Illustrator Spotlight: Sarah Holden

© Sarah Holden

 Nov. 1, 2023

We are pleased to feature illustrator and author Sarah Holden, and her banner design for Kidlit411, as well as her book, What if Night, written by Paul Bogart (Keystone Canyon Press 2019). Enter to win a copy via the Rafflecopter below!

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

I have been an artist my entire adult life, working as an illustrator, designer, painter, and muralist. I have a degree in Fine Art from Wake Forest University and was raised by two artist parents (both taught art to children early in their careers, and then my dad became a full-time oil painter later in life). I always wanted to be a childrens' book illustrator. As early as second grade I can remember making up stories and illustrating them. My favorite subjects were horses and bookshelves. Don't ask me why I was so fascinated with bookshelves, but something captivated me about the repeating lines!  I kept pursuing illustration work on the side while first working as a graphic artist, and later as a nurse. My first illustrated book What if Night by Paul Bogard (Keystone Canyon Press) was published in 2019.

© Sarah Holden

Congrats on your banner design for Kidlit411. Can you tell us how you approached this design and project?

For this banner project I initially created a rough sketch on paper. I tried several mediums and ultimately settled on a clean digital design. My favorite subjects are animals, so I wanted to feature them somehow. I started out with the bird on a wire theme, and it evolved into something with a bit more humor. And lots of kites.

© Sarah Holden

Congrats on your book, What if Night!  Tell us about it and what inspired you about it.

I mentioned above the book, What if Night. The author Paul Bogard wrote this tale about the dangers of light pollution to animals. I jumped at the chance to illustrate a book with a theme I believed in, and of course a book that featured animals.

© Sarah Holden

What projects are you working on?

I just finished illustrating a picture book about a bear who conquers his fear with the help of a band of bunnies. I have many other projects on my desk still in sketch or dummy form.

© Sarah Holden

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

I would tell aspiring illustrators to take themselves seriously and set aside dedicated time to work each week. You develop a voice as you create a big volume of work. Read widely, and take note of the illustrations you respond to and why they speak to you. Pay attention to what makes you unique as an illustrator, and lean into that authentic work. You won't love everything you create, but the more you create the more the opportunity for something amazing to come to life through your illustrations.

© Sarah Holden

What is something most people don't know about you?

I once lived in Park CIty, Utah in the mountains and had mother and baby moose walk through our yard regularly. We had to do a "moose sweep" before we could let our kids out to play in the yard.

I lived in Puerto Rico for five years and I scuba dive.

© Sarah Holden

Where can people find you online?

I'm on Instagram @sarahholdenartist and at my website

Illustrator and author Sarah Holden specializes in soft, painterly animals and children characters. Sarah received the Minnesota Arts Board Grant including funding from the National Endowment for the Arts for children’s book illustration. She is the recipient of the SCBWI Minnesota Illustration Mentor Award for 2019-2020. Sarah has licensed work through Blue Mountain Arts and Minted, and has earned public art commissions from Summit County, Utah and Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received a fine art degree from Wake Forest University. Sarah currently lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota and divides her time between a healthcare career and book illustration and writing.

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  1. Great craft tips! I love to draw and it helps to remember that we won’t love everything we create (just like with writing) and that we can develop our illustrator voice! Congrats on your book!


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