Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 8, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Anika A Wolf

Anika A Wolf was born, raised, and still resides in Canada, although her heart belongs to the Caribbean.

She’s been drawing ever since she could hold a crayon (how cliché – but true!) and always knew she’d be destined for a career in the arts. She’s an illustrator, writer and designer who’s in love with storytelling. And when she’s not creating stories – well, she’s reading them, of course!

She also loves spending time in nature wherever possible, and getting oodles of doggie cuddles from her newfie Mumford. Anika is a Sagittarian, self-proclaimed Silly Billy, and Unicorn Enthusiast.

Here is Anika dicussing her Process:

This is an illustration I created for a postcard mailout. First, I start very small and rough with thumbnails. Here’s a couple of them – as you can see, I play around with different ideas (another idea I had was to have the sloth and kid hanging in a zoo). My sketchbook is quite messy and I’ll also jot down ideas everywhere, not just drawings.

Next I’ll do as many rounds as I need to of tighter line work until I get it how I want it. Although the “final” linework is never actually complete, as I’ll still touch it up and change small bits in Photoshop after I’ve scanned it in. I usually work at 50% of the final size, as I love very textured looking linework from the pencil when I’ve scanned it in. So when I scan it, I make sure it’s set to at least 600dpi.

For this piece, since I wanted a strong figure ground relationship with as much contrast as possible, I painted it fully in black and white first. I don’t always do this and jump straight to colour, but this one I felt it was important to do the b&w first (tip: if you do jump straight to colour, you can always check your contrast by adding a black & white adjustment layer in Photoshop which you can turn on and off at the top of all your other layers).

Once I have the black & white painting complete, I add a separate layer that contains my colour palette that I can ‘eye dropper’ (pick) from.

I then colourize it! I’ll add new layers of colour and set the layer to ‘Color’ at a lower opacity and like magic it colourizes the black and white painting underneath.

I’ll then bring in layers of scanned-in watercolour textures (or ones I’ve collected over time that were posted as free to use in various places online).

The final step is to add subtle highlights! It’s amazing how much life you give a character when you add in a teeny highlight to their eyeball.

Interview Questions for Anika Wolf

How long have you been illustrating?

Ever since I can remember! I was the kid who would draw on anything and everything and spent more time drawing in the margins in class than listening to the lecture. My parents always joked that if ever I ran out of sketchbook or scrap paper in the house than our supply of toilet paper would be in danger!

That said, I didn’t actually get serious about children’s illustration as a potential career choice until 2011. I didn’t even realize it was a “thing” until I randomly came across a children’s illustration course online through the London Art College.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork? [image ‘nursery’]

I really had to rack my brain, and I don’t think I sold a single piece of artwork before my first picture book (coming out October 5, 2018!) – Rock and Roll Woods (by Sherry Howard, published by Spork/Clear Fork Publishing). I certainly did a lot of artwork for others, but they were all either given as gifts or as charity auction items. The latest gift I made was for my best friends’ baby nursery.

Did you study art in college? If so where and what did you study? [image ‘fashion illustration’]

I first went to Seneca College in the Greater Toronto Area for fashion design and completed their 3-year program. After school, I never ended up working in the industry for various reasons and eventually went back to college for graphic design (a joint program between the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and Emily Carr University in Vancouver, British Columbia. While neither are directly related to illustrating kidlit, many skills are quite useful and transferrable. Especially those learned in the graphic design program – composition, layout, colour theory, typography, the Adobe Creative suite, etc.

My art director Mira Reisberg told me that my “superpower is expressing movement” (ha! She’s so complimentary and such an amazing person) and I can definitely thank my three years of fashion illustration for that. We had to fill an entire sketchbook each semester as part of our grade and when you draw ‘models’ walking the runway that many times you get the hang of drawing expressive movement!


What was the first job you did after you got out of school?

As mentioned, I never worked in fashion, but within a couple of months of graduating from the graphic design program I landed a design job. It was for a large grocery retailer in Canada – doing all sorts of ads in all sorts of formats! The most fun in that job was art directing their photo studio staff where I got to sketch food out in the layout I wanted them to shoot. It’s actually quite fun drawing food! Then for a number of years I was a designer for legal aid in British Columbia where I also did a lot of editorial-style illustration work too, including a 16-page graphic novel. I’m still doing graphic design and editorial illustration, but I freelance for myself now.

Have you illustrated a picture book, yet?

