and with the money from the publishing rights to the book QUISIERA SER UN LEÓN (I’d Like To Be A Lion) I was able to study an MFA in illustration, focusing in children’s books.

© Santiago Casares


Tell us about all the creative hats you wear. How do you decide what kind of projects you work on at any given time?

The only hats I actually wear are my 49ers and Giants baseball caps, but as you’re asking about creative hats, well that’s a different story. My day job is as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator. Then I do my comics on the side. And besides both of those things I write and illustrate stories for children.

© Santiago Casares


And what creative hat is on my head at any given moment is a question of how many projects I am juggling at the time.

Congrats on being a runner up to the Tomie de Paola Award in 2015! How did that win affect your work or career?

Thank you so much. That round of applause at the SCBWI NY conference is one of the moments I’ve felt more proud! Unfortunately, being a runner-up didn’t help my career, but having Tomie de Paola give me a few critiques along the way was priceless. He’s one of the nicest people working in children’s books and his generosity is so, so valuable.

© Santiago Casares


What is the hardest part about illustrating for you?

They say the key is on the details, and that’s precisely the hardest part for me: putting more details into the image. And once again, it’s something that I have to push myself into doing.

What is the easiest part?

Sketching out ideas! This is the best aspect of illustrating, when you can let yourself go loose (and of course you need to weed out the ideas that don’t work, and even the more obvious ones).

What projects are you working on?

Right now I’m working on two different dummies to send out, one is about a cat looking for his witch, and the other one is about a kid that suspects that there might be something fishy about his new baby brother.

© Santiago Casares


Ha. Those sound great. Who or what inspires you?

This is such a broad question! I can say that my critique groups inspire me, as well as artists and writers whose work I respect and admire (such as Jon Klassen, Oliver Jeffers, Neil Gaiman, Mac Barnett, Lane Smith, Quentin Blake, Dr. Seuss, Ben Hatke, Gene Luen Yang, Kelly Light, Dan Santat, etc).

And regarding what inspires me, the short answer is life. What I see around me, what I read, the music I listen to, the shows I watch… and coffee. We can never forget coffee.

© Santiago Casares


What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I don’t think this is a secret, but I’m a caffeine zombie. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

Oh, and also I make some killer Huevos Rancheros! Yum!

Where can we find you online?


You can find me at the appropriately named santiagocasares.com, and you can see my webcomics at chilisworld.com and nurseryrhymescomics.tumblr.com



Santiago is a Mexican-born writer and illustrator living in the DC Metro Area. He's a member of SCBWI and 12x12. The latest book he illustrated is MY HEART WENT BEATING FAST, a collection of stories written by fifth graders and published by 826DC. 

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