Illustrator Spotlight: Jia Liu

© Jia Liu

May 19, 2017

Today we feature children's illustrator Jia Liu, who is published in China and whose U.S. debut books will come out in 2018 by Boyds Mills Press, TERRIFIC TONGUES, by Maria Gianferrari, and YOU CAN'T HURT ME, NO, by Leslie Staub. 

Tell us about your background and how you came to illustrate children's books.

I went to a Japanese picture book exhibit in my sophomore year, which was held by my undergraduate college- the China Central Academy of Fine Arts(CAFA), and I immediately all in love with picture books, I thought it was the most honest and heartwarming thing I could do with art. So in my junior year I chose to major in children’s picture books, not only because I was fascinated by picture books, but also because I thought writing and illustrating stories would help me become more creative. 

At the same time, I started to teach children in a children’s art center. I wanted to learn more about children so that I could write stories for them. I found I really liked teaching and got a lot of my inspiration from the children.

Tell us about some of your books you've done and the ones that are coming out next year.

I have two picture books published in China. The first one, WATER MONK, was published in 2012. It was a student group work, where three classmates and I illustrated the book together and it was published after we finished it. 

The second book, SLOW DOWN, XIAO NEZHA, was illustrated by me and get published on November 2016. 

© Jia Liu

I will have two picture books coming out in 2018 in the United States,  TERRIFIC TONGUES and YOU CAN'T HURT ME, NO. Both of them will be published by Boyds Mills Press. TERRIFIC TONGUES is written by award winning author Maria Gianferrai, the story is about the amazing tongues of different animals. I loved the story when I read it for the first time and I knew it would be my story. YOU CAN'T HURT ME, NO, by Leslie Staub, is a story about a little girl who was chased by the monsters in her dream, she was very scared but she found a way to get rid of them. The illustrations for this one are still in process.

You had art training in both China and the United States. How was your art education different or similar?

Art training in China is very harsh and strict before we get into college. We need to take exams of many subjects such as life drawing, creative drawing, painting and design. Getting into a good art college is very competitive. For instance, in 2016, my college accepted 850 students among 25,000 students who took the exam. 

The art education in college is much more free, but after the strict art training in high school, it was very hard to become open minded in college. I took a long time to give up or deny something that I learned in high school. Compares with China, the art education in the U.S. gives students more freedom, especially the critique system, which helps everyone to be able to talk, think and create art critically.

© Jia Liu

What is your favorite medium to work in and why?

I work with a lot of mediums, such as gouache, watercolor, pencil, printmaking, digital… my favorite is printmaking. I really like the texture and the unexpected side of printmaking, what I get is not what I assume, and I always am surprised by the “happy accidents” during printmaking. The process of printmaking also helps me to understand better about layers when I do digital illustration, and I like to create printmaking effects in my digital illustrations.

What projects are you working on now?

Now I am working on YOU CAN'T HURT ME, NO and other four books for a children’s learning company Cantata Learning, these books are about the transformation of earth, they will come out in spring 2018.

©  Jia Liu

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

I think illustrators should always follow our hearts and create what we love. Even though the illustration market is very competitive, I believe everyone can find a place for themselves if they follow their gut.

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

I only have half eyebrows, I need to draw the other half every morning.

© Jia Liu

Where can people find you online?

You can find me on instagram @lost jia, and my website

Jia Liu is an author and illustrator for children’s books. She studied graphic design and children’s picture book illustration at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, and got her MFA in Illustration Practice Program from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her enthusiasm is to create work for children. She likes to bring playfulness and humor into her work. Jia taught children for 3 years and consider teaching as another part of her professional career. She is very interested in the relationship between children’s psychology and their behavior. Most of her stories come from her teaching experience and focus on real problems children face in real life. 



  1. Jia, your illustrations are vibrant and lively. I love animals and you have my full attention with these. Looking forward to reading your books!

  2. Nice little interview of an unknown but very talented writer. These posts are doing a great service by bringing them out into the limelight and that too in a very vivid manner.

  3. Hi Jia Liu,
    Great tutorial!
    If you used screenshot of illustrator tools and represented to us, then it will be clear to us!
    By the way, Excellent tutorial! Thanks a lot for sharing!
    I will try it right now ! :)
    To Check out some amazing Icecream Logos click here. Thanks!

  4. Trying to email Jia to have her sign a print.


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