Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 21, 2015

Illustrator Saturday – Virginia Allyn

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVirginia lives above a chocolate shop in a beautiful New Hampshire village. She enjoys collecting children’s books, hiking, and eating all her vegetables (except peas).

Her recent projects include Mother Goose’s Pajama Party by Danna Smith (Random House), Born Lucky by Joe Levit, The Other Wolf by Betsy Ochester (Pearson Digital Studio), Personalized Books The Love of Baby by Marion Dane Bauer and Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore (Chronicle Books), Dreams Come True… All They Need Is You by Mike Dooley (Totally Unique Thoughts), The Magic Cooking Pot (Oxford), Nursery Rhyme Readers: There was an Old Woman & Little Miss Muffet (Scholastic), Little Red Hen (Ladybird), The Three Little Pigs (Ladybird), The Gingerbread Man (Ladybird) and The Elves and the Shoemaker (Ladybird) .

Here is Virginia:


Double page spread sketch. Drawn on graphic tablet.


Painted using Photoshop.


Double page spread sketch. Drawn on graphic tablet.


Painted using Photoshop.


Finish art on cover for newest book.


Sketch of book cover. Drawn on graphic tablet.


Painted using Photoshop. Close-up look below.



How long have you been illustrating?

About fifteen years now.

What was the first thing you painted and got paid for doing?

In eighth grade I was paid to paint a mural.


Did you go to art school? If so, what did you study?

No, just basic high school art classes. I’ve yet to use my batiking skills.


What do you feel helped the most in developing your style?

Years of trial & error and feedback from my agent, Mela Bolinao. I have absolute trust in her judgment. My daughter has an MA in Art History, Theory & Criticism so she enjoys improving me, too. 🙂


What type of work did you do after you got out of school?

Well, I was a mother at nineteen so I did just about any work I could find to support us– child care, waitressing, bartending, etc. Then I got a job with FedEx and worked there for twenty years. I did illustration jobs at night and on the weekends and slept under my desk during lunch breaks. Now I illustrate full-time and don’t sleep at all.


Have you seen your work change since you started illustrating?

Yes, thankfully. The very first thing I illustrated was a frog for a story written by Karma Wilson. I still cringe. Sorry, Karma.


What was the first picture book that you illustrated?

The first book was Who Am I? by Robert Paauw.


How did you get that contract?

The publisher contacted my first agent after seeing my work online.


How many picture books have you illustrated?

Eight picture books and a kazillion educational books.


How did you come to work with Random House on Mother Goose’s Pajama Party? Was that the first book you did with them?

Mela met with Random House last February (2014) and about a month later we were contacted by Nicole De Las Heras, their wonderful art director, and Frances Gilbert, the fabulous editor, and then I cried for a week.


I see that you illustrated a book, titled Hush-a-bye Counting with Piggy Toe Press. Can you tell us a little bit about that publisher? Are they part of a bigger publishing company? How did you get that contract?

Piggy Toes was a subsidiary of Dalmation Press. Hush-A-Bye Counting is a bedtime story written by Kris Aro McLeod. It’s a pop-up book that involved paper engineering so that was fun and challenging. They contacted me through my agent at the time.


Is Clean Up Shelly Beach your latest book? How did Raintree Publishing find you? Are they a small press or a imprint of a bigger publisher?

I worked on this educational book in 2013. We were contracted by Jay Dale with Upload Publishing out of Australia.


Would you be open to working with a self-published author at this point in your career?

A few years ago, Mike Dooley, the inspirational speaker and author, contacted MB Artists looking for an illustrator for his children’s book and Mela suggested me. That book ended up going to #1 on Amazon. So, yes, I would happily work with a self-published author.


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

Actually, I think Mela is working on that right now…


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

Fifteen years ago my daughter convinced me that creating art digitally would be handy in the future. She was right but I still try to make my digital art look as traditional as possible.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Nope. Google is my friend.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I use Photoshop for all of my work from sketching to finished art.


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, I have a battered old Wacom tablet.


How did you make the connection with MB Artists for representation?

I was with an agency in the UK for several years but was looking for representation in the US. I contacted Mela and she agreed to take me on as long as I sent her brownies. I made up that last part.


How long have they represented you?

Since November 2009.


Have you done any illustrations for educational publishers?

Oodles. I just finished sixteen spreads of sketches for McGraw-Hill Educational.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Yes, and a Farmers’ Almanac.


Have you ever tried your hand at a wordless picture book?

Yes, a book called Poof!


Do you have a studio in your house?

Just a desk area and a cushy seat for my bottom.


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

My children’s book collection.


Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I live above a chocolate shop so I start every day with a cup of hot chocolate & espresso. Then I usually work until 4 or 5 in the morning because I can’t sleep.


What kinds of things do you do to promote yourself?

I have a personal website and MB Artists has an agency website with my portfolio. They send out postcard mailings and quarterly catalogs to publishers. Mela meets regularly with editors and art directors. I stay at home and draw as fast as I can.


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

A second book with Mike Dooley is in dummy stage, Mother Goose’s Pajama Party by Danna Smith (Random House) will be out in October, a map of Oz for The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (HarperCollins) comes out this month, and lots of educational work.


What are your career goals?

I color for a living. Goals met.


What are you working on now?

Just finished a set of sketches last night and sent them off, I have a quick color revision on an educational piece, then I’m working on a book dummy.

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

I’m self taught so I’d be ashamed to show anyone my scary Photoshop techniques. (It took me ten years to discover the transparent pixel locker-upper.)


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

In my opinion, personality trumps proficiency in artwork. There will always be someone technically better than you so focus on your unique point of view rather than obsessing over a perfect nose.

And send brownies.



Thank you Virginia for sharing your talent, and journey with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.

Art Agency:
Twitter: @virginiaallyn

If you have a minute, please leave Virginia a comment. I am sure she would love it and I enjoy reading them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I see a lovely round fullness to Virginia’s images – just beautiful! I’m also impressed by her ability to live atop a chocolate shop. That would be far too distracting for me to get any work done!


  2. Enchanting!


  3. Beautiful, colorful, and animated artwork Virginia! Thanks for sharing Virginia’s art and history with us Kathy!


  4. I love this art. It’s simply stunning! It’s got such life and beauty to it!


  5. Virginia, your work left me smiling from ear to ear!


  6. Virginia, your style is so soft and beautiful, I just love it 🙂 SO appealing! Thanks for sharing this, ladies 😀


  7. Virginia, your work is ADORABLE! I love it. And I’d a ton or more if I lived above a chocolate shop. 🙂


  8. Virginia- You know I love your work! Especially those moon and sun pics! Haha!


  9. Virginia, I love your work, from the early books to the most recent. It is wonderful to see you grow as an artist over the years. And funny too!


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