Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 7, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Olivia Chin Mueller


Olivia grew up in the small town of Chester CT, and now lives in Providence, RI.  She attended the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated in 2014.  

Besides illustrating, Olivia loves playing with her cats, raising silk moths, and collecting anything cute! She also enjoys sewing and felting miniature animals!


Here is Olivia explaining  her process: 

1. This is my sketch! I never sketch traditionally, so this is done in photoshop using a pencil brush and blocking in some basic color. Sometimes, I don’t use line at all, and only put the color down.


This is about a half way point. I usually only work in one or two layers, unless the person who hired me requests more. So on this file, the boy on the truck is one layer and the rest is the second. I’ve finished the boy and the truck and have just started working out the background!


Here is the illustration with all the details worked out! All that is left is color tweaking!


And here is the final image. All I’ve done here is upped the saturation and tweaked the colors a bit! And its finished!


How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating for fun since high school, probably since 2009 when I was a junior!


What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think the first illustration I was paid for was the Ice-cream image above, where I talked about my process! It was done my senior year of college for VRQ magazine, and was actually a class assignment!


How did you choose the Rhode Island School of Design?

I always knew I wanted to go there, since both my parents attended also. (My dad in Architecture, and my mom in Graphic Design.) We would visit every summer so It already felt like home.


What did you study there?

I majored in illustration, but I almost picked animation! Luckily during winter session I took an animation class and realized that I was not built for that life.


Do you think RISD influenced your style?

I’m sure it did, just by looking at and being inspired by all my classmates work! But I think RISD focuses more on ideas rather than style as a whole, so it probably helped me more in that department.


What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

Right after I graduated in 2014 I did small freelance work here and there, nothing big though. It was really hard for me to get work on my own with my kind of shy personality. It wasn’t until a year later when I found my amazing agent (Tugeau 2) that I really started to get into the freelance world!


When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate for children?

I believe it was my junior year of college, when I took an amazing children’s book class! It was so much fun, and really made me fall in love with the industry!


I see that you have done a number of YA book covers. What was the first one you did?

I could be remembering incorrectly, but I think it was the cover for Teddycats, for Razorbill! I did a bunch before that, but that was the first I did as a job, and not for fun.


How did that opportunity come your way?

Like all of my work now, my agent Nicole Tugeau got it for me!


Have you illustrated any books, yet? If so, what book was that? How did that contract come about?

I’ve done a few for Cottage Door Press (one being still in the works), and I illustrated a picture book for Tundra Books, which is coming out fall of 2017! Basically anything I’ve been doing for the past year I am still unable to talk about, unfortunately!


How did you start felting small animals?

I started felting in high school, after I bought a book on felting miniature dogs! It just grew from there and became my hobby!


Did you learn those skills in college?

Nope! I started my sophomore year of high school, in 2008


Do you sell them?

I used to sell them in high school and the beginning of college, because I didn’t want to get traditional summer jobs. I now unfortunately don’t have the time anymore, but I would like to get back into it someday!


I also see that you sell lapel pins on Esty? How do you create these? Do you have a jeweler work the metal to your design and then enamel them?

Yes! I was talking one day with my mom, who also loves pins and used to collect them when she was my age, about the new pin craze going on! She really wanted to collab with me so we designed them together! We eventually want to make more and start a mini business together. Basically, you design them and pick all the sizes/metal types, etc, then you send them off to a pin making company to be manufactured!


What other types of art have you done?

I love all types of crafts, and have probably done a little but of everything. Pick any medium, and I think I’ve tried it at least once. However Illustrating is my main love, so its the only thing I do consistently!


Would you like to write and illustrate a children’s book?

Yes I would! Writing does not really come naturally to me, but I am working on it and am writing a few stories now!


Would you be open to illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

It depends! I think its a bit riskier for me generally, but I won’t say no to something without considering it!


Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

I have not! It sounds really fun though! I think pictures should be able to get the point across on their own, so I would love too!


Have you worked with educational publishers?

