Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 14, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Rahele Jomepour Bell

Rahele Jomepour Bell is an international award-wining artist who right now is focusing on picture book illustration, which is her real love. She also enjoys painting, collage, animation, printmaking and the list goes on. I love telling stories with pictures. Discovering a new medium and exploring a new technique is the most exciting part of my creation. Recently painting with natural mediums such as gouache and pencil is my favorite.

I have graduated with MFA in Integrated Visual Arts from Iowa State University in 2015, I now live and work in my home studio located in a beautiful tiny city of Ames in the state of Iowa. It looks out over a small Iowa yard, with low-speed railroad tracks in the distance. I like watching the train crawl by, especially when I see a rabbit or a squirrel watching. What are they thinking?”

Here is Rahele discussing her process:

I transfer my little thumbnail sketch to a paper drawing. I slowly add details.

Then I add layers of shading and lighting. This is the final drawing.

I scan the final drawing and paint with natural brushes on Photoshop.

How long have you been illustrating?

During high school, I started my first professional experience in the most famous children Caricature Magazine in Iran called “Gol Agha”, and I was 18 years old when I found the chance of doing an internship in one of the most famous publications in Iran ‘Beh-Nashr, resulting in publication of my first two books in 2001.

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

My first published illustration that I got paid actually happened when I just graduated from college with B.F.A in Graphic Design. The publisher paid me but never published the artwork. Because I illustrated the groom and bride were dancing in the picture and it was forbidden in that time. I do not have the original piece but I have a picture of the work in progress.

But right after it, one of my classmates who was the art director of a children magazine in that time asked me to do about 6 illustrations for their magazine. The magazine was called “Tiz-Houshan” for kids ages from 9 to 12. Here are some of those illustrations:


What made you choose to attend the Iowa State University for art?

I did research for M.F.A programs in Illustration and there are a few universities that offer this program but most of them are private schools and they consider illustration more as a communication design degree not fine arts. I found the illustrated picture books by Professor Chuck Richards and I could not wait to be his student.

What type of things do you study to get an MFA in Integrated Visual Arts?

At this program, I could have different opportunities to take a variety of classes and studios included of painting studios, textile, drawing, and illustration.

The underground comic art class helped me with my character design, their gestures and facial features, use of visual metaphor and understanding how much storytelling, composition, and point of view can be related to each other. Also working with Professor Chuck Richards, I learned how the marriage of text and image is so important for making a book. I have learned I can use my story telling and narrative style in illustrating a book but still be concerned about the text and follow the story.

Do you think art school influenced your style?

It is not about art school, it is about other artists from other part of planet you meet at school. My reason of coming to the united states and study at ISU was being in contact with international artists from all over the world, in an educational institute and being able to expand my knowledge and understanding of Art. I know the best artists who are self-thought and they are my heroes such as Beatrice Alemagna and Henri Rousseau

What job did you do right after you graduated?

I did a children’s picture book illustration project and have five books that are published in 2016; Tehran, Iran by Balout Books Publishing house ( Faray-e Elm).

How did you come up with the idea for the illustration you did for the 2016 Iowa Conference – Explore Your Storybook World flyer?

Thanks to Dorothia Rohner; Iowa SCBWI art coordinator for choosing me to design this flyer. I had a lot of fun doing this illustration project. I believe each book leads children to new adventures. We as authors or illustrators trying to help children to explore and find their own world by reading our books, but first we need to explore ourselves in our own story that we are telling.

How long did that take you to do?

A week; counting all sketches and playing with the composition.

Do you art exhibits to help promote yourself?

Yes, it does and I also enjoy meeting and talking to people who are interested about my art.

Do you have an artist rep. or an agent? If so, who? If not, would you like to have one?

I do not have an agent yet but YES! I would love to have a right agent to represent me.

What type of things do you do to get illustrations jobs?

Being a member of SCBWI and getting involved in different art events and conferences or even doing some volunteer illustration jobs helps me to get illustration commission.

How did you get the opportunity to paint a bench in a shopping area?

My mother in law who also is an artist knew about this public art opportunity, she gave me the website address and I submitted my artwork, and it was selected. It also won the second jury prize!

How long did that take you to do?

About a week, every day working from morning to the late afternoon.

Did the weather interfere? How did you treat it when done, so it will hold up in the elements?

The weather was very nice, it was May 2016. A little bit windy but not distractive. First, before start painting I sanded the bench very well, this helps the wood absorbs the paint better. At the end, I varnished the bench in three layers, 2 layers right after getting the painting done and one layer a week later.

Do you ever get contacted from people seeing the link to your website on the bench?

Yes! People sent me their pictures with the bench and it was so lovely to see them enjoying their time seating on that bench I painted.

Do you do any artwork other than children’s illustrations?

