Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 8, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Valeria Docampo

Valeria began to draw driven by the desire to capture the poetry of everyday things: the children and dogs’ glance, the shape of the plants, the sound of the autumn dry leaves  and the aroma of breakfast.

Born in Buenos Aires city, Argentina, her academic background focus initially  in Fine Arts and then graduated from the University of Buenos Aires with a degree in Graphic Design & Visual Communication, where she practiced as a teacher.

Since 2006 she has been dedicated to children illustration. She is represented by the agency MB Artist in New York. She illustrate for publishers from 5 continents.

In her work she uses both manual and digital techniques and investigates the use of new methods and materials in a constant pursuit of new expressive forms.

She has received the honor to participate in the exposition of the 30 most representative illustrators of Argentina at Bologna Children Bookfair’s 2008.

One of her books “La Grande Fabrique de Mots” has sold more than 120,000 copies in 20 languages:
French, Dutch, English, German, Corean, Spanish, Catalán, Portuguese, Russian, Chinesse, Italian, Slovenian, Norvegian, Estonian, and Turc
among others.

Her last book “La Vallée des Moulins” has been presented at TIBE 2013 (Taipei International Book Exibition 2013) where she has been invited by Wallonie-Bruxelles International, Guest of Honor 2013.

She currently lives in Lyon, France.

Here is Valeria explaining her process:

I usually start drawing my first ideas with inks.

The result is very expressive, but I think that I’m the only one that understand these images.

Later I re-interpreted these images translating them into black and white drawings, these are the first sketches made in pencil.

Then it is the moment of color, this can be done by hand with acrylics or on the computer using Photoshop.

Interview Questions for Valeria:

How long have you been illustrating?

I started working professionally in 2007. This year I’m celebrating 10 years as an illustrator.

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

I can’t remember which was the first time I was paid for doing an illustration… What I do remember very well was the first time I saw one of my illustrations published. It was the illustration for a food and lifestyle magazine. The note that talked about wines and philosophy. I was overwhelmed to see one of my pictures printed!!!

What spurred you on to study Graphic Design after that at the University of Buenos Aires?

I wanted to be a painter. I would have liked to have belonged to a medieval court and worked as an apprentice of the great masters. Or to have been in Paris in 1900 and live les avant-gardes. I had a very romantic vision of art. I entered into Fine Arts at the very young age of 16 with that romantic spirit. Soon after, my classmates who were all older than me told me that being an artist was really hard, that not everyone ended up being able to make a living from their work, etc. I don’t come from a family with a lot of money, so I left Fine Arts and I started to study Graphic Design at the University of Buenos Aires, where I later became a teacher for some years.

Fine arts gives you a great base. How to handle proportions, composition rules and tricks, awareness of color. Different techniques, etc. Graphic design gives you powerful communication tools, concept, synthesis, ways of conveying a message, the contraction of a visual language, etc.

Do you think art school influenced your style?

Maybe, everything definitely leaves its mark. But I think what influenced me the most in those years of study is film and photography in film. Filmmakers like Tarkovski or Béla Tarr taught me to see everyday things in a new light. They open up the doors to mysterious worlds that are right next to us, and yet these worlds can go unnoticed if one doesn’t pay enough attention to them.

Did you start your graphic design studio right out of school?

I started my design studio once I finished college and after an experience at a professional design studio.

What type of work does your studio do?

We work mainly in creating corporate brand images. It was a very hard job and it wasn’t enough to satisfy my creativity. I was frustrated. But working on my own I had freedom, so I decided that one day a week would be devoted to illustration. Little by little you can start to create a portfolio, and then I started to create editorial illustrations for magazines and then for packaging. Children’s books came later on.

I read that you also studied cinematography. Are you still involved working with that?

I discovered the cinematographic language at college while studying graphic design. I didn’t study film, but I would have really liked to!  Right now I’m not as interested as I was in film. I’m currently getting more into photography.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I think I always wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books. I remember spending hours looking at the pictures of the book “Donkeyskin” as a little girl.

What was the first picture book you illustrated?

The first illustrated book was called “Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and her Kittens”.

How did that contract come your way?

I was contacted by Alfaguara US to do some small illustrations for an educational book. Those first images worked really well, so I was given the offer to do a book. I was shocked and terrified! The truth is that they have been really generous and very bold as well!

Was Tip-Tap Pop your first book with an US publisher?

No, it wasn’t the first, I think it was the 4th book that I illustrated for a US Publisher.

How did you get that contract?

The contact arrived thanks to my agent, Mela Bolinao.

Was it originally sold to Marshall Cavendish and later picked up by Two Lions with the Amazon merger?

