Illustrator Spotlight: Mags DeRoma


© Mags DeRoma

We are excited to feature illustrator Mags DeRoma and her recent picture book, TO MAKE, written by Danielle Davis (Katherine Tegen Books 2022). Enter to win a copy!

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

I have always had art in my life, but it got specific to kiddos in 2016, when I quit my advertising job and started Silly Street, a kids brand & company (with my lovely sister-in-law). I drew a gazillion little animals and environments for the our first board game and the playing cards...and social media and pitch decks and all the other off shoot ideas we had! And eventually walked down the path towards books. In 2018, I officially jumped in the pool with Awake, my first picture book. I put it up for display at the SCBWI summer conference, and fortuitously connected with my marvelous agent, Hannah, and was off to the races on the path towards publication. 

© Meghan DeRoma


Congrats on your picture book, To Make! Tell us about this book and how you approached the project.

Thank you! To make, as the title suggests, is all about making. So I wanted to nod to the making process in the art throughout the book. So if you notice the color palette at the beginning, it is desaturated, with only graphite and a little blush of pink pastel here and there. Then, vignette by vignette, color and media gets added, bit by bit. The end is a celebration of the process of all that making...both in the composition and characters, and also in the art. 


Was your initial road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

For To Make, it was an atypical road...and a winding one, to be sure! Danielle Davis is a wonderful writer I had known for a while. One night, we were out to sushi in midtown Los Angeles and were discussing our mutual adoration of Gyo Fujikawa. That night, she sent me a manuscript that she wrote, and I fell in love with it. Spoke to my soul, as they say. So, I agreed to illustrate it, and that we would pitch it as a team (usually unusual in picture book deals). We put together a dummy (a mockup of the final book with tiny, thumbnail sketches), and I made a few pieces of finished art. The project went to auction (spearheaded by Hannah!) and was acquired by Mabel Hsu at Katherine Tegen books. Mabel, Amy and Molly were a dream team to work with, and over months (of mid-pandemic!), the book came together. All in, from sushi to books-in-hand, it was well over 3 years! 

© Mags DeRoma


What other projects are you working on?

I am working on a book about Mother Nature right now. It is written, the words are in a good place, so now I am working to get the art just right before we send it out to publishers. 


I have another idea about dinosaurs next. And piles of other ideas!


I am also making a lot of art these days, and mostly large scale collage that lives between abstract and representational pieces. Representational in this context means that it shows something specific, in my case, butterflies, cocoons, other insects and animals. 


What is your preferred medium and illustration process?

I love to work with my hands in real physical life. I love the discovery process in art making. I do mostly collage in my illustrations, which echoes back to my graphic design background. Collage allows me to "design" the composition with paper, shifting and layering cutouts before committing to glue.

© Mags DeRoma


My process comes in stages. I will spend some days making the papers, which involves painting and spraying water and paint (and making and a big mess but also loads of fun and meditation). Then, I cut and paste bits and pieces together before adding little details with gouache or soft pastel. And there is a LOT of fixing. 


What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring illustrators?

Take a deep breath and just keep making. Art is a long commitment—to practice, repetition, showing up, and giving yourself grace, even when you feel like you are messing up everything you do. And also, learn to fix things well. 


I would give this advice to anyone brave enough to forge a path of the creative life. 


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

I collect seed pods. All kinds of seed pods, many of them from my yard! I have one that is as tall as me (from a palm tree)! Someday I will make something with them...


Where can people find you online? or on Instagram @magsderoma 


Mags DeRoma is an artist and storyteller. She makes, writes, designs, draws, paints, and builds thoughtful works, many of them for a young (but discerning) audience. She lives, plays, and builds forts with her three rowdy boys (one of whom she is married to), in Venice, California, Blackwing pencil & sketchbook in hand. 


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  1. Looks gorgeous, Mags, thanks for sharing your process.

  2. Looking forward to this art book

  3. I love this unique artwork and can't wait to see all of the illustrations in this beautiful book.

  4. It looks beautiful and I loved hearing more about your process! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I loved reading about your process! Making things is a joy. Can't wait to read the book!

  6. This book looks great! think my twins will love it!


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