Illustrator Spotlight: Marcela Staudenmaier

© Marcela Staudenmaier

June 26, 2015

We are very excited to feature the talented illustrator Marcela Staudenmaier, with her wonderful cut paper collage illustrations!

What were you like at school?

Since elementary school years I enjoyed drawing and writing. I was often sought by my teachers to do posters for the choir concerts and to represent the school in art contests.

When did you decide to become a writer/illustrator?

I have to thank my parents for giving me beautiful and inspiring children's books during my childhood. My love for children's books originated there. After high school, I went on to pursue a career in architecture, which I practiced for many years. 

Illustration for chapter 4 of The Great Connecticut Caper © Marcela Staudenmaier

After the birth of my daughter, I had the desire of creating something more personal that could help me share a message with children and the adults reading with them. I started writing and drawing my ideas in a storyboard and book dummy formats. But, I knew I wanted to learn more. In 2010, I signed up for the Children's Book Illustration Certificate Program at the Rhode Island School of Design. I had to commute two hours each way to get to my classes. My instructors, the assignments, the critiques and the interaction with my classmates were so nurturing that I would look forward to this trip all week.

You have a very distinctive style. How does your background as an architect influence your illustration?

One of the techniques that I like to use for my illustrations is three-dimensional paper collage. I became acquainted with tools, techniques and new materials (adhesives, boards, specialty papers) while working as an architect at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. 

© Marcela Staudenmaier

 At this firm we would  make models of the buildings at various stages of the design process to visualize interior spaces; to generate options for curtain walls; to study the massing of the building in relationship to the city; to present the project to the client or in a competition. This experience of having built architectural models is definitely a big influence in my work. It is fun for me to think of solutions on how to achieve the three-dimensionality for each new illustration.

What is your process for illustration?

After I produce a detailed pencil sketch for the page spread, I cut out all the elements of the composition from sheets of color paper. Even though they start as flat shapes, I curl, bend, score, curve, fold, overlap these paper pieces to create the illusion of depth. I take dozens of pictures of the artwork in progress. 

© Marcela Staudenmaier

This helps me - as I go - to come up with new ideas on how to work with the paper and how to achieve interesting effects. When I am happy with the results, I glue down all the pieces. Now the artwork is ready. So, I take one last photo that becomes the final illustration. 

© Marcela Staudenmaier

Could you tell us about your win at the 2015 New England SCBWI Conference?

I had the great honor to win the R. Michelson Galleries Emerging Artist Award. The prize was inclusion of one of my illustrations - selected by Richard Michelson himself - in the 26th Annual Children's Illustration Exhibit at the R. Michelson Galleries. 

Winner of the Michelson prize © Marcela Staudenmaier

The artwork will be on display from November 1st to February 1st in Northampton, Massachusetts with an opening reception on the 8th. The R. Michelson Galleries are the first American art gallery to feature the art of children's book illustration alongside traditional fine arts.

What is the hardest thing about writing/illustrating?

To make what it seems like a good story idea work its magic into a picture book format. To give life to an engaging book that will make the reader want to keep turning the pages.

What is the easiest thing about writing/illustrating?

To do it when you feel that you are in the right path.

© Marcela Staudenmaier

Do you ever get writer's/illustrator's block?

Yes, I do. It happens when the feeling of the great responsibility of developing work worthy of being shared takes over.

© Marcela Staudenmaier

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Always give 110 %

What advice would you give to other writers and illustrators?

I would like to share the words of advice that Dan Santat, John Rocco, Dan Yaccarino and Roxie Munro gave at the Illustrator's Intensive 2012 NY SCBWI Conference (the first SCBWI conference that I attended):

Be visible. Work hard. Connect. Share. Interact. Be smart. Have a website. Build a network of peers. Promote yourself. Be unique. Think out of the box. Be generous. 

© Marcela Staudenmaier

Show always your best work. Try new things. Form long term relationships. Practice your craft. Keep a sketchbook. Be flexible. Go the extra mile. Be patient.

Can you tell KidLit411 something that nobody else knows about you?

When I was eight years old, I saved hundreds of tadpoles from an almost-dry swimming pool. I scooped them up little by little with a small shovel, placed them in large buckets with water, and walked down with the buckets in hand to the nearest river stream where I found a new place where they could keep growing. The operation was a success!

Awesome! Where can we find you online?


  1. Oh my goodness, what fabulous work! The detail is fascinating. Marcela, thank you for sharing, and good luck to you!

  2. Delicate and powerful, bold and graceful - I continue to be wowed by Marcela's work since the first time I saw the TdP Award entry piece above (T.Sawyer). Thanks for sharing about the process for that piece, Marcela, and the words of wisdom, passed down from the conference intensive.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Julie! I am glad you enjoyed the words of advice from the 2012 Conference.

  3. Fabulous work, and so original!!!

  4. I feel so honored to have met Marcela in NYC this year. She is as beautiful a person as her art is! I love everything about her unique style and marvel at te patience she has to create her art!

    1. Thank you Teresa! I am the one that is honored to have met you! Thank you for your kind words.

  5. It is a great website.. The Design looks very good.. Keep working like that!.
    curtain wall detail


Post a Comment