Yes, Rock and Roll Woods! That’s the first picture book I’ve illustrated that’s getting published this year. I’ve also done a few of my own book dummies for stories I wrote myself. Hopefully they’ll see the light of day at some point!

Have you ever made a book dummy?

Yes, one published and three unpublished (or, yet-to-be-published – I’m hopeful!).

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

That’s hard to say as it’s something that’s developed over time. In terms of the way I draw, I think probably the number of times I copied Disney characters (especially Belle!) as a kid had an influence, but also just being quite perceptive of everything around me in daily life. As for the way I digitally paint, without a doubt it’s Will Terry who had the most influence! I devoured anything and everything Will put out (his courses, his blog) before SVS Learn even started. One of the early SVS Learn courses that Will taught was on a multimedia way of working – Mixed Media-Watercolor and Digital – and that course in particular I really connected with and I’m still employing that method in the way I finish a painting now.

How did you get the job to illustrate Rock and Roll Woods?

I took the Craft & Business of Illustrating Children’s Books course with the Children’s Book Academy, ran by Dr. Mira Reisberg a year or two ago. She remembered me and offered me a contract!

Do you have an artist rep.?

I don’t yet, but I’m hoping to sign with a literary agent soon! I’m working hard to get my stories in good shape before querying.

Have you done any book covers?

Not as a standalone, but as part of the picture books I’ve done.


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

I’ll never say ‘no’ without knowing the specifics, but it’s not likely unless the author knows the importance of the many stages of the process and has the budget in order to pay the various professionals who simply must be in the mix in order to produce a quality book.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I haven’t yet, but I’d love to!

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Not yet, but I’ve just begun contacting them… so hopefully soon!

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

YES! I love writing my own stories – I haven’t been writing near as long as illustrating (only in the last 2 or 3 years) but I feel I’m getting there with it.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I’ve written one actually (which, since it’s wordless, is just a breakdown of spreads and description of the art) but haven’t made a dummy for it yet. I have all the illustrations “in my head” for now!

What do you think is your biggest success?

I’d say just having the drive to keep at it. I think many people would’ve given up by now but I’ve always believed in myself and kept pushing forward. Now that I have one published picture book coming out, I’m optimistic there will be more shortly.

What is your favorite medium to use?

These days I’m all about digital painting… although I must say, I still absolutely love classic graphite pencil on paper. I’ll often do my line work with pencil, scan it in, and do the rest in Photoshop.

Has that changed over time?

Oh yes – in high school, I was all about sculpture (although my mom said I was bad at it – ouch!). After that, it was Copic markers (my fashion illustration days), and then it was watercolour or pencil crayons. And now finally digital painting/mixed media.

What type of things do you do to get your illustrations noticed?

I’ve mailed a couple of rounds of postcards to art directors, put my art in a gallery show, and attended conferences and entered my portfolio in the showcase (along with business cards as takeaways). Although nothing solid has come of any of these things yet.

Have you ever attended a SCBWI conference?

Yes, I attended the Western Washington one in April 2017. It was so great! It’s the only kidlit one I’ve attended thus far. I’d love to attend one of the big ones soon in either California or New York.

I also attended one other conference in 2016, the Surrey International Writers Conference (in British Columbia), but most who attended were adult fiction writers. I must say though, the pitch session I had with an agent and blue pencil session I had with an author at SiWC were awesome! Totally worth the price. Plus I met a YA writer / critique partner / amazing person / friend (shoutout to Karra!) at that conference. You can never have too many great writerly friends.

Are you active in CANSCAIP? Can you tell us a little bit about that organization for people in the US? [image ‘Monster Unicorn’]

Absolutely! CANSCAIP stands for the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers. It’s similar to SCBWI in a way, but at a much smaller scale since it’s only in Canada. I joined last year in order to submit my stories in their annual Writing for Children competition. That competition is really great, because if you’re a finalist they will submit your story to 3 major publishers in Canada for their consideration. And EVERYONE, regardless of whether you’re a finalist or not, gets feedback from the judges on what you can do to improve your manuscript. I made the long list last year for my middle grade graphic novel Monster Unicorn!

I’m attending CANSCAIP’s Packaging Your Imagination conference in November in Toronto, Ontario. I hear it’s good, so I’m excited!

I also have two framed pieces of my artwork in their show, currently in a gallery in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio?

My “studio” – ha! If you can call it that. It consists of my iMac on a small desk in a corner. The drawers are filled with pencils and sketchbooks, and my iPad Pro has also become an integral part of my equipment.

