Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 17, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Dolores Avendaño

dolores320_30628356765_8714_nDolores Avendaño studied Graphic Design at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and later Illustration at Rhode Island School of Design, USA. She got her first big illustration job right before graduating at RISD in 1993, and has continued to illustrate ever since. Her first picture book was, On Halloween Night written by Ferida Wolff and Dolores Kozielski, published by Tambourine Books a division of William Morrow (later Harper Collins).

In 1997 right after she finished illustrating a book based on a true story, emecé asked her to illustrate the first cover of a series about a magician boy, Harry Potter (it was for the spanish edition). He was not yet known as he is today. Dolores continued to illustrate all the covers for Harry Potter’s spanish edition. While working on the Harry Potter covers, Dolores decided to make another of her dreams a reality, run long distance.

When she was 30 years old, she began to train. Five years later, she was the first and only Argentine woman who ran the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, a self assisted stage race, of 243 km or 160 miles. Today, 2013, she still is the only Argentine woman who ran it. After Sables, she ran the 100 Himalayan Miles and Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset (100 km in one day on the mountains between Siberia and Mongolia). She won both races. She also tried to reach the summit of Aconcagua (highest mountain in all of America), twice. One of those times, it overlapped with an important illustration job, she was illustrating a Children’s Bible for an Italian Publisher, Edizioni Messaggero Padova.

By the end of 2010, Dolores began having solo artist exhibitions in art centers, cultural centers and museums. Among other places she had a solo artist exhibition at the National Museum of Decorative Arts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Based on her experience as an illustrator and ultra runner, Dolores gives motivational talks to schools (private or public), universities and companies. Among other things, she encourages people to dream, believe in their dreams and love what they do. During her free times, she enjoys having coffee with a friend or reading a book. 

Here is Dolores discussing her process:

The title of this illustration is, “Find Joy in the Journey”. I did it for an exhibition in Italy titled “The Journey”. The Exhibition begin in January 2014, but illustrators from around the world submit their work now in September. Once I knew the subject for the exhibition, as always, I did research. Finally I decided to do something connected to some of my own life lessons and that would be fun for children and adults…    Find Joy in the Journey!


Step 1: pencil sketch of the idea. Finally, I decided to illustrate something connected to one of my life lessons, that would be fun for kids and adults. Plus, my nephew Santi, who lives in Hong Kong (very, very far from Argentina where I live) loves boats! In the photo, I included the technical pencil I use to draw with.


Step 2: Once I have the final sketch, I trace it onto watercolor paper using a light table. The watercolor paper is Arches cold press 300 grams.


Step 3: In this case, I began painting the boat. On the spur of the moment, I decided to add stars on to it. It looked too serious to me!


Step 4: Once the boat was on it’s way (but not quite finished yet), I began painting the musical notes and pentagrams.


Step 5: Then I painted the hearts and flowers and added details to the boat too. I wanted it all to be connected by colors and details.


Step 6: Finally I painted the ocean and the sky. I worked on them together.


Step 7: Once the illustration is finished, I sign it and take the tape off. Now the illustration is ready to go! 🙂


How long have you been illustrating?

Professionally, for the last 21 years. Non professionally, since I can remember.


I see you attended the University of Buenos Aires for Graphic Design in Argentina. What type of classes were your favorites?

The ones where I got a chance to illustrate too, like book cover designs. At that time illustration did not exist as a career in Argentina.

Then you followed up that by going to the Rhode Island School of Design for Illustration. How did someone from Argentina decide to come to the USA to study illustration?

After studying Graphic Design I wanted to study Illustration, actually it was what I had always wanted to study, since at the time there was no Illustration career in Argentina I had to go to another country. I researched several universities in the USA, I had not travelled to Europe or the USA before, the USA seemed closer to home and I also felt comfortable with the language, the other language I knew (aside from spanish) was english. I decided to apply to RISD because it was the only University that had Fairy Tales as a subject.

dolores green beans

What classes influenced your work the most at RISD?

Nick Palermo, Jean Blackburn and Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges, were the three RISD teachers that influenced me the most. Nick taught drawing and oil painting, Jean taught Scientific Illustration, and Judy Sue Children’s Book Illustration.


Did you enjoy the time you spent in the USA? Or were you homesick for Argentina?

Of course there were times I was homesick, but overall I sincerely loved my time in the USA and made very good friends.


What was the first thing you illustrated where someone paid you for your work?

Two illustrations for a Law Firm while I was a student at RISD. I am sorry I cannot remember the Law Firm’s name. They were defending a doctor who was being accused of malpractice, I had to illustrate a human healthy circulatory system, and the circulatory system the patient had. Both illustrations were going to be used to show the jury or explain to them the disease the patient had. I got this job, while I was working part time at RISD’s Nature Lab.


Did the school help you find work?

Yes they did, they used to publish job offers.

How did you get your first big break?

I found my first big job a few months after finishing my classes and right before my graduation, through a teacher, Judy Sue, who connected me with a publisher’s art director, Golda Laurens, she was looking at portfolios. I called Golda and asked for an interview, she gave me my first picture book, right there at the interview! It was “On Halloween Night”. A few years later, that book appeared in Meg Ryan’s bookstore in the movie, “You’ve Got Mail”!


