Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 13, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Manelle Oliphant


Manelle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in illustration from Brigham Young University Idaho and has been working as an Illustrator since 2005.  She’s illustrated multiple books. Most recently, In the Garden, (spring 2012) In the Woods, (fall 2012) and At the Beach (spring 2013) for Peachtree Publishers.

Some of my other clients include: McGraw-Hill, Friend Magazine, The Empress Theatre, and Blooming Tree Press.

I work with watercolor, prismacolor pencil, pencil, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

Manelle says, “My object in writing and illustrating books for children is: to recapture imagination, rekindle curiosity, and demonstrate the rewards of knowledge and virtue. Pretty good eh? I stole it from Walden Media. Regardless I am creating books and illustrations for children with this in mind. Hoping that others will have a chance to have fun, and learn from the products I create.”

Manelle has sent three panels that describe her process, thinking, and interview answers.

manellecover process
Have you always lived in Salt Lake Utah?

Basically, I did go to school in Idaho. I lived in West Yellowstone Montana one summer and I lived in Provo Utah for about a year after college.


How did you go to college to study illustration?

Well, yes, sort of, I went to college to study art. I thought I wanted to be a gallery artist but then I took an illustration class and the rest is history.


What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

Like I said I took this one illustration class… It was intense and really hard. It seems like during the semester I was just exhausted the whole time but it really gave me the tools I needed to be able to draw the kinds of pictures I always wanted to draw. In the end I took that class three times, twice with the same teacher and once with another teacher. I learned so much in all of them.

manelle walking through woods

What did you do after you graduated?

After I graduated I moved to Provo Utah and got a job doing layout for an educational publisher. I liked it there and I sometime I got to do small illustrations. It was fun learning more about Graphic design and layout there. I still use those skills all time.

What was the first thing you did that you got paid to do?

I think it was an illustration for the Friend magazine.


How long have you been illustrating?

Eight years


What materials did you start out using for your illustrations?

Watercolor and pen, and I also did a lot of digital painting at first.


Have those material changed over time?

Yes. I still use watercolor but now I use colored pencil and pencil more than pen. I just use the computer for prep work now, value studies and things like that. I stopped doing digital after I got a few jobs painting that way and realized I didn’t enjoy doing that as much. And sometimes l like to just try something completely different if I can. That is what Ruby and the Skateboard is, a fun style experiment.


Was the artwork for Don’t be Afraid a self-published book project?

No it was for a small Christian publisher. I think the first book job I got. I was pretty excited about it at the time.


How did you get involved with Familius?

It’s a long story. I’ll try to sum up. The Just In Time books were first being published by another publisher and they hired me. But before they were published the authors decided they wanted to go a different rout than that publisher was going so they pulled out. I had already done some sketches and things for them and I really, REALLY, wanted to do them. Luckily the authors, Cheri Earl and Carol Williams, live in Utah and I had met them at some SCBWI conferences, so the next time I saw one of them at a conference I told her how baldly I wanted to do those books. Later I emailed the sketches I had done and she liked them. She said she would suggest me as an illustrator if they found another publisher. Years later they found Familius and Familius hired me. So I think the moral of the story is be patient, and go to conferences, you never know what will happen.


Will there be other Just in Time books coming out?

Yes, 50 are planned, one for each state.


Can you tell us something about Familius?

They are new as of last year (2012). Christopher Robbins the publisher used to be CEO of Gibbs smith. So far they have been good to work with and we’ve enjoyed getting the Just In Time books ready for publication.


Will you be the illustrator for all of them?

That’s the plan.


Did you do any interior art for The Princess and the Pee or was it just the cover?

Yeah, I did an illustration for each chapter.


manellebanjo log

I see that you just wrote and illustration your own picture book and are selling it on Amazon for $.99. Was it easy to take the book dummy and turn it into an ebook?

It wasn’t too hard. But like I said I had a job doing layout and I took some deign classes in college. I don’t know that it would have been as easy if I didn’t know how to do that.  After the layout there is just some mechanical stuff to figure out that takes time but isn’t too hard. Julie Olsen has a nice blog post about how to do that.


How hard is it to get people to notice your ebook?

I haven’t been good at it yet. Gradually I’m selling more and more and I’ve been trying things here and there to market them. Just learning stuff from people online and trying it. No giant success yet but I kind of enjoy the trying.


Do you plan to produce the book and self publish it, so kids can hold it in their hands?

Not at this point. Both of the ebooks I have out right now were just little things I did for fun and for practice telling stories. I think they will always just be ebooks.


What are your thoughts about the acceptance of buying a digital picture book?

I think people are accepting it more and more and that we all aren’t sure what a digital book is exactly. It’s all a process and I just want to be involved in the new fun. I don’t have programing skills or animation skills so my books are just pictures and text but there are so many more things they can be. I plan to keeping learning and telling better stories and just seeing what happens with digital picture books.  And having fun with them as they evolve.


Do you plan to write and illustrate another children’s picture book?

Of course. I think the reason illustration appealed to me in the first place was the chance to tell stories with my art. I plan on doing that until I die and still doing it in the after life. Why stop right? I have some fun manuscripts written and new ideas all the time, and as I said I feel like I’ve just been practicing so far. I plan on getting better at telling better stories.


Are you concentrating on becoming a children’s picture book illustrator?

Um… yes, and no. I like variety I love picture books but that is not all that I want to do. Mostly I just want to tell good stories.

manellerabbit hatbigger

How did you get involved with Peach Tree Publishers and the board book you illustrated for them?

They hired me after I sent sample postcards.


Who is Jeremy D. Miller and how did you work together on a wordless picture book?

