Illustrator Spotlight: Lisa Mundorff

© Lisa Mundorff

May 15, 2015

We are excited to present Lisa Mundorff, who I met at the NY SCBWI conference in February, after admiring her winning entry in last year's Tomie de Paola contest. Welcome, Lisa!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to children’s illustration.

Thanks for having me!

I fell in love with picture books when my daughter was born. She was a baby whose legs didn’t start taking her anywhere until she was a little beyond 2 years old. So, instead of toddling down the stairs, or crawling over to the Christmas tree to chew on ornaments (like some babies I know…), she sat and looked at books. 

© Lisa Mundorff

We looked at books all day long, and I loved it. I loved what books did for her, for us. They were gorgeous, beautiful windows into new worlds and adventures. (I should say she’s stronger than ever now-- a powerful girl that loves to swim and play soccer) A couple years later my son came along, and he also fell in love with books, but mostly because they were delicious to chew.

You won the 2014 Tomie dePaola illustration contest. Congratulations! Can you share both your semi-finalist and final images and tell us about them?

Yes, thanks, I still can’t believe it. I was so excited to catch Tomie’s eye. There are always so many incredible submissions, and I feel really grateful that he landed on mine.

I almost didn’t submit my illustration for the first challenge. We were asked to create a six-panel wordless story with a beginning, middle, and end, all while keeping a consistent main character in each frame, and showing a range of emotions. It was such a great challenge and I got so much out of working on it, but I was nit-picking every little facial feature, and fussing over proportions up until five minutes before the deadline. I ultimately decided, what the heck, and sent it in.  But I didn’t put it in the online gallery because I didn’t think it was good enough.
© Lisa Mundorff

Socky was inspired by my son. He’ll make a friend out of anything, and I think the world could use a few more stories about boys and their sweet and loving, nurturing nature.

I loved the final challenge, after scratching my head over it for a few months. We were asked to illustrate the following passage:

     The things on the table were telling BLIN, “The journey must begin!”

     Happily, BLIN would not be alone.

     Friends of all sorts are always welcome.

     But, where would it start?                                    

     Where would it end?

BLIN is the “main character” of the story.

ONE illustration, in any media – full-color or black-and-white – any size, or dimension, but not exceeding 11” x 14.”

I spent a lot of time wondering who in the world Blin was, and then I realized it could be whoever I wanted it to be. How great is that? I ended up using some sketches I was working on for another story (a sweet story about a girl who rides her hippity-hop into the sky every night to paint the moon, written by my brother) and adapted it to fit the challenge. I love a good journey story and was inspired by the connectivity suggested in the last few lines.

© Lisa Mundorff
Tomie dePaola’s challenges are pure genius; they are such a great way to learn about picture book illustration. An aspiring picture book artist would be crazy not to participate. You’re bound to learn something, and who knows, you might even win a free, trip-of-a-lifetime, to the incredible SCBWI conference in NYC.

I can't believe you didn't post your panels. They are so awesome. Can you walk us through your illustration process? 

I’m best friends with Photoshop, and the classic #2 pencil (but only if it has a substantial eraser cap on top). I start out with sketches, scan them into Photoshop and place them on top of a texture. Then I select, copy and paste shapes (like trees, body parts, buildings...) from the texture into different layers and mess around with the colors for a while. I’m not sure how I landed on the process; it’s just my wonky way of doing things, and a really fun way to play with color and texture.

Here are some examples of the steps I do:

© Lisa Mundorff

© Lisa Mundorff

© Lisa Mundorff

© Lisa Mundorff
What projects are you working on these days?

I’ve yet to be published, so my priority at the moment is to make the best work I possibly can, and try to get it in front of as many people as possible. Then hope for good feedback, and keep all my fingers crossed for a book deal one of these days.
What are the top one or two things you would tell aspiring illustrators to do?  

I’d tell aspiring illustrators to have confidence in their style. I feel like my most successful illustrations are done when I forget about what everyone else is doing and figure out my own way of explaining things visually.

© Lisa Mundorff

Which brings me to the next question...

Who or what inspires you?

I look at illustrators like Tomie dePaola, Robert McCloskey, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Barbara Cooney, James Marshall, Virginia Lee Burton, Clement Hurd, Arnold Lobel, William Stieg, Leonard Weisgard (and much much more) and they inspire me to make art my own way, to find my own unique illustration voice just like they did.

© Lisa Mundorff

And nothing’s more inspiring to me than a SCBWI conference, I come home with a head full of sage advice, plus it’s just plain fun. I’m very excited to attend the Oregon conference in a few weeks.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I play fiddle in a bluegrass band.

© Lisa Mundorff

Where can we find you on the internet?

Thank you, Lisa. Congratulations on all your success so far!

I grew up in a suburb just south of Portland Oregon, in a family that appreciates individuality, and never fails to challenge and inspire.

After a brief stint as a music major, I shifted gears and went to art school. I graduated from The Pacific Northwest College of Art, where I majored in illustration.

I went on to work as a graphic designer by day, and painted in my studio by night. My art worlds collided when I had kids of my own, and picture books became the center of our world. Countless hours spent happily reading beautiful books, compelled me to gather up every ounce of artistic ability, and apply it towards children’s book illustration.

I feel a huge amount of gratitude toward my two kids for exposing me to great books, and motivating me to do my best work. Without a doubt, they can be trusted to give sincere and honest critiques, are always encouraging, and will forever be my #1 fan (as I will always be theirs).

I currently live in Portland Oregon, where I get to make art all day long, and occasionally play fiddle in a bluegrass band.


  1. Lisa, your work is so charming - keep up the great work! Congratulations again - I know you'll be published one day soon!!

  2. I enjoyed seeing your unique style as well as variations of your style, Lisa. Congratulations! Wishing you much success in the future.

  3. So nice to learn more about Lisa and see more of her lovely art! I really needed the "be confident in your own style" advice right now. Thank you!

  4. Wow! Congratulations on your win, and I look forward to seeing your work in print!

  5. Thank you for giving us an insight in your work process, I also love to be inspired by other artist. I will check your list and add your name to it as well!

  6. You are downright quotable, girl. Love this interview and your work -- with both a pencil and a bow! :-)


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