Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Jennifer Sattler

© Jennifer Sattler

Sept. 19, 2015

We are excited to feature the talented author-illustrator Jennifer Sattler, known for her popular picture book series, CHICK 'N' PUG and PIG KAHUNA, as well as many others.

Please tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I used to be a painting professor. When my first child was born I picked up picture book after picture book. It opened up a whole new world to me. I didn't want to do paintings to hang on the wall. If I could make a kid ( or grown up ) laugh AND make something beautiful? Now that felt real.

Your picture books are known for their memorable and compelling characters, like Chick and Pug, Sylvie, and Pig Kahuna. What's your secret to creating characters that kids fall in love with?

My children are now teenagers. It's amazing how little has changed from when they were toddlers. They are an endless source of inspiration. It doesn't hurt that I'm someone who never really grew up. The grown up world still pretty much perplexes me.

© Jennifer Sattler

Can you tell us about your next book that is coming out?

I have two books coming out this year. CHICK ‘N’ PUG IN THE LOVE PUG is coming out December 1st. There's a new character, Daisy, who takes one look at Pug and finds him irresistible. If she can just get him to get off his butt and "save" her! Of course , she doesn't need saving at all and ends up being more of a hero than poor ol' Pug will ever be.  

© Jennifer Sattler

Then, in the spring I have a book coming out called FRANKIE THE BLANKIE. I'm so excited about this book. It's the first time I've done a book with completely new characters in a long time. Doris is a baby gorilla who LOVES her blankie. When someone makes fun of her she has to find very creative ways to keep Frankie (the blankie) with her at all times. Of course the other animals soon find Frankie as irresistible as Doris does. They just had to get to know him.

© Jennifer Sattler
© Jennifer Sattler

What projects are you working on these days?

I'm currently working on a book about sisters! It's called DOLLUP AND MRS. FABULOUS. These two bunnies are based on my daughters. Two very different girls whose differences drive them crazy and also makes them the best of friends.

What is the hardest part about writing picture books?

When I write a book there's a movie playing in my head. Often times things that I think are obvious will make my editor scratch her head. I have to add add add. I don't like explaining too much, so it's finding a balance that's a real challenge for me.

What is the easiest part about writing picture books?
 Once I have a character in my head, I know them. They're real to me. So I know just what they would say or do in different situations. And I love to draw, so, maybe "easy" isn't the right word, but it sure is fun.

Can you tell us about your illustration process?  

I always start with sketches. Lots and lots of sketches. Usually the drawings are small. I like the immediacy of a small gesture drawing. 

Once I have one that I like I scan it into my computer and make it a bit bigger. I print that out on good paper. I color it with colored pencils and scan it back in. 

For the backgrounds I'll do lots and lots of paintings until I get what I need. Then I scan that into the computer. I layer the colored character drawing onto the background painting. 

Then, using Photoshop I can go in and fine tune it a bit. I can adjust the scale and position of the character. Of course all of this varies a bit from book to book. Sometimes the characters are completely colored with Photoshop, no colored pencils. 

© Jennifer Sattler

But I always start with a sketchbook. Always.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers and illustrators?

Stories and characters have to come from something real. If you're out to write a book about "remembering to share," you need to put yourself in that kid's mind (" What? But this is MINE! You crazy!"). Get out of your grown up head. For some of us that's pretty easy.

© Jennifer Sattler

Illustrators should draw, draw, draw. And look at people you admire and ask yourself why? Drawing is like learning a musical instrument. There are no short cuts.

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

Hmm. There's a LOT of things people don't know about me. You go first.

Where can people find you online?

My website is

Jennifer Sattler is the award winning author and illustrator of several children's books including SYLVIA, UH OH, DODO! and the popular series CHICK ‘N’ PUG and PIG KAHUNA. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and then went on to study painting and drawing at the University of New Hampshire and then the  Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington. In 1996, she won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts . Her books have won The Mockingbird Award for picture books and The Georgia Children's book Award. Jennifer lives in upstate New York.


  1. I think Jennifer's talent and success speaks are good promotions for the fine art department here at Indiana University (no bias in my part ;) ) and speaks volumes about her dedication and hard work. Thanks for the good advice and the look into her creative process!

  2. Wonderful characters! I love Pug! Congratulations on your successes, Jennifer!


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