Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Angela Domínguez
|© Angela Domínguez
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write and illustrate for children.
I’ve always loved reading, writing, and drawing. It’s just been a part of me as long as I can remember. I feel privileged to be doing this as my profession.
If you’ve read STELLA DÍAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY, you may know that I painfully shy as a child. Whether that shyness came from having to take speech classes, English being my second language, or it being my natural disposition, I’ll never know. All I do know is I kept myself entertained with a rich internal world filled with creativity. I usually could be found on a table (or under a table) with drawing materials or a book.
When it came time to go to college, I received a partial academic scholarship to study art. That began my professional trajectory towards a children’s books career.
Congrats on GALAPAGOS GIRL: GALAPAGUEÑA! How did you do research for the illustrations?
Marsha Diane Arnold and our editor Jessica Echeverria provided me with fabulous photographs to get me started. Afterwards I spent quite a bit of time online, at the library, and even on Netflix. The best part of my research was watching videos of the Albatross greeting their mate, and of course, watching the blue footed boobies dancing. The most suspenseful footage was watching the marine iguanas try to maneuver themselves through a minefield of snakes on Planet Earth 2. I’ve also been camping quite a bit the past year with my boyfriend so I drew on some of those experiences. I gave Valentina my ideal tent.
|© Angela Dominguez
You are so accomplished, as an illustrator and also a middle grade author. Walk us through your publication journey - which came first, words or pictures? Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
While I studied illustration in college, it wasn’t exactly a straight shot into children’s books. The last semester of college is when I had my first eureka moment. I took a children’s book thesis class and feel in love with the literature. When I realized that I could channel my love of words with my art and engulf myself in a project, I knew this was the profession for me.
Because of my illustration degree, I naturally started with the picture side of children’s books. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators made a huge difference for me. They gave me contacts in the industry and MARIA HAD A LITTLE LLAMA came from an assignment at a regional conference.
In my first two years as a professional I managed to get Sheldon Fogelman Agency to represent me. Then two additional years later, in 2011, I left Sheldon Fogelman and followed my agent Linda Pratt to her new agency, Wernick and Pratt. That was a game changer and it started my writing career.
By this point I was four years into my career and at a crossroads. I wasn’t illustrating the type of books I wanted to be illustrating and work was slowing down. That’s when my agent suggested developing some of my characters into stories. I did and I had some success. I’ve been writing ever since. I’m about to celebrate my eleventh anniversary of being in the children’s book industry and I absolutely love it.
|© Angela Domínguez
What projects are you working on now? How do you decide what to work on next?
I’m currently illustrating a book with Candlewick entitled, KAIA AND THE BEES written by Maribeth Boelts. Kaia is terrified of bees, but through experiences realizes how important and magical they are. This has been a fun project. I’ve been able to rely on some beekeeping experience. I have a dear friend who was a bee keeper and I would help her out from time to time. Taking care of bees is a thrilling yet serene experience that I recommend to all people who don’t have bee allergies. Working with bees, you quickly realize they respond to your emotions. They buzz louder when you’re anxious and stay calm when you’re relaxed. It’s almost as if we all need a bee buzzing nearby to keep us in check.
I also writing a follow up to STELLA DÍAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY. We’re still working out the title, but I’m thrilled to be working on a second one. Stella is such a passion project for me. I never thought or dreamt that I would be a middle grade author. Working on it is exhilarating and a little scary. I hope I can do more. Many more.
For me, I like switching between my own projects and other stories that people have written. My philosophy is that I only have one particular vision so it’s inspiring and keeps me fresh to collaborate with other writers that I admire. I’ve been lucky to be able to work with some great ones like Meg Medina, Monica Brown, and Marsha Diane Arnold.
Walk us through your illustration process.
I used to work traditionally only. For instance, MARIA HAD A LITTLE LLAMA and LET’S GO, HUGO! were all traditional.
Since my book SANTIAGO STAYS, I’ve been working in different ways with traditional materials then finishing the artwork digitally. Often times it’s tissue paper, pencil, and markers on illustration board. With this project, I decided to do tight pencil drawings with texture then adding the color digitally. Because there is a glossary and drawing the animals accurately was so important, I wanted to be as precise as possible. From there, I really credit the art director and editor with pushing me with the colors. I’m very pleased with how the book turned out.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators or authors?
I have a few. I often have friends or family who are interested in pursuing this industry. I completely get it because it sounds so fun! Who doesn’t want to create a book that can impact or inspire a child?
My biggest tip is to realize that this industry is hard work. It only appears easy because a great book looks effortless. With any creative endeavor it’s rare to get it right on the first try. You’ve got to be willing rework those manuscripts and those illustration portfolios. You also must be open to criticism and be able to handle rejection. Books are a real collaboration with the publisher. Once a book is contracted your book is no longer just your baby. That may sound scary, but it’s a great thing. Publishers make the books better.
In terms of craft, read and research the market. Make sure you’re looking at contemporary books so you can get a sense of the aesthetic and types of stories being told. Take a workshop or check out on some books on technique. Lastly, if you’re trying to get your foot in the door, you’ve got to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s a must.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I’m a bad dancer? Ha, I’m really an open book. I guess that I’m much sillier than I might appear at first.
Where can people find you online?
You can find me at website, twitter, or instagram.
Angela Domínguez is the author and illustrator of several books for children, including the Children's Book Press title Let Me Help! / Quiero ayudar!, Marta Big and Small, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which received the Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. When Angela is not in her studio, she teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award. She lives in Virginia. Visit her online at angeladominguezbooks.com.