Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 10, 2011

Illustrator Saturday – Ariane Elsammak

This Saturday we are visiting with Ariane Elsammak. She has illustrated for children’s magazines, mostly for the Cricket Magazine group. Her book titles include, “Noodlehead Stories” (August House), “60 Clues About Guys” (Lunchbox Press), and two books for the “Jackson Jones” series (Zonderkidz).

Here is Ariane:

As a young child, I always enjoyed the wonderful world of Children’s books. By the age of 7, I knew I wanted to be an illustrator. I was inspired by Shel Silverstein’s humorous line drawings, Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures and numerous children’s books illustrators as well as, editorial cartoonists from “The New Yorker” magazine.

I started a family at a young age. When my children were very young, I attended night classes at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and the DuCret school of art in NJ.

I particularly love drawing animals because I adore them and feel I have a special bond with them.  I have two dogs, two cats and a horse and love quick sketching them and just observing their behavior and interactions with one another. They are natural born characters.

I am illustrating a book called “Hippos & Pigs” (written by Charles Ghigna) for which is a new online store and subscription service for digital children’s books. The site will be ready to launch in about a month. Although this project is for a digital book, I still like to create the artwork traditionally.

Here is a look at the process:

Here I start with a sketch on a piece of Arches watercolor block, 140 lb., this will allow me to create the art using mixed media. I often use the computer to help me size the sketches. This piece is sized 14” wide by 7”high, this will be a double page spread.

I start by using orange-red gouache to color in the background.

Now I use watercolors to color in the chemical liquids in the science lab and some colored pencil to shade or intensify the color.

I fill in the rest of the color using gouache, watercolor & colored & black pencil followed by some ink work, bolding where I need to and fine point in other areas. I usually use .005, .01, .02. I also brought the background down by adding some white gouache.

I continue to do more shading and intensify color through the mixed media. For the chalkboard, I line the inside boarder, chalk, eraser and the written formula with liquid Frisket masking and let it dry. I just paint the area with a basic green shade, let it dry then rub off the frisket to expose the white areas. Then I polish it by shading the inner boarder with pencil and ink.

What was the first art project you did where you got paid?

When I was 17, I took care of horses at a local stable. I came up with an idea to make unique, custom stall signs for private owners of horses. On wood, I painted the name and created a caricature of the horse using, high gloss, weatherproof sign paints.

How did you get that job?

The horse owner that I rode for loved the idea and bought one. After that, I sold several with in that barn and through word-of-mouth was able to sell to some local barns in the area. Through the years, I continued to sell some but have put that on hold until I can find a more efficient, less time consuming way to produce them more on a grand scale. I am hoping to combine traditional art with computer technology to print them on a variety on materials.

How did you get Cricket to use your artwork?

By sending a postcard. The art director liked my style and we developed a nice rapport. I was very fortunate to get a lot of fun and wacky topics to illustrate. “ASK” is an educational magazine so there was a lot of history that I could apply to the characters in humorous scenarios. The art director provided tons of resources for accuracy but I loved researching as well. I love history, period events & styles.

How did the book contracts happen?

Through postcard marketing and the Directory of Illustration.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes. The clean side is by my computer where I brainstorm, sketch and ink. The other side is messy for all of my painting needs. For my own enjoyment, I also dabble in fine art as well. Mostly acrylics and some pastel and charcoal work.

How do you juggle family and illustrating?

Now my kids are in college so creating my own freelance schedule is so much easier now. Although, when my kids were very young, I found it very difficult to illustrate and paint while taking care of them. For me, I need to be in a very calm atmosphere with no interruptions. At the time, my business suffered and I could not devote enough time to it so I had to find other ways to earn money part-time. Looking back, I wish I tried harder to balance it and find more help with the kids so I could have devoted more time to building my business th

How do you market yourself?

Through postcards, tear sheets & the Directory of Illustration. The Internet has been a savior for marketing on so many levels.

Do you send out postcards to Art Directors?

Yes, and you need to research and find the most updated information before your mailing. I learned how important it is to make sure you follow their submission policies; otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

Do you network? Go to conferences, etc.

I am not great about networking and need to get better at that. After joining SCBWI, I discovered a new world of possibilities’ in order to do that.

Has your style or materials changed over the years?

Yes, I feel I have evolved into a more dynamic and sophisticated style where I can apply my art in both Children’s books and adult publishing. My materials are generally the same.

How long did it take you to illustrate the picture books?
It varies, on average about three to four months depending on the amount of color involved and detail on backgrounds.

Any little tips on technique that you can share with us? Favorite materials?

I am so strict about perfecting the sketch in the sense of getting flow between the characters and making it something interesting and special to look at….what sets it apart from anything else. Also, putting in a lot of thought about color and texture so that when you go to the finals, it’s all fun.

Do you ever use Photoshop to clean up your illustrations, etc.

Yes, Photoshop is great for that and perfecting color before it goes to print. Many publishers & producers of products in general always appreciate someone who has that knowledge to make illustrations camera-ready.

Ariane mentioned If you are an illustrator or a picture book writer, please check back to hear all the details for this new company later this week. I am working with the owner to get all the information for you.

Thank you Ariane for sharing your process and illustrations with us. You can visit Ariane at:

Talk tomorrow,



  1. For us, another outstanding illustrator on Saturday! This is great stuff, Ariane. I really love knowing the materials each illustrator uses to get the effects they want, so thank you for that.

    All your characters are so full of life. In the “group” pictures, your pigs and chickens are truly hilarious! I just LOVE it all 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂
    P.S. Kathy, in case you didn’t see it when you posted: two illustrations didn’t come through, unless it’s just me.


    • Donna,

      I don’t know why they didn’t all come through, because they are all there on the post. Weird.



  2. fabulous artwork and energy! I love your contrast even in complex scenes they are never confusing to understand and appreciate.Great advice for fellow writers and illustrators!


  3. Great work!


  4. Kathy,

    Just found my way to your wonderful blog via Anita Nolan. (Met her at a conference.) What an excellent resource you’ve created. Thanks for your time and dedication.

    Loved the interview. So inspiring. I’ll be sharing.

    With all good wishes,


    • Donna,

      Glad you stopped by. Anita reported good things about meeting you.



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