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

Since I can remember… 6, 5, 4 years old? I used to look at Fairy Tale Books’ illustrations and think, “when I am a grown up I want to do this.”


How many picture books have you illustrated?

I do not know, however I would like to illustrate many more!

dolores two cats

What was the title of your first book? Who was it with?
On Halloween Night, with Tambourine Books a division of William Morrow, later Harper Collins.

dolores eight toads

Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

Not yet.

How did you come to be represented by the Organization?

They contacted me.

Have they gotten you more jobs than what you would have found on your own?

Not yet, they represent me only in Europe. Marcia Lord represents me in the USA.


16. How did you get the contract to do all the covers for the Spanish Harry Potter covers?
There wasn’t one contract for all the covers, it was a cover by cover contract. Originally emecé published the Spanish Harry Potter, I had just finished illustrating a book for them when Harry Potter came up and they offered it to me. They thought my illustration was the right match for it. Eduardo Ruiz, emecé’s art director, told me the book was about “un chico mago” (a magician boy), he wasn’t known yet as Harry Potter. When emecé was sold, I continued with Salamandra.

doloresharry potter480

How did you connect with Simon and Shuster to do their Jake the Drake series?

I met the art director at Bologna’s Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Book Fair.


How did you get to work with Houghton Mifflin?

Through my agent in the USA.


Do you have a favorite illustration?

I have several favorite illustrations 🙂


Have you done anything for educational publishing houses?

Yes, a lot!! Most of my work has been for educational publishing houses. Recently I had a very nice/special surprise. My 8 year old nephew who until this past June used to live in the USA, was given at school one of the stories I illustrated! As soon as he got back home from school he called me to Argentina and let me know about it. He was so exited and so proud of his aunt. He touched my heart and gave even more meaning to my illustration career.


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes, I would love to! In fact I have three picture books in mind for children and one book which would not be illustrated for adults. I’ve already began working on the book for adults.


Do you ever do art exhibits?

Yes, I began doing solo artist exhibitions in December 2010. Since then I’ve exhibited exclusively in Museums and cultural centers. This past summer (my summer your winter) from December 2012 to March 2013, I had a solo artist exhibition at the National Museum of Decorative Arts in Buenos Aires Argentina. I exhibited 78 illustrations and paintings. And at the moment I am exhibiting at the Museum of Fine Arts of Salta (a province in Argentina).


What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Do my best at each illustration job and be open and ready for opportunities that come along. Keep in touch with people. I confess I do not dedicate enough time to keeping my web site updated, one of my new resolutions (oriented to finding illustration work) is to make an effort to keep my web site updated.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Watered down acrylic on watercolor paper.

Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?

Yes, I always do research before I start a project, not only for information also so that my mind gets into the subject I’ll be illustrating.

dolores flying horse

What is the one thing in your studio you could not live without?

hhmmm… do I have to choose only one?? 🙂 If I were in a truly extreme situation, I know I can live without anything, it is just that quite a few of the things around me in my studio have their own special story. Like a Mongolian hat I have or a glass buoy from the Patagonian coast or a mule’s shoe from Aconcagua…


Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

Yes, but it hasn’t worked out well. There are days I work almost non stop and well into the night, and there are days I have trouble drawing a line. Usually when I am working on a job, it flows, hours go by without me noticing. It is in between jobs or at the beginning of a new job, that it takes me some time to get back into gear. So now I accept it, I know I have very productive times and slower times. I even see those slower times as creative moments! 🙂


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, without a doubt.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, to adjust the scanning!


Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

I am hoping to get one! Meanwhile I am learning different programs. I would like to continue working on paper, but I think it is good to be able to choose.


Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

More than the materials or the style, what has changed slightly over the years is the subjects I am interested in and the points of view.

doloresboyriding horse

Do you think traveling around the world, doing marathons, and icy/hot expeditions get reflected in your illustrations?

Honestly I do not know, however I have no doubt that those travels have opened my mind and world. Actually, my ideas for children’s books come from those travels 🙂


Do you take your sketch book with you on these trips?

Tried it but it does not work well for me. In my case it has proven better to take a camera and take photos.

doloresriding horse

How do you market yourself?

Through agents, through doing the best work I can, my web site, generating work relationships, giving talks.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Whenever a dream fulfills immediately there are new dreams that continue to push me or lure me forward.


What are you working on now?

An illustration for an exhibition in Italy, I Colori del Sacro. This year’s subject is, The Journey.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My favorite paper is Arches 300 grams, depending on the illustration I am working on I use cold press or hot press. Brushes I prefer them round (for watered acrylic). The amount of water I use depends on the transparency that particular color has, and the transparency I want when I paint.


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful illustrator?

Have very clear what you want, believe without a doubt or question you’ll achieve it, and love what you do.


I want to thank Dolores for sharing her work, process, and journey with us. Please keep in touch and let us know when you have future things to brag about. We’d love to hear about them.

You can visit Dolores at Please take a minute to leave Dolores a comment. As usual I really appreciate it when you do.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What beautiful work! I love its softness. Happy to read about your work.


  2. Absolutely charming. Great colors! I especially loved the sleeping girl cuddling her stuffed pony and the Pinocchio with the bird on his nose. Thanks for posting this.


  3. Beautiful images. It was neat to read about your process, Dolores. Thanks for hosting, Kathy!


  4. I love the effect with the watered down acrylics. Beautiful paintings!


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