Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 25, 2012

Illustrator Saturday – Jill Dubin

Jill dubin grew up in Yonkers, New York and received a BFA from Pratt Institute. She has illustrated over 50 children’s books for a wide variety of publishers, including Scholastic, Intervisual and Barron’s. Her art has also appeared on the products of Fisher Price Toys, Texas Instruments, The Great American Puzzle Factory as well as an online promotion introducing a new home server for Microsoft.

She lives in Atlanta with my husband. Jill says, “Our two grown children have flown the nest. The two dogs have stayed since they know a good thing when they see it and have no intention of going anywhere.”

When I get a manuscript I read it through and make notes about ideas that I want to include in my illustrations. Usually there’s some research involved to get the animals and environment right. Even though I know what a tiger looks like, when I sit down to draw it I need to get the details right.

I start with a general idea and go through a series of sketches starting from roughs and tightening them up. I do lots of versions as I work up the individual animals and people. I mark an “x” on the version that I want to use in the final sketch. I cut out the pieces I plan to use and assemble them into my layout. From this rough sketch I do a tight sketch to show the client. I work with this tight sketch to create the final art piece.

I have a huge collection of paper that I’ve gathered over the years. I have papers with patterns, textures and solid colors. I’m always on the lookout for new paper. Combining them into the final art is like putting a puzzle together.

I use a scissor to cut out the individual elements using copies of the sketch as a pattern. Then I glue the pieces together, building up the parts into each person or animal. The hair on a person may have three or four different cut and glued pieces to give it the depth I want.

I press each glued piece between heavy books to keep the art flat. That’s where my old art history books come in handy. I’m usually working back and forth on a few parts of the illustration while the glue dries.

Once all the details are done I assemble them on the background using the same technique as I used built up each part. “Cut” and “Paste” are literally what I do!

I add details using pastels and colored pencils.

Which book was your first?

“Benny’s Baby Brother” published by School Zone.

Here are two covers that Jill did for Baby Bug and Cricket Magazine.

September 2012 Cover for Cricket Magazine

Do you combine techniques?

The collages are primarily cut paper and I enhance the details with pastels and colored pencils.

How did you get your agent?  What year was that?

I have had a few agents over the years. The first was referred by a friend and the next I got from a professional referral. My present one was from sending out a slew of samples to agents I felt were compatible. I think each one was good for me at the time and I only moved on to find work that was closer to what I was looking for.

Some of your work looks digital, some look like you used watercolor, then some look like you might have used your collage technique. Do you have a favorite technique?

I don’t really do digital work except to occasionally clean something up. I prefer cut paper collage. I have collected papers from lots of sources and I like the flexibility of colors and textures that I can get with them.

Do you have regular contact with your rep.?

Yes, I like knowing we’re in this together.

Do you have any plans to write and illustrate a book?

I do have a few things on the shelf and I’m always jotting down ideas. Although I consider myself an illustrator I would like to have my vision throughout the book.

Can you tell us about Pratt?

I knew from the time I was small that I wanted to draw and draw all the time. At Pratt I was finally able to be immersed in art all the time. I was looking for a professional school that acknowledged the significance of art as an important pursuit.

We are a three generation Pratt family. My mother, who is turning 94, on Sunday, took classes at Pratt in the late 30’s. I attended during the turbulent late 60’s. My daughter is a member of the Class of 2010.

Though my mother can no longer recall her days of drawing, I have fond memories of our shared sketching sessions.

I also have some wonderful pieces that she completed while attending Pratt and beyond. She was my first inspiration to carry a sketchbook and be able to lose myself in the moment of drawing. My mother attended Pratt at a time when money was scarce and women were not encouraged to think of a long term career. While she raised a family she also always enjoyed her art. She drew and painted and encouraged my sister and I to have no limits on our dreams.

Do you feel that Pratt pointed you in the direction of doing artwork for commercial products?

We were always told we were a professional school and the commercial aspect was evident in many of the classes. I felt it was close to my approach so it was a good fit for me.

Did you have a favorite class at Pratt?

I loved figure drawing. It was an 8 hour class and I never got bored. I still enjoy going to figure drawing sessions.

What made you move south to Atlanta?