I have! I did a lot of that the first year I started freelance! I think its so cool to think about how my illustrations are helping a lot of kids learn!


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Not yet, but I would love too. When I was a kid, those where my favorite things to read.


Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you?

I do! Nicole Tugeau at Tugeau 2 inc.!


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

I’m not the best on finding work on my own, because of personality type. I don’t do well with negotiating an all that, which is why having an agent is great for me! So much less stress on my part!


What is your favorite medium to use?

I work almost exclusively on photoshop, but I do like to paint with gouache for fun!


Has that changed over time?

No, I’ve always worked digitally. I’m trying to train myself to be able to mix digital with traditional, but my skills with traditional mediums are pretty far behind my digital skills! But I’m working on it!


Do you have a studio set up in your home?

Kind of? All I need is a computer and my tablet to work, so its more of just a desk in my apartment!


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

Besides my tablet/computer, I would have to say my cat, Minnow. I don’t work well unless she is there keeping me company! Luckily she is very dependable and takes her job as my supervisor very seriously.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to work as long as a person who has a day jobs works. So 9-5. I always force myself to stop working before dinner or I literally wouldn’t do anything else.


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

It depends! Most of what I do comes from my head, but whenever I go out, I always find myself taking pictures of interesting leaves or flowers for reference!


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! If I lived in a time before the internet/social media, I don’t think I would have any work. I probably wouldn’t even be an artist. Art sharing sites as a kid is what really got me interested in art, and looking at other artists work online is what inspires me!


Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop!


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, I use a Wacom Tablet!


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

I would love to write and illustrate my own book! I want to create something that’s entirely mine. I’m crossing my fingers!!


What are you working on now?

I am working on a few books that have yet to be announced, so I don’t think I can share them! But as I mentioned before I am trying to write some of my own stories!


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.

The only tip I can think of for digital painters, is to either buy nice photoshop brushes or customize your own! Don’t use the default hard round brush!! I highly recommend Kyle T. Webster’s brush packs, they are amazing!


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

Well if anyone else knows, please share with me! But I think a good piece of advise is to keep all your old work. Don’t throw it away even if its really embarrassing and cringey to look at. Nothing is better than to look back at your old work and see how far you’ve come! It keeps you motivated!


Thank you Olivia 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 Olivia’s work, you can visit her at her website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Olivia. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Just checked out your work. You are amazing! I have a friend that illustrates children’s book also. It is a gift. Beautiful 🙂


  2. Beautiful work! I find photoshop so intimidating.


  3. Such a talented artist! Good luck to you in your career, Olivia. I look forward to hearing about your successes. And now to google where to send pin designs to make some of my own…. 🙂


  4. Amazing, lovely work! Definitely learn how to draw and paint by hand, though.


    • Olivia definitely short sells her ability to draw and paint by hand. I have walls full of her original artwork that she has made me for gifts, especially one lovely gouache piece of two grackles (she knows her mom is crazy about birds).


      • Lucky you!


      • I love that you commented, Tracye 🙂 You must be SO proud of her!


  5. Lovely work!


  6. Oh my gosh, Olivia! Your work is awesome! By the way, I live in Killingworth, CT, right next door to your home of Chester and work at RJ Julia’s in Madison. If you’re ever in town visiting I hope you’ll stop in and say hello. Best of luck and hope to see a picture book with your illustrations in the store down the road.


  7. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to seeing your illustrations in picture books.


  8. I enjoyed hearing your story Olivia and your artwork is beautiful and perfect for children’s books. I look forward to seeing your books.


  9. Wow, Olivia, this is gorgeous work! No wonder Nicole reps you 🙂 Every picture was beautiful (though I’m not a bug fan so the dragonflies creeped me out lol). Thanks so much for sharing these with us, and Kathy, as always, for all the hard work 🙂


  10. Olivia, your art is beautiful, professional, and 5 stars of 5 in technique, style, originality. I can tell you enjoy being creative. Wish you success.


  11. beautiful work!


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