Illustrator Spotlight: Taia Morley

© Taia Morley

Dec. 27, 2019

We are pleased to feature illustrator Taia Morley, and her picture book, HO HO HOMEWORK, written by Mylisa Larsen (Harper Collins Sept 2019). Enter to win a copy!



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

I started out as a toy and game designer and worked for Hasbro, Fisher Price, Mattel and some smaller toy companies along the way. I found I was a better illustrator than designer and my strengths were in character design. A few toy projects had a children’s publishing component which piqued my interest in children’s illustration. I joined SCBWI which does a great job of teaching members about the Kidlit industry.


© Taia Morley

Congrats on recent picture book, HO HO HOMEWORK. Tell us about this story and how you approached the illustrations.

When my oldest daughter was in 7th grade, she came home from school one winter day and told me she had the coolest substitute teacher--a professional Santa Claus who went by the name of Mr. Clausen. Despite their middle school cynicism, all the kids in her class were charmed. 

© Taia Morley

I told my good friend and writer, Mylisa Larsen, that this was a great premise for a children’s book. We loved the idea of playing with the “is-he-or-isn’t-he” Santa Claus theme. After going back and forth with ideas and rough drafts, we put the project away for a while (years!) and worked on other things. After that long break and a serendipitous visit from Mylisa, we took a fresh look at the manuscript and rewrote the story. Looking back I realize we needed those years to develop our respective skills. Those first drafts were a mess. The only thing that didn’t change was the title of the book, Ho Ho Homework, and the “How to Make a Paper Snowflake” instructions at the back of the book.

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Depends on how you look at it. We put the manuscript away and while it was on the back burner we both got better at what we do. That just took time. 

Once we refined the manuscript and I did a sample illustration, Harper Collins was quick to pick it up. Thanks to Tamar Mays at Harper Collins-she championed the story!

What is your illustration process? 

My process is mixture of old school techniques and heavy digital compositing and editing. I always start with pen or pencil on paper sketches. I am more fluid when there are fewer ways to edit a sketch. From there I use a combination of watercolor painting, scanning, and building textures both traditionally and digitally. All the finished work is digital, I find I need the flexibility of digital editing. 

sketch © Taia Morley

 
final © Taia Morley


sketch © Taia Morley 


final © Taia Morley


I’ve had the privilege of working with exceptional book designers. A great book designer can make your work better. Erica DeChavez, the designer at Harper Collin who worked on Ho Ho Homework, always makes me look good! 

Sarah Hokanson at Random House, who did the book design for WAKE UP COLOR PUP, gently pushed me to dig deeper, which is reflected in the art for Color Pup.

COLOR PUP dummy sketch © Taia Morley
© Taia Morley

© Taia Morley

What projects are you working on now?

I am working on a few book ideas and training my dog to be more relaxed. He may actually be the one doing the training.

© Taia Morley


What advice would you give to other aspiring illustrators? 

Keep a sketchbook and don’t worry if your sketches are terrible, they aren’t. Look at the work of artists you admire and study their technique, even imitate it. It will not look the same because we all have a unique perspective.

Be ready for rejection, don’t take it personally - that’s a hard one, but they are rejecting your work, not your worth!


© Taia Morley


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

I love to eat fast food french fries in the car, alone, not sharing.

Where can people find you online?

twitter, instagram: @taiamorley 



TAIA MORLEY has worked as a toy and game designer and is an illustrator whose work appears in books and magazines. Her recent books include Wake Up Color Pup (Random House) and Ho Ho Homework (Harper Collins). She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. 


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14 comments:

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of Ho Ho Homework. The illustrations look amazing! I also love the illustrations for Wake Up Color Pup! Good luck everyone.

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  2. Wake Up Color Pup is amazing and I loved it. Your artwork is clever and beautiful.

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  3. This sounds like a fun story about the hard, difficult homework of making pretty Christmas decorations!

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  4. What a fun story for the season. I'd love to have a copy. Thanks!

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  5. Love your illustrations, Taia! And since I know Mylisa, I'm especially interested in this book!

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  6. I adore your illustrations! I really enjoy your use of color and movement. Great work!

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  7. Ho Ho Homework is such a cute idea for a picture book with darling illustrations! A perfect book for kids!

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  8. Adorable artwork. Love the title. You are very talented, Taia!

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  9. Your art is gorgeous! I love this so much. :)

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  10. Love the title!

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  11. Taia, those pictures from Ho Ho Homework and Wake Up Color Pup make me smile. They look so warm and happy! Thanks for sharing them with us.

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  12. I would have loved a Mr. Clausen for a substitute teacher growing up.

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  13. What a delightful premise...and based on actual events! The book has the perfect look 'n feel for this story. Congrats! <3

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