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

I haven’t set any goals or anything and it’s really just ebbed and flowed. I’m amazing with deadlines (and not AT ALL when I don’t have one) so even when I’m not under contract I love to join as many competitions or challenges as possible just so that I have an “end date” to work towards. Then I can really go-go-go in order to meet the deadline! I’ve often envied the artists who can do quick sketches every day though and post them to social media. My goal one day is to push myself to do more of that quick daily-type of artwork rather than always being so project-oriented.

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

I haven’t had the need to take pictures yet, but definitely I’ll do research. Especially if I’m drawing something that I’m not totally sure of the anatomy or some aspect of it. For example, I did a lot of research on different types of musical instruments for Rock and Roll Woods since I was unsure of exactly how they looked and couldn’t rely entirely on my own recollection of them.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! Without the internet, I wouldn’t be educated on children’s illustration and writing, I wouldn’t have met some awesome fellow artists (some of which are now my critique buddies), and I wouldn’t have “met” Mira – which means no picture book illustration contact. Not to mention all the inspiration! I don’t even want to remember a time when I couldn’t follow my favourite illustrators.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I’m ALL about Photoshop! And I’m getting a bit more into Procreate now too. And I use InDesign to layout my dummies.

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

Yes – I have a Yiynova that’s a few years old now, which is basically a cheaper Cintiq. I never really loved it though – I could “paint” with it, but never got the hang of drawing on it, even though it’s drawing directly on the screen. The surface is just too slick. Now I’m fully converted to my iPad Pro – which is also a slick surface and I still don’t love it as much as pencil on paper, but it’s SO much easier to draw on than the Yiynova. It’s all thanks to the Apple Pencil, which is far superior to the pens that you can get for graphics monitors.

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

Publish stories that I both write and illustrate, get a wonderful literary agent, and make a decent enough living at it that I can support myself fully from it (living somewhere in the Caribbean)!

What are you working on now?

I’m refining my stories to get them query-ready and am just at the beginning outlining stage for a middle grade novel. I don’t have any publishing contracts at the moment – but I’m ready for another!

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 recently bought a yearly subscription to Astropad – which I’m in love with! I wouldn’t be happy with just using Procreate for every project I work on with my iPad Pro since I love Photoshop so much, and it’s just not as robust. So since I have an iMac, and an iPad Pro, I’m able to work with Astropad. It basically mirrors what you have up on your computer screen onto your iPad so that you’re able to work on Photoshop (and other Adobe programs) via WiFi. And there’s some other handy features like touch gestures. It’s great being able to work on my iPad from another room with my wireless keyboard next to me instead of being tied to a desk – AND getting to use Photoshop on it!

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

Network! I know it’s hard for many of us introverts (and I’m no exception!), but you really need to put yourself out there. Go to conferences! Join critique groups! Enter competitions! I’ve come a long way with my craft with the help of other amazing kidlit people offering their feedback and support. Plus, I got my first publishing contract because of networking! It wasn’t from all the postcards I’ve sent out, although eventually I’m sure that route would be successful too. Believe in yourself, and “fake it” even if you have butterflies turning in your belly. Most everyone is nice and likely has butterflies too. Also, be as supportive and helpful to your fellow kidlit people as possible. What you put out, you get back in return.

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

Instagram @anikaandthewolf
Twitter: @anikaandthewolf
Shop – InPrnt @anikawolf

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I enjoy the humor in your art. Great work on ROCK & ROLL WOODS (my CP’s words).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Manju! ❤🐻🎵


  2. Picture book dummy? What is this? I love telling stories. I think I always have but its been recent that I have the courage to write these stories down. I will soon publish my first of many books. I am curious about the book dummy. I am just going to publish my books with amazon because I have too.


    • A picture book is usually 32 pages – some are end papers, but an illustrator will usually do sketches for each page of the book to help decide how to lay out the pictures and the text. When they get it right, they will put the pages with illustrations and text together to create a book dummy. It’s a good way for an art director or editor to see how you keep the characters looking the same and how your illustration follow through with the theme – also how you see the text fitting with the page turns.

      Use my search bar and type in picture book dummy. You should find other posts that I did on them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I will thanks


  3. lovely work. thanks for sharing so much of your process with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Julie! ❤


  4. So happy to learn all of this about Anika’s work. She brought the critters to life in ROCK AND ROLL WOODS! I know kids are going to love her animals! And I LOVE the way she brought the main character, Kuda, to life! So grateful for her hard work on this book!

    Liked by 1 person

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