Yes, I have worked for Marshall Cavendish. But I didn’t know that it had been sold to Two Lions.

Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you? If so, and how did you connect and how long have you been with them?

Yes, MB Artist is my representative. Mela Bolinao contacted me in 2007, she had seen some of my work online. It was great because shortly after our first contact by mail, we had the opportunity to meet in person. At that time, I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina and she was in New York. She is an excellent professional. We have worked on beautiful projects since 2008 and continue to
have major projects that will see the light in the coming years. 16. How many picture books have you illustrated? I’m not sure exactly… between 40 and 50 books.

Did you do any book covers while get established?

Not really.

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

Yes! It’s my next goal.

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

It’s generally very difficult to find the time to do these types of projects. Fortunately, I have a busy schedule and have less time available for these types of projects that require a lot of care and work in conjunction with the author.  That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to do. But I think the role of a professional editor is very important.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

Yes, it’s underway 🙂

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes of course. The first jobs of an illustrator are usually for educational books. I think it’s a good school for an illustrator. The place where we begin to define our style and where we communicate directly with our first readers.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I also have. I’ve always taken these jobs for pleasure. I really enjoy doing these jobs from time to time.

Have you won any awards for illustrating?

>My book “The Great Word Factory” received some
awards. They aren’t awards for my illustrations but for the book like a “book album”, that is, where the image and text are one.

Do you still work to find illustrating projects?

Or do publishers look for you? I am extremely lucky to receive proposals from my editors. To whom I thank for their trust and loyalty.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Oil paints!!! I love the smell of turpentine, the wonderful transparencies… but unfortunately they take so long to dry that it’s very difficult to use them for jobs with a tight schedule. So in that regard, acrylics are good friends of mine.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, of course. There are illustrators who think that you have to choose a technique and work on improving it throughout your career. I’m not one of them. It bores me to always do the same thing… I try to find something that surprises me in every book, a new way of doing things.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

No, as of now I have an atelier that is very close to my home. 5 minutes walking. For many years my studio was in my house and I of course couldn’t separate work from my personal life. During deadline periods I could spend an entire day in my pajamas. I think working out of the house (if possible) is a great idea. Just leaving home and getting to walk a bit before work I think is refreshing and very inspiring.

What the most important thing in your personal studio?

Maybe the Condor feather, the portrait of my mother when she was young, a stone from my great-great-grandmother’s house in Portugal…

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

Before I didn’t have a specific schedule or set organization… But 6 months ago, in addition to being an illustrator, I became a happy mom. So now it’s very important for me to organize my work time so that I can enjoy my free time with my little girl.

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

Yes, always. I take photos, I look for photos, I save and look over photos. Photography, that silent moment in time laden with things that remain silent, is very important in my work.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, and no. I think there are times when the internet helps to open me up to new things, it stimulates and aids me. And then there are times when it can become very toxic, preventing me from reflecting and stealing my time. I think it should be viewed as just another tool. It’s healthy and very important to be able to disconnect from the internet and connect to the things that are happening around you.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Photoshop. I usually use it after doing work by hand. I can’t work directly on the computer. I miss the mistakes of the hand, the original color of the real material…

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

Yes, a Wacom Intous.

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

Yes, many!

What are you working on now?

Yes. One one hand there is a book I have been working on for 6 years that I hope to see published at the end of this year. A series of books we are doing with the New York City Ballet. Several classics I have always wanted to do and that will be released next year. And on the other hand, I am developing a new style that includes collage and photographic technique. There is a comprehensive author project for a series of books for really young kids that I’m super excited about. And a picture book without text.

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.

A lightbox is a great tool! In order to make transparencies with acrylic, make a mixture of glycerin and water. Caran D’Ache water-soluble neocolors! The new travel brushes that have a water receptacle in the handle.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator? Don’t follow trends, feed and follow your intuition.

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

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Very beautiful work!


  2. Valeria’s work is both magical and whimsical! Such a captivating style!


  3. Valeria, your work has such a beautiful, wistful, magical quality. I just love it! SO stunning 🙂 Thanks for sharing all of this, and thank you for your hard work, Kathy, bringing it to us 🙂


  4. Fantastica😍


  5. I absolutely LOVE your style, Valeria!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  6. Wow – your illustrations are just beautiful!


  7. Wow! I love your work and the variety of styles. Thank you for sharing!


  8. Beautiful!


  9. Thank you for demonstrating the contrast of “art” to illustration. The art of illustration lies in technique. I am very taken by your talent to discern and produce exquisite pieces with nuance and flair.


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