I am also painting. My paintings subject is mostly about women and their roles in the contemporary era. I make dolls, I sculpt little creatures with clay.

Marker pen and gouache on wood.2015 Romeo and Juliet, Scenic paint on canvas, 2016

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

One of the biggest influences on my interest in illustration started from my childhood. From the first years of elementary school I was hooked on those books which were illustrated by very best illustrators of the world. I wanted to be that person who draws pictures like those images in picture books.

Have you done any book covers?

I have done book cover artworks but it is just for self-promotion.

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

This is my dream! My husband and I are working on the story ideas which have the potential of being children’s book.

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

If I love the story, YES! Why not! 

Have you worked with educational publishers?

I have done educational illustrations for Iranian publishers but not in the United States yet. For sure, I would love to do the educational illustrations.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, both inside of the U.S and outside. But I got published as an illustrator for the first time in the U.S with illustrating stories from Cricket Media/ Faces Magazine.

Have you tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

It is under process. In my opinion, it takes more time in compare with other type of picture books.

Have you put together a picture book dummy to show off your talent?

I am working on two picture book dummies. I am not in a hurry, I know it is something that needs time and focus and of course a lot of revising.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Pencil and gouache, paper collage! I love to combine these mediums with digital technique. By this I have the chance of keeping the organic feeling of traditional mediums and also having a good result of printing from digital touch.

Has that changed over time?

Oh yes! I have worked with a lot of different mediums!

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

My studio is in our basement, what I care is having a big table to work and my art supplies.

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

My favorite picture books I have collected over the years.

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

I try to spend drawing every day even half an hour! Sometimes I go there to my studio and I might just read about art online (such as your blog) or dig another illustrator’s work. It helps me to get motivated and Jing the bell of creativity in my brain!

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

A lot! I spent more time to do research rather than doing the artwork by itself. I take photos with my smart phone, save some of my favorite artist’s art sample for my inspiration. Oh! Pinterest and Instagram, these two social medias are the best inspiring references for me too!

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Internet and social medias helped me to find lots of artist friends form other sides of the earth! It is very important to know other artists who share the same thing you love. I cannot be happy without being in contact with other artists and creative people. And social media improved this goal for me.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use both Photoshop and Illustrator program as a digital tool to create my art work.

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

Yes, I have an Intuos drawing tablet.

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

I want my books in hands of children all over the world! Even someday in hands of children living on Mars.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I am being prepared for two upcoming art shows I will have one in December and one in February. I am also getting ready for Iowa SCBWI conference in Cedar Rapids this October. I am going to meet so many talented people, and very special art director from Cricket Media; John Sandford! I am pretty excited about this conference!

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.

I always love to draw on very smooth papers and I have tried different kind of papers to find the right one. I love Moleskin sketchbook papers a lot, but they are expensive! Somehow, I could find the same type of paper, but much more affordable. It’s Egg shell colored Mohawk fine paper. It is very soft and smooth and gives you a great surface for using drawing pencils.

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

I am on my own way to be a good illustrator, I am still learning but one thing that really has helped me is this word from my husband; “Never give up and never get disappointed’! Always be consistent about reaching your goals!


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

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. So uniquely lovely!!!


  2. Rahele, your work is so intriguing and lovely. Thank you for sharing here!


  3. Rahele, you have such variety in your work! I love the “fairy tale” quality of almost all your pieces. And that bench is SO cool! Thanks for sharing your “Iran to U.S.” journey 😀


    • Thank you so much for your encouragement! Yes! Working on that bench was so fun and I had a very happy time back there!


  4. Rahele – your work blows me away. It’s stunning!


  5. The only thing I adore more than Rahele’s beautiful illustrations, is Rahele! She has a gentle spirit and a heart of gold. AND Rahele is ready for the very best agent out there to snap her up, so do it!


    • Thank you so much my dearest Kathryn! Meeting you at SCBWI Wild Wild Conference was one f those magical times happens in my life rarely! I am so lucky to have an inspiring, talented, lovely friend like you! ❤


  6. I’m such a huge fan of your work, Rahele! I can’t wait to see your career blossom.


  7. Rahele, I was married in Ames! Used to play piano at a church there. So glad to “meet” you at this blog and see your intricate work.


    • OH! Come and stay with us in Ames any time you miss this tiny pretty city 🙂


  8. What talent!


  9. I am a big fan of your work. Your use of line, color and mostly your imagination to form those images are so rich and deep. Love seeing all the different styles you bring forth. Great interview, and best to you in the future. You are going far – for sure!


  10. Fascinating article and beautiful illustrations, thank you for sharing!


  11. So delighted to take a new glimpse of these amazing works!! I can´t get enough of them – Rahele, your illustrations are soo vivid!😊
    Winter greetings and a great 2018!


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