Ha ha, good question. Jeremy is my husband and after I had the idea for Ruby and the Skateboard he helped me figure out everything that would happen to her. Then I drew it.


What types of things do you do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

Postcard mailings, and a website are the main things. Conferences are great also. You never know what is going to happen. I have heard of people getting jobs from twitter but that hasn’t happened to me yet.


Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have the represented you?  If not, would you like one?

I don’t have one. I would like one but I want them to be the right one so I keep dragging my feet. I’ve submitted to some before and got some offers but they never felt right. I’ve also gotten a lot (and I mean a lot) of rejections. That was a couple years ago though so maybe I’ll try again soon. But not having an agent has been good for learning. I feel like I know my way around contracts and I’m getting better at taking better jobs. It’s hard asking for more money or changes in contracts. When I have to do stuff like that It’s always nerve racking but I like the feeling of accomplishment at doing something hard even if I don’t get what I want. And of course I’m getting better at it the more I do it.

maellegirl talk

I see you have used your artwork to make t-shirts, cards, ipad, iphone covers, etc.  Can you tell us a little bit about this?

Yeah, I just use the website society6 which is a service where I upload my art and they print on demand. If someone buys something of mine I get a percentage. I think they have good quality from what I’ve seen. It’s been a fun little side thing.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Yes. Right now almost all of my color illustrations are a combination of watercolor and colored pencils. Some of my pencil stuff has a grayscale digital under painting. Doing that helps me save time.  Ruby and the Skateboard is ink and digital.


Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Yes. Although I don’t know how I can explain it in detail.


Have you gotten any work through networking?

Yes. I would say the just in time books are a good example of that.


Have you published any illustration in magazines or newspapers?

Yes. I’ve done a couple jobs for the Friend Magazine, and some other stuff here and there. I’ve also done illustrations for text books and thing like that.


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

Not usually but sometimes if the opportunity arises.


Are you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?



Do you ever use Photoshop?

Yes. I use it for value and color studies and all kinds of other stuff. I used to do a lot of my paintings with it but now I just do paintings with Photoshop for fun when I’m doing experiments and the like.


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

Yes. I use it  for painting in Photoshop mostly.


How much time do you spend illustrating?

As much as I can I suppose and sometimes more. I just finished the second book for Just in Time. We had a really tight deadline with it and I spent every waking hour illustrating.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

I suppose I would prefer not ever live without the salt lake county library system. They provide most excellent recorded books for me to listen to while I’m illustrating (It’s not technically in my studio but the books are).


Any picture books on the horizon?

Not right now.  I have some manuscripts I’ve been working on but it remains to be seen if I will turn them into ebooks or try to publish traditionally. Right now I’m just really busy with Just In Time.


What are your career goals?

Be amazing and keep getting better.  I did have the goal to illustrate cover and interiors for beginning chapter and middle grade books. That’s what Just in Time is and they will keep me busy for a long time.  So I met that goal and haven’t made any new ones yet. I suppose my goal would be to not mess them up. I have some personal projects in mind to do while I’m working on those as well.


What are you working on now?

I just finished the second, Just In time and will probably start on the third soon.


Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Every painting needs an awesome composition and the right values.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Keep moving forward. I still think I’m in development stage but when I look back I can see that I have made progress. It has been slow going but the work is starting to pay off. I just had to be persistent and I have to keep being persistent and believe it’s gonna be great.

Thank you Manelle for sharing you process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing more success stories from you. Please make sure you let us know.

If you would like to visit Manelle you can go to her website: And please take a minute to leave a comment here for Manelle. It would be  much appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. It’s been a long time, again, since I’ve been able to enjoy an Illustrator Saturday. Gorgeous work, Manelle! Thanks, Kathy 😀


    • Donna,

      Sorry, that I have been so out of touch. Why can’t I get caught up?



      • ‘Cause LIFE is always getting in the way : / I have FINALLY started all that cleaning I was telling you about! lol AAAGGGHHH!!!


      • Donna,

        My house is all torn up. I finally had painters up in and take down wall paper and paint, but it involved the foyer, living room, kitchen, and family room. The paper would only off in little strips and the walls underneath needed a lot of work because the company I used did an awful job (the reason that I had to have it taken off), so they have been hear most of the week and today is the first day that they could paint. I think they will be done on Monday (fingers crossed). Of course, all the furniture is pushed into piles and the overflow into my dining room and the kitchen is a mess. I guess you can figure out what I will be doing next week. Too much money – too much mess – too much stolen time.



      • “Stolen time.” That’s a great way to put it. It’s the thing I hate the most 😦 But you’ll feel so relieved when it’s all over. Try to keep that in the forefront as you push through it. It’s what I’m doing. I’m addressing the problem of my bedroom floor again, which is actually a health hazard for me, but I can’t afford ceramic tile and doing it myself involves self-stick tiles which only seem to come in vinyl or carpeting—ALSO health hazards *sigh* Unfortunately, there’s always SOMEthing! Hang in there and try not to work yourself sick again! oxox


  2. Loved reading about your process, Manelle. Beautiful work!


    • Joanne,

      I always find that so interesting and it is funny, but the writers love to read about the process too.



  3. Love your characters! Love your style!


    • Elizabeth,

      So glad you always stop by. Remember to keep sending me thing to use to keep you name out there.



  4. Beautiful artworks! Great style! Love them all!


    • Joyee,

      Thank you for leaving a comment. It means a lot.



  5. Thanks you guys!


    • Manelle,

      Sounds like people really enjoyed your post. Remember to let us know all your future successes.



  6. I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post
    is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty.

    You are incredible! Thanks!


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