Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Alison Oliver

© Alison Oliver
June 5, 2020

We are excited to feature author-illustrator Alison Oliver and her recent picture book, THE BEAR'S GARDEN, written by Marcie Colleen (Imprint/Macmillan March 2020). Enter to win a copy!





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

I am a graphic designer and an illustrator who has always loved children’s books and never stopped collecting them. My love affair with them began when I was a kid and used to check out Ezra Keats’ books from the library, over and over and over and over.  I really couldn’t get enough of “The Snowy Day” and “Whistle for Willie.” I think it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to give it a try but I ended up starting a design studio and focusing on that for quite some time before I did.

© Alison Oliver


Congratulations on your recent picture book, THE BEAR'S GARDEN. Tell us about the book and how you researched it to illustrate it.

Thank you so much, I really love THE BEAR'S GARDEN and was thrilled to work on it. The first time I read Marcie Colleen’s manuscript it made me cry. It is so sweet and powerful in a way you don’t see coming. The thing that really excited me about it is that it is a based on a true story about real community garden in New York City. Fortunately, I live there! 

© Alison Oliver

The first thing I did was research the history of the garden and I found the original newspaper clipping about the bear that had been found in an empty lot with a note. We put an author's note about that article in the back of the book with an illustrated recreation of the photograph. I illustrated our bear to look like that bear, a stuffed panda. Next I went to the actual garden so I could get a sense of the space and it’s relationship to the neighborhood around it; how big it was, how it had grown, what the buildings around it looked like. I took a ton of photos. It’s a really beautiful garden.

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

It was kind of in-between. Marcie and I were represented by the same agent, so she matched us ahead of trying to sell it so I could make sample art to go with the manuscript. Once we finally had all that together I would say it was not too long of a process. And we worked with Imprint which was a really good collaboration. Editor Erin Stein and Art Director Natalie Sousa both added so much; they came up with the brilliant idea of the doing the satellite-style maps in the endpapers which I adore.

© Alison Oliver

 What projects are you working on now?

I am working on a board book series and a graphic novel. Both are in the early stages so I’m keeping it under wraps.


© Alison Oliver


What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Just keep making art all the time. The artist Corita Kent said, "The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.” I think that is really the best advice. And don’t be frustrated when you make work that you don’t like, we all do but it serves a purpose of figuring things out. I think these days we all have the expectation that every time we sit down we need to make a finished piece of art that we love. 

© Alison Oliver

One other thing I would say is keep of list of people you would love to work with, editors and art directors in publishing or beyond, and from time to time send them a new piece of art. You never know when it will land in front of somebody at exactly the right time. I have gotten so much work that way.

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

I am an avid food preserver, especially canning.

© Alison Oliver


Where can people find you online?

On my website, pure-sugar.com, and on instagram, @alisonoliverdesign


Alison Oliver is the author-illustrator of MOON AND SUN, and the illustrator of 30 BabyLit board books. She is also author-illustrator of the BE BOLD, BABY! board book series, featuring biographies of inspiring women, and the illustrator of the newly released picture books, THE BEAR'S GARDEN and THE BREATHING BOOK. Alison lives in New York City, where she runs a studio called Sugar that focuses on design, illustration and painting. 


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12 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to reading your new book and seeing more delightful illustrations. Congratulations!

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  2. I am in love with the wolf illustrations!! So beautiful, as is The Bear's Garden. To have such talent... :)

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  3. What a great cover! So peaceful!

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  4. I love your artwork and can't wait to read and study this book myself. Congratulations!

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  5. Those illustrations are so cool, kids are going to love this book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

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  6. The illustrations are so peaceful. I love the cover and its serenity fell.

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  7. Gardening + community + lost bear, how could kids and their adults not love this? Can't wait to read it!

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  8. I love the illustrations and the story! Together, they make a beautiful book!

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  9. What beautiful illustrations! And this sounds like such a lovely book.

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  10. Have been looking forward to this book. It sounds delightful!

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  11. I can't wait to read the book and look at the beautiful illustrations!

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