Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 15, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Anait Semirdzhyan

Anait Semirdzhyan is an illustrator living in Seattle. Art has always been a big part of her life. She spent hours copying Disney characters as a kid. Much later her passion for creating characters and capturing their emotions led her to children’s book illustration. She joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and now most of her time is dedicated to drawing for kids. Although her favorite tools are traditional Pen & Ink and watercolor, She also works digitally and is always eager to try new media and learn new techniques.

Her artistic style is a consequence of diverse cultures of different countries she has lived in. Her goal is to give her illustrations feelings and emotions, rather than perfect lines, and let you experience it!


I start by sketching thumbnail sketches to find the idea and composition.

 Refine sketch.

Then I make a pencil drawing on watercolor paper and outline it with waterproof ink. It could be a Micron pen or a regular dip pen.

Then I color the drawing with watercolor.

 Continue adding color.

Sometimes I  go over with colored pencils to give the drawing some texture and depth, but in this case, I just edited it in Photoshop. Pretty simple!

Finished illustration

Anait sent me the work in process below. It follows the same steps. I couldn’t help, but share it with all of you.


Interview with Anait Semirdzhyan

How long have you been illustrating? 

I’ve been drawing since I was a child, illustrating for children only since 2015. 

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

About four years ago one of my original ink and watercolor pieces was sold. I was happy over the moon that someone wanted to pay for my work, back then it gave me a lot of confidence.


Did you go to college for art? If so, where did you go and what did you study? 

I graduated in Economics, so I haven’t gone to college for art. It was just a hobby until I decided to become an illustrator. Just recently I took an amazing class on Children’s Book Illustration by Dana Sullivan, but most of my knowledge came from the Internet and books.

Did any of the schools help find illustration work for you?


What do you feel influenced your illustrating style? 

Oh, many things. I’ve lived in different countries with different cultures. I actually grew up in a multicultural family, so probably all this and my love for vintage children’s books and cartoons influenced my style.

Have you made a book dummy to help sell a book idea? 

I haven’t sold any book ideas yet. So far I’ve only been illustrating others’ ideas.

Was Ernie Gonzales. Escape from Paradise your first picture book?

Yes, Ernie Gonzales. Escape from Paradise by Beth Shepherd was the very first book I illustrated. (NOTE: it’s a chapter book with black & white illustrations)

How did you get the contract for that book? 

Back then I didn’t even know about SCBWI and how this industry works, so I just put together a small portfolio and joined a Facebook group for children’s book writers and illustrators. I introduced myself as an aspiring illustrator and attached my new portfolio. Next day I received an email from Beth and she asked me to illustrate her book.

What is your most recent book? 

My recent book is It’s Just a… What?: Little Sensory Problems with Big Reactions by Hartley Steiner, which came out in August 2018 at Future Horizons.
How did you connect with the publisher to get that job?

I was contacted by the author.

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

That was not a decision, it just came naturally. It’s just something I always enjoyed doing!

I see you just joined The CatAgency. How did the two of you connect?

Christy Ewers came across my work on Instagram and sent me an email. Can you imagine how excited I was? It’s a great honor to be part of the CAT team!

Before you got the job to illustrate your first book, what type of things were you able to sell? Example: Book covers, ads, greeting cards,etc.?

Before my first book illustration, I was selling postcards, some of my original artwork and prints.

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

This is what I was doing until I signed up with my agent, most of my book projects were self-published. Self-publishing is great, but I want to try something new and focus on working with traditional publishers.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

No, I haven’t, but would love to try.

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



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

I do! One day that will definitely happen.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book? 

A wordless picture book is actually something I’ve been thinking to create. I’m not a writer, so I think it would be the best way for me to illustrate my own picture book.

What is your favorite medium to use? 
 My favorites are ink and watercolor, plus colored pencils to give texture to the drawing. 
Has that changed over time? 
 Sometimes I use Photoshop to color my line art, but my main tools remained the same – ink and watercolor. 
How difficult was it to move over to digital art? 
 I was just playing around and hadn’t had a goal to move over to digital drawing, so it went smooth and easy for me. Although, I still have many things to learn.
Can you tell us a little bit about your studio? 
 All my illustration journey started in the kitchen, now I have a separate room in the house, where you can find almost everything an illustrator needs for work. Sometimes I go back to my kