Illustrator Spotlight: Julia Vasileva

© Julia Vasileva

July 1, 2023

We are happy to feature illustrator Julia Vasileva and her website banner design for Kidlit411 and her upcoming picture book, I Love Myself, by Wai Mei Wong, illustrated by Julia Vasileva (Orca Book Publishers), coming out Feb. 13, 2024. (Watch for a giveaway in February for this book). 



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

Unlike many other artists, I didn't grow up with a paintbrush in my hand. I've always been creative, but drawing wasn’t my favorite activity as a kid. What I loved most of all were books and stories. Growing up in a home full of books, raised by a family of avid readers, it was inevitable that I would devour books from a very early age.

© Julia Vasileva

I have a literature degree, and writing was initially my preferred creative outlet. When I immigrated to Canada in 2014, I lost my mastery of the language and pursued several different career paths before finding my way into art. I fell in love with drawing and painting immediately and pursued it wholeheartedly. After years of creating art on the side, I stumbled upon children's book illustration, and it felt like a revelation. It combined everything I loved - books, storytelling, and narrative art. It was the perfect way for me to express myself and engage in the creative and intellectual processes that fulfill me. The opportunity to work with books and even create them fascinates me to the core.

© Julia Vasileva

Congrats on your upcoming picture book, I Love Myself!  Tell us about this book and how you approached the project.

Love Myself! by Wai Mei Wong is about a kid who is learning to develop a caring, supporting voice inside themselves through a regular day full of ups and downs. When the team at Orca Book Publishers approached me with the manuscript, they had this brilliant idea to visualize the kid's inner voice as a character that is not explicitly mentioned in the text. I instantly loved it! And so, the second character, the imaginary friend or the inner self, came to life. The book is set to be released in February 2024.


Thanks for your banner design! Tell us how you approached the project.

It’s only natural that I came up with this escapist scene of a girl perched in her tree house reading a book in a company of birds. Tree houses have always charmed me. As a child, I dreamt of having one, and to this day, when I stumble upon them in tranquil neighborhoods, I can't help but think, "What a lucky kid lives here!"

© Julia Vasileva

What projects are you working on now?

I'm currently working on my first picture book dummy as an author-illustrator. It delves into a rather heavy and personal subject matter, so I'm figuring out how to tell the story in an honest way that is accessible for kids without sugarcoating it. I won't give away the story's details just yet, but I can share that the drawing technique I've chosen is an ongoing experiment I've been delving into more and more. It involves hand-printed stencils and elements of collage. For this book, I aimed to create an illustrative process that would be as tactile as possible. It's a true labor of love.

© Julia Vasileva

What is your preferred illustration medium and process?  

Currently, I'm very fond of the stencil/collage technique that I've been exploring, and I find it incredibly stimulating. Imagine you want to draw a rollercoaster – well, it has rails, trains, bars... But what if you have to cut a rollercoaster stencil out of paper and make it believable? This process makes me think deeper about the shapes and also calls for simplification – you wouldn't want to manually cut out a stencil for every minor detail. I make my stencil prints in black and white, and then scan and color them digitally, so planning out the values is another core element. What I love most of all is that, despite all the planning, there's still a huge element of surprise in it.

Apart from that, the technique I'm more accustomed to involves a combination of hand-painted watercolor textures and digital drawing.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?


Well, this is what I keep telling myself... I think children's book illustration demands immense reserves of patience and self-trust. Many good things take time, but this industry takes it to the next level – everything within it unfolds at a painstakingly slow pace. It's very much like tending your garden, where seeds don't magically blossom overnight, no matter how much you want it or how hard you work. Book-making may appear covetable from the outside, but the journey of finding agents and publishers, negotiating contracts, receiving payments, and, of course, creating the books themselves – it all takes (quite literally!) years. All the while, you consistently work very long days that nobody pays you for, riding on the hope that eventually at least some of those seeds will grow. This requires an immense amount of patience.

© Julia Vasileva

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


Perhaps a little-known fact is that I once was serious about pursuing a career in academia. Before my move to Canada, my plan involved applying for a PhD program in comparative literature in the United States. I spent nearly a year preparing for it – crafting research proposal, exploring potential universities and professors who would be a good fit, studying for the GRE, etc. And then one day I decided to not go through with it and picked a different, more practical immigration route, which somehow still led me to books. 

© Julia Vasileva

Where can people find you online?

My website is and you can also find me on Instagram: 

Julia Vasileva is an illustrator, storyteller, and book lover. Her drawing style combines traditional and digital techniques to build imaginative worlds for children to dive into. She is a member of SCBWI and is represented by Tracy Marchini at BookEnds Literary Agency. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, and when she’s not in her studio, you’ll probably find her up in the mountains or down by the ocean. 


  1. I so enjoyed your illustrative and imaginative style here. Thank you for sharing your encouraging words and ideas.

  2. I’ve known Julia for years now, and can’t help but be inspired by everything she does wherever she goes. So happy for you, dear friend! 🩵


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