I was born in New Jersey! So I’m actually a Jersey girl too! My family moved across the Hudson to Yonkers when I was 4 and that’s where I grew up. After Pratt I got a job with Fisher Price Toys, drawing the pictures that appear on the toys. It was outside of Buffalo N.Y. and though I enjoyed the work and grew up with snow, I had never seen that much snow in my life. My husbands brother was living in Atlanta at the time and it seemed a good alternative to all that snow! My brother in law has long since moved away and we’re still here!

Do you ever use Photoshop?

I use it to clean up some of the details. I’ve started to use it on line drawings after I scan them.

Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, when do you use it?

I had one that I didn’t use. At the time I felt hampered by not being able to just draw with it…maybe I should give it another try.

Do you have a studio?

Yes, it’s a room in my house that faces our overgrown backyard. I can see birds and squirrels and occasionally a hawk or raccoon. I have paper lanterns and mobiles that I made hanging all over. There are bookshelves crammed with children’s books that I treasure. They’re collected from my childhood and beyond. I have a filing system for my papers but when I’m working on a job, the paper seems to take over.

When did you start doing collage?

Some of my older work is watercolor and dyes. The dyes were a nightmare for printers since they were difficult to reproduce. I really was forced to find a different approach and the collage grew from that. I was looking for a media where I could get the depth and texture I wanted. I started doing some Asian inspired illustrations for my own amusement. From there I expanded the technique to my professional illustrations and it took off.

How long do you usually get to complete the artwork for a picture book?

Generally I get about 8 months with sketches due for approval within that time frame and then the final art.

Do you try to follow a specific routine every day?

Not really. When I’m on a tight deadline, I get up early and work through till I’m not productive anymore. Then I get up and do it again until the job is done. If the time constraints are looser, the work fills that extra time.

Any tips that you can share that might help an illustrator set up a studio? Technique tips?

I think a studio is very personal so you need to see what works for you. The ideal studio is a place where you want to spend time. And of course lots of good light.

What kind of things do you do to market yourself?

Not enough! I have my website and my agent does most of the marketing.

Any suggestions for illustrators who want to try their hand at doing a collage?

Start collecting papers and materials: Flannel, paper bags, wallpaper, greeting cards, old magazines, wrapping paper, newspapers, cellophane, tissue paper, crepe paper. Look for details in the pieces you collect. Use your imagination. Use crayons, color pencils to make shadows, details, and emphasis.

Use a toothpick to glue small pieces and remember it doesn’t take much glue. When you finish, place the whole thing between two pieces of acetate and press it flat with two heavy objects (I use books). This assures that each finished piece will lie flat.

Illustration below is from Over In Australia Dawn Publications, 2011

Out of the 50 books that you have illustrated, do you have a favorite?

I’d have to choose “Over in Australia” published by Dawn Publications, as my favorite book. I’ve always loved koala bears and it was important to show them as wonderful as they appear to me. I went a little wild with the papers I used since the animals are exotic.

Do you have any words of wisdom for an illustrator who is looking to get their first picture book contract?

Keep trying, keep believing in yourself and always be professional. I know that’s not very concrete, but there is no magic to it, just persistence.

Illustration above is from Why Do My Feet Say Yes When My Head Says No? Headline Books, 2011
Illustration below is from Fire Truck! Scholastic, 2002

Jill thank you for sharing your illustrations and technique on doing paper collage.  There is so much to see within every piece.  I spent days with your artwork and each day I appreciated what you do more and more.  Glad I had that time with your work.

If you want to visit Jill, you can find her at: I am sure Jill would love to hear from you if you have a minute to leave a comment.  Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Simply awesome work and wisdom! Thanks so much for sharing Jill, and Kathy!


  2. Kathy, I look forward to seeing this post every Saturday morning. Jill’s work is beautiful – it’s not that she chooses such gorgeous papers, but knows how to combine the patterns so perfectly. This was one of my favorites!


  3. Colorful, beautiful work! Another great interview 🙂


  4. It’s been a while since I’ve allowed myself the time to enjoy your Illustrator Saturday, Kathy, and you never let me down. You find the BEST artists!

    This work is so beautiful and unique. What you do with the textures is amazing! It was nice to hear about Pratt, too. I had an opportunity to attend, but decided against it.

    And after reading this, I imagine your studio, when working on a project, is FILLED with color draped everywhere! Thank you, Jill and Kathy, for sharing all this 🙂


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