Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 16, 2018

Illustraor Saturday – Sarah Beise

Telling a story through drawing, painting and making bright fun stuff is what Sarah has been doing for as long as she can remember. After graduating from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Sarah moved to Kansas City Missouri where she had the privilege of working for a large greeting card company. 

Many of the stories and characters Sarah designs are based on her favorite kids, Maddie and Anwyn -and her special 4 legged friends, Maggie Moo and Mazzie May. You can find these characters and many more on all kinds of products, Sarah’s designs are featured on puzzles, game boards, stickers, gift bags, gift wrap, Greeting cards, fabric, holiday decorations and of course children’s books. 


I carry this little black book with me everywhere. It plays sketch book, memory keeper, and idea recorder. My first sketches are usually found here and are very very very rough.

After the first rough sketch, I usually take a quick picture and get it into Photoshop, so I can move things around. I will print it out and start redrawing in pencil. This is an example of the refined pencil sketch and what I typically send in for review.

Once I hear back about the pencil sketch and if there happens to need any changes, I like to make the change and do a version using grays. I feel it helps me visualize what the final version will look like.

Ta-dah, the final color version! This is a spread from CALLING ALL CARS written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by me!

Interview Questions for Sarah Beise

How long have you been illustrating?

A long time! I got my start while still in college.

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

If I remember correctly, my very first paid illustration was for a local magazine in Minneapolis/St. Paul area. It had something to do with the local Jazz scene. I can’t remember how many rough versions I did (MANY) before feeling confident enough to drive over and show the art director. Yes, I did say drive over!  Oh how the computer has changed everything!

Why did you Minneapolis College of art and Design to study art?

I knew someone who had attended MCAD and recommended it. I really liked Minneapolis and was anxious to experience a snowy winter.  I had spent most of my years in North Carolina at that point.

What were some of your favorite classes in college?

I started out in graphic design just for fun I took a illustration class my junior year. I was hooked! I was also lucky because I quickly started getting work.

Did the school help you find illustration work?

Yes, a little but what they really helped me with was getting an internship with the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. Getting this opportunity changed everything.  My freelance jobs really kicked in after that summer.

Do you feel art school influenced your illustrating style?

Absolutely! Art school gave me the opportunity to experiment with many different approaches to art and design. I had some fantastic instructors that really pushed me out of my comfort zone.


Are you a full time freelance illustrator?

I am, and a licensing artist plus graphic designer when needed. I have also been known to do some animation and web work. I enjoy all the hats I wear and feel very fortunate!

How did you start getting illustrating jobs?

Looking back, I feel the internship with the Star and Tribune newspaper was the real starter. Later after a few years of working for Hallmark cards I decided to get back into freelancing.  I focused in on the kids market and started pursuing children’s magazines which basically meant sending them postcard samples and crossing my fingers.

Do you still design greeting cards?

I do, but not a lot. For the last few years I have simply licensed the art and the designers at the companies which licensed the image will do the design work for the final product.

What types of licensing jobs have you work on?

The licensing world has been a big buffet of products. From fabric to paper products (cards, gift bags, table top, stickers) to games and puzzles!  I have even had a few characters developed into 3 dimensional Halloween yard ornaments that light-up.

How did you get the contract to illustrate CALLING ON CARS with Jabberwocky?

I had developed a collection of images for licensing called “Za-Zoom”. I had a lot of success getting these “cars, trucks, airplanes and trains” on all kinds of fun product.  Chris Tugeau of the Cat Agency saw something in these images and thought they could possibly develop into some publishing work.  So, she asked me to develop them into more of a story.  I have to admit… I really never got around to pushing the story line very far but I guess it was enough that Chris kept pushing the images!  After many years Chris emailed me with the good news – I think the subject line of the email was FINALLY!  Ha!

How many picture books have you illustrated?

I’m really not sure. I have done a lot of educational books some activity books. Here are a few:

+Don’t Lose Your Shoes!, Scholastic
Pats Perfect Pizza, Macmillan Mcgraw-Hill
What’s New?, Macmillan Mcgraw-Hill
Prodigal Son, Golden Books
Uncle Howie, Simon & Schuster
Best Friends, Golden Books
Love is in the Air, Golden Books
The Giant’s Sock, Harcourt
Blair and Claire, Harcourt
Mort’s Trip to the Store, Harcourt

Was ADDITION WITH ANNIE your first picture book?

How did book come your way?

Through The Cat Agency.

How did you connect with The Cat Agency?

While at Hallmark I had a office/booth near the illustrator Rob Roth. He knew I was looking to try the Children’s publishing market so he suggested I contact Chris.  He spoke very fondly of her and thought we may be a nice fit.  Rob spoke the truth!

Do you ever exhibit your artwork?

I have not.

Have you done any book covers?

I have for some educational stuff but it was years ago.

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

I sure do! I actually have a folder filled with quick little sketches of book ideas. I just seem to stay so busy… but some day I hope I can take those ideas a step further!

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

I certainly would give it consideration!


Have you done any illustrating for magazines? Which ones?

Years ago I did do some editorial illustration. Mainly for local publications. When i moved into children’s publishing I did work for Highlights, Jack and Jill, Weekly Reader, Time for Kids and recently Cricket Mag.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I have not… but you have me thinking now. This could really be a fun approach!

What do you think is your biggest success?

Being able to make a living doing what I love.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Looking back… I think I most enjoyed illustrating with water color and inks… I also love color pencils! For years now everything I do is digital. Someday I will get the brushes back out and play again!

Has that changed over time?

See above.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

I do! I love being home and working whenever I want. But there are times when separating home and work takes a bit more effort.  I try to keep regulars work hours… Ha, when I can.

Why did you set up a business with Mindy Pierce?

Mindy and I have shared a website and for many years and we did share a booth at the Licensing Expo and Surtex for quite a few years. But we never actually were in business together.  We certainly have been each other’s cheerleaders and support when projects would turn overwhelming.  I always knew Mindy was there for me and I believe she has felt the same.  It is such a bonus to be able to travel and know someone is there to step in if need be.

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

Not really. I stay pretty busy so I really appreciate the time I am away from my studio.


Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

It really depends on the project.



Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I absolutely do!

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?


I use photoshop and illustrator.

Do you own and use a Graphic Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I just replaced my intuos 2. It served me well for 10 years! I now have a Wacom Intuos Pro. Love it!

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

I have a fine art side to me that has been tucked away as I have pursued my professional career. Perhaps all the painting ideas I have will eventually surface!

What are you working on now?

I was just in NYC showing my latest collections at Surtex. The next few weeks is all about getting out the designs that were licensed at the show and following up with the new contacts.

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

Believe in yourself.

Thank you Sarah for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Sarah’s work, you can visit her at her website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Sarah. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.


Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wonderful but spelled wrong!!??? 😏

    Sent from my iPhone
    Christina Tugeau
    The CAT Agency Inc.
    757 345 1484

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love her work. so fun and bright. Thank you for sharing. It’s so nice to know people are working and making a living illustrating for kids. That’s my dream. Thanks for the motivation to keep at it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is so inspirational and gives me so much to think about as I work on my project. I have a book that I am working on and have decided to hand write all the words. I love Kathy’s style and have seen her work now that i think of it. I really feel more confident and believe in myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I mean SARA


  4. Darling illustrations!

    Liked by 1 person

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