Illustrator Spotlight: Qing Zhuang

© Qing Zhuang

March 27, 2020

We are excited to feature illustrator Qing Zhuang and her debut picture book, HOW LONG IS FOREVER, by Kelly Carey (Charlesbridge, April 7). Enter to win the giveaway!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.

My name is Qing Zhuang (pronounced “Ching Jwong”). I immigrated to New York from China when I was 7 years old and discovered an incredible world of children’s books in this country. We moved a lot because my parents’ jobs were very unstable and I ended up going to five different elementary schools. I felt very lonely since I had no siblings and was the “new kid” all the time, but I always felt a sense of belonging and joy in libraries. Even though it was also hard to make friends because I didn’t speak English fluently, my classmates were impressed by my drawings. In 6th grade, I won the top prize at the children’s Ezra Jack Keats picture book making contest and I think, foolishly or fatefully, that ultimately gave me the confidence to pursue this career in earnest.

© Qing Zhuang

Congrats on HOW LONG IS FOREVER. How did you go about researching/ approaching the illustrations for this book?

Thanks! When I first read the manuscript, I shared it with my then boyfriend (now husband). He was very touched by the bond between Mason and Grandpa. It reminded him of his own grandfather who had passed when he was a child. When Mason is eating the blueberry pie in the book, my husband said it reminded him of his own grandfather making a humble Chinese scallion pancake in the kitchen and how this memory will stay with him forever. So the idea of food being a potent expression and reminder of familial love stayed with me and made the story personal.

© Qing Zhuang

Since the book is set on a farm and I’m a city girl, I had to take a lot of reference photos. Coincidentally, I work at a wonderful school in Manhattan that owns an educational farm in the Catskills. I accompany the children every year to the farm and was able to get some great reference photos. I essentially based the whole book on this farm. I also did stuff like watch a bunch of tractor videos and tried to Frankenstein-stitch together the most “tractor-looking” tractors to create the ultimate old tractor for the book. 

© Qing Zhuang

What is your preferred medium, and who or what inspires you?

I really enjoy drawing with pencil. I have used Photoshop, collage, and, in this case, watercolor but everything starts with a pencil drawing. When I was a child, Marla Frazee and Lane Smith amazed me. I love modern Japanese woodblock prints. These days, I can’t even begin to name all the artists that excite me. There’s so much talent. I guess Christian Robinson and Taro Gomi are two contemporary favorites. 

© Qing Zhuang

What projects are you working on now?

Aside from promoting “How Long is Forever?” I am in the process of writing and revising my own stories. I am also experimenting with collage and trying to draw as much as I can. 

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Attend SCBWI conferences, and try going to ones in different locations. Join online groups for your profession to keep abreast of any new opportunities such as Twitter calls for pitches. If you struggled to decide on a style like I did, make sure to focus on one style at a time so that you have a substantial portfolio of one style before you add other styles. I wish I had known this marketing concept earlier haha.
© Qing Zhuang

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

I grew up mostly in south Brooklyn and can say some animals in Russian. 

Where can people find you online?

Instagram: @Qingthings
Twitter: @Qzhuang 

Qing Zhuang is a children’s book illustrator based in New York City. She earned a BFA in Illustration from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and a master’s degree in art education from School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. She illustrated her debut book “How Long is Forever?” by Kelly Carey to be released by Charlesbridge Publishing on April 7, 2020. 

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  1. I can't wait to hold this book in my own hands, Qing!!! It's adorable and I'm so excited for you. Congratulations!!

  2. Love your artwork! This looks like such a sweet book. Congrats!

  3. Lovely! I love farms, so I can't wait to read your book. Congratulations!


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