Illustrator Spotlight: Mirka Hokkanen

© Mirka Hokkanen

May 3, 2019


Today we are excited to feature debut illustrator, Mirka Hokkanen and her debut picture book, FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK written by Vivian Kirkfield. (Pomegranate; First edition (April 1, 2019)) Be sure to enter the drawing for a copy at the end of this interview!

Welcome, Mirka!



Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.

I have always loved books and libraries. As a child, I loved how reading could transport me everywhere around the world, across time and to magical places. When I had my own kids, it was nice to have a more obvious reason to visit the picture book section at the library. I got the courage to pursue illustrating, after taking a PB illustration class with Make Art That Sells, joining SCBWI from there and realizing what a wonderful community it was. We had a local SCBWI chapter that met weekly and being involved really helped me grow as a beginning illustrator.   

How does your parenting influence your children's illustration, if at all?


© Mirka Hokkanen

I am able to draw so much from my own kids right now, ages 1, 5 and 7; their imagination, what makes them tick, their friends, goofy situations and learning about social interactions. When we read together, I can see how they respond to certain books, what they like and what they are bored with. It's like my built-in target market.    


© Mirka Hokkanen



Congrats on FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN by Vivian Kirkfield tell us about it and what your process was for illustrating it.


© Mirka Hokkanen
It was so fun to work with Vivian and Pomegrante on this book. After weeks of research for each spread, I worked out detailed digital color sketches. The sketches were approved by the publisher before I started the finals, which was important because it would be very difficult to change places of things in completed wood engravings. 


The final illustrations for Four Otters were wood engravings. It was a long process to carve each mark on a printing plate and to carve 3-4 plates for each illustration. The printing plates are a thin plastic material, that you can see in the process photos. Each plate was then printed with black ink on a letterpress, and the prints were scanned in, and cleaned, layered and colored digitally in photoshop for the final illustrations. That way if the publisher had any changes to colors, it was easy for me to tweak them. We had already agreed on the compositions in the sketching phase. 





What projects are you working on now?

I'm an active printmaker and just launched a print collection called Flora and Fauna (available at http://www.picadoodlepress.com). In kidlit I'm working on a new dummy for a story that I wrote myself, and I'll hopefully have news to share about a second book in the near future.  


© Mirka Hokkanen


What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Find your voice, and your style. There are a lot of folks doing very similar styles. If you can stick out of a crowd with a unique style, it will be easier to get noticed. Practice your craft, get honest feedback for your work, and learn about the industry. Kidlit411 is such a great bank of information to learn from. Join SCBWI.org and start making friends through your local chapter, conferences, facebook, webinars, classes. It's a wonderfully supportive community, and you will be all the better for it. 

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


I watch cheesy Netflix romance movies/tv series when I work on engraving or painting. (To my defense, they are easy to follow while halfway listening and not really watching! LOL)

Where can people find you online?

I'm online in a lot of places, but Instagram is my most active spot, where I comment back and respond quickest. My blog has a series of 4 posts that show the illustration process in depth with lots of videos and photos.  

http://www.mirkah.com
http://www.instagram.com/mirkahokkanen
http://www.twitter.com/mirkahokkanen
http://www.facebook.com/picadoodlepress 
http://mirka-h.blogspot.com/






Mirka is a Hawaii artist, illustrator and author. Mirka’s favorite things to illustrate are animals and kids. She loves a good chuckle and adds a spark of humor where ever she can fit it. When not brandishing a pencil, Mirka is probably wielding a cheese stick and a book to appease the three wild kids that claim her as their mother at home. Her debut book, Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book, came out in March 2019.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

29 comments:

  1. Love the art. Great interview!

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  2. I love this book! Congratulations, Mirka!

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  3. Gorgeous illustrations. Why do you work with wood carvings? These are just beautiful. Congratulations on your new book. Will definitely be checking this out. What a stellar combo.

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    1. Thanks so much Cheryl! I love the look of wood engravings and linocuts. How I got into it is because it's a technique that travels easy and can be printed at a home studio. We move do a different state/country every 3 years because of military, and that puts some pressures on what I can and can't make.

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  4. Those woodcuts are amazing--I can only imagine how time consuming they are to create! Congrats on your new book and I can't wait to see that soulful hound with the musical insect parade in an upcoming book.

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    1. Love the art - deceptively simple & complex at the same time! Can't wait to read the whole book!

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  5. These are so gorgeous! I especially appreciate the inclusion of the rough dummy layout, it's so helpful to see examples of others work.

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    1. Thanks so much! Its what I love to see about other illustrators work too. If you click to my blog (link at the end), you can see the whole process chronicled in 4 blog posts.

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  6. This book is so beautiful, both the writing and the illustrations. Congrats to all!

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    1. I agree. Vivian is an amazing author. As soon as I read the manuscript, I was in love. And her other books out this year are amazing too.

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  7. These illustrations are out of this world!! Congrats

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  8. I hope I will find this at the NE-SCBWI conference bookstore this weekend. Can't wait to read it!

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    1. I won't be there so not sure if they buy copies to sell in that case? You can always buy the book on Amazon, or my shop if you want a signed copy. I hope to be in New York for the big conference in 2020. :)

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  9. I love her amazing technique! The book is very beautiful, and I like the picture with the doggy, also! She should do prints like the great wood engravers and typographers in England in the first half of the 20th century! People like Eric Gill, etc. --But I prefer the emphasis on playful fun!

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  10. Delightful illustrations - I can't wait to see more!

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  11. Wowzer!
    #Kidlit411 you have done it again.
    The #title ... LOVE IT!!!
    The #writing ... LOVE IT!!!
    The #illustrations ... SIMPLY #GORGEOUS - #LOVE THEM!!!
    The #giveaway ... #AWESOME !!!
    What do all these things add up to?
    A new book on my #wishlist to #readandreview on my #bookblog
    I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this #book

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  12. Congratulations on the fabulous book! I love your style and enjoy learning about your process. I especially love the book dummy. Great interview!

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  13. LOVE LOVE LOVE your illustrations! I think my favorite are the owls!

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  14. Always loved your work, Mirka. Congrats!

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  15. I am a huge fan of your work! I love nature and congrats on your debut!

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  16. Such a fun book. I love the owls and the sad looking hound dog. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

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  17. Beautiful illustrations. I'm in awe of the painstaking details. Wow!
    Congrats, Mirka, on this debut.
    Really looking forward to reading this one. and also checking out your blog.

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  18. Beautiful artwork, Mirka. Congratulations, too.

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  19. Fabulous interview, Mirka...what a blessing you are to me...and to OTTERS...and to the kidlit community!

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  20. Such beautiful illustrations!

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  21. Interesting and cutie! I like animals and nature, and yours illustrations is fantastic.

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  22. I love the drawings in this book.

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  23. Absolutely delightful illustrations

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