Illustrator Spotlight: Jo Renfro


© Jo Renfro

Aug 1, 2021

It's the first of the month so we have a new website banner and Illustrator Spotlight on Jo Renfro and and her banner design. Be sure to enter in our new banner contest for 2021

© Jo Renfro

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

I have ALWAYS loved picture books. Even before I ever thought about illustrating for kids (I started as a graphic artist) I could get lost for hours in the children's book section of my local bookstore. As I started doing some illustration on the side, the graphics got pushed aside and the illustrations became "the thing."

I work with several greeting card companies, writing and illustrating cards, but the main goal has always been to break into the highly competitive picture book market. My library at home of picture books is out of control, but fortunately I have four grandkids now, so I can rationalize my obsession.

© Jo Renfro

Congrats on your Kidlit411 banner design! Tell us how you approached the project.

I love Kidlit411. I have learned SO much about the ins and outs of the kid lit world on there. I can ask anything and someone is always there to answer my question. And it's such a positive, supportive group. So when I saw there was a banner contest, I had to jump in. I wanted to stick close-ish to the original concept, and I was going through a cow drawing phase 😊 so there you go! That's how it all came together.

© Jo Renfro

Who or what inspires you?

My inspiration most recently has come from the aforementioned grandkids. I love to see them giggle, or smile, or really think when we are reading a new book. I want to be a part of bringing that joy and learning to kids. One of my favorite sayings is, "Go everywhere. Study everything. And fear nothing." Reading opens up their minds to all the incredible places and people around the world. 


© Jo Renfro

What is your favorite illustration medium and process?

I just started working digitally a few years ago, and WOW. I find myself "working" late into the night because I'm having so much fun. Coloring pictures for a living is a pretty great gig.

© Jo Renfro

What projects are you working on now?

Right now I just finished up some calendar art for a company for two humorous calendars about dog and cat people. And I am almost done with a dummy for my latest picture book and will hopefully send it to my agent in the next few weeks for her to send out into the publishing universe. Fingers crossed!

© Jo Renfro

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

Hmm. Two things come to mind. One . . .in 2014 I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It took me five months and I loved every sweaty, hard, stinky mile of it. I met the coolest, quirkiest, most fun, diverse group of people. I made lifelong friends and it gave me the courage to finally sell my house and move to Colorado. A dream I've had for my entire life. 

My other thing not many people know . . .I once saved a skunk whose head was stuck in a paper cup. I grabbed the cup, pulled, and then turned and ran one direction and he turned and ran the other direction. I swear he looked back over his shoulder and gave me a nod. Ha. Maybe there's a picture book story in there somewhere. 

© Jo Renfro

Where can people find you online?

My website is I am @jorenfro_illustrator on Instagram and @RenfroJo on Twitter.


Jo grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, home of Jayhawks. Rock Chalk! She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Fine Arts. She loves to use positivity. and bright colors in her art, with a sense of humor developed from raising three cool kids, several dogs, numerous cats and a pig named Matilda. A lifelong Kansan, she moved to Colorado a few years ago to be close to the beautiful Rockies. When she's not coloring pictures, she loves to hike, ski, run, and of course, play with her grandbabies.