Martha Aviles was born in Mexico City in 1965. She studied graphic design at the University of Mexico, and has worked as a full-time illustrator since 1991, when she published her first Children’s Book.
Martha has worked for several publishing houses in Mexico and abroad, and some of her books have been published in multiple countries. She lives in Mexico City.
Illustrated by Martha Aviles:
+ Stones for Grandpa by Renee Londner, Kar-Ben, 2013 – Silver medal honor winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award, USA 2014.
+ Abuelita Full of Life by Amy Costales, Luna Rising, 2007
+ It’s Your Cloud by Joe Troiano, Barnes and Noble, 2004/5
+ Amelia’s Show-and-tell Fiesta by Mimi Chapra, Harper Collins, 2004
First Prize in the 1st “Catalogue of Illustrators for Children and young People Publications”, Mexico 1991 * Runner Up Prize in the 8th “Noma Concours for Picture Book Illustration”, Japan, 1993 * Encouragement Prize in the 9th “Noma Concours for Picture Book Illustration”, Japan 1995.
Here’s Martha explaining her process:
Sometimes I work my sketches in a small format; I reduce the layout and start to plan every page. After that, I start defining the sketches on the tracing paper.
Once I finish the drawing, I transfer it in Arches 300 grs if I’m using watercolor to paint it, but if I’m using wood, first I paint the bottom with acrylic and then transfer the sketch.
When I use this last technique I paint thin layers of acrylic, one over the other, but letting that the bottom color still shows.
Finally, when I finish painting the entire scene I use the sandpaper and the cutter in order to create some textures.
An example of an illustration done this way in wood.
How long have you been illustrating?
I have been illustrating books for 26 years.
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
The first thing I painted were some watercolors for a manual activity book for preschool kids in 1988.
What made you want to attend University of Mexico?
Because I considered the University of Mexico was the best place to study the career I wished in the art field.
What made you decide on taking graphic design?
When I was at high school I attended a conference of graphic designing, it was part of the Careers Guidance School Program and that day I decided that it was the career I wanted to study. At that time I did not know why I was deciding to study it, but intuitively I felt that it would be the space where I could explore and develop which I have loved since I was a little girl: drawing.
Do you feel College helped develop your style?
When I was at high school I attended a conference of graphic designing, it was part of the Careers Guidance School Program and that day I decided that it was the career I wanted to study. At that time I did not know why I was deciding to study it, but intuitively I felt that it would be the space where I could explore and develop which I have loved since I was a little girl: drawing
What did you do after you got out of school?
I started freelancing as soon as I left college.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
I started working for children by chance. I worked as a freelancer designer when a preschool teacher, mother of a high school friend, asked me to do some drawings. She had already published and wanted to show another project to her editors. She asked me to do some illustrations to show her dummy, and her project was accepted. This way I started to work for this publishing house for many years as freelance illustrator. For me this was a very fertile period of training and learning, which taught me the rules of to educational children’s books industry and brought me incredible friendships and teachers.
How many picture books have you illustrated?
I have illustrated about 15.
What was the first book that you illustrated? How did that come about?
It was “El mistero del tiempo robado” written by Sara Corona.
I was called from Amaquemecan, a small mexican publishing house. The editor, Liliana Santirso, revised my portfolio and told me that it was really bad, but invited me to take a test. She gave me some books of European illustrators (so I could study them) and a story.The deal was that I had to be back a week later to present a proposal which was accepted. It was the opportunity that introduced me in the children books world.
How did you get the contract to illustrate Don’t Sneeze at the Wedding ?
“Don´t Sneeze at the Wedding” was the fourth of five books I illustrated for Kar-Ben Publishing. I got the contract of all the five books I illustrated for them through my agent, Chris A. Tugeau.
Do you illustrate full time?
Yes, I illustrate full-time.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture book?
Yes, sure I have it, but I think this will come later. I have ideas on my favorite topic: early childhood, but I am still working on.
How did you connect with Chris Tugeau? How long has she been representing you?
I met Chris A. Tugeau at the SCBW Conference in L.A. in 1999. She reviewed my portfolio and offered to represent me in USA. We have been working together since 2000. We have had a long successful relationship, and without a doubt it has been the valuable experience in my professional career.
Have you ever worked with a self-published author? Would you be open to that?
Not yet, but I am open.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
I have used every kind of watercolors for a long time, but the cuality of the papers have changed a lot and now it is really difficult to find a paper which guarantees a precious expression of this technique, this makes me try to use and explore with other materials. Acrylic is the material I generally use nowadays.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
When it is necessary. The work always begins with the search of visual information.
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
I use it only to make a retouch when the work is finished.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
Yes, I have.
What is the thing that you are most proud of doing, since you started you illustrating career?
I am always proud when a client comes back. I have had clients for a long time who have given me great opportunities.
Has any of your work appeared in magazines?
A few times. I have participated in Ladybug, Babybug, and High Five magazines.
Yes, I have a little studio at home.
Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?
Yes, I can´t live without my books, the TV and the radio.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
I am used to full-fill a diary, sketchbooks, meditation, reading and walks. It helps me to connect myself with a different creative energy and to achieve my goals.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
Yes, it does not have anything to do with my job as an illustrator, but it is a task that is exciting and makes me happy. It is a reading project to involve kids in reading, its name is “El Semillero”. It is a mobile library in a plants market that carry children books, in a cart that was used to carry plants. I stop at certain points, every Sunday, to read, paint and play games with the kids that work there.
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
Not to me, I have been away from the internet social media, but I think they are able to open doors to everyone.
What are your career goals?
I’d like to develop personal projects that are closer to my current interest topics and creative needs, which are related to involve kids in reading.
What are you working on now?
I am working in a small story for “Reading A-Z” and I will start another for “Ladybug Magazine”.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
The advice I would give is to try with everything because I think that no technique lasts forever, the materials change and with them the possibilities to work with them are modify too. I have had to look for new materials because my favorite papers have lost quality. Nowadays I have been working in a wooden board that gives me the possibility of experimenting with acrylic and also to build things with it. Some tools that I enjoy using are the sandpaper and the cutter, I use them to scrape and create textures or to “hurt” the paper (generally I use Arches 300 grs) or wood.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
To try to be loyal to themselves, do not imitate anyone and do not follow the current fashions. To keep an open space to develop an inner exploration that can lead them to know their deep and authentic motives, wishes, abilities and possibilities.
Thank you Martha for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.
To see more of Martha’s work, you can visit Catugeau Agency’s website: http://www.catugeau.com/marthaaviles/
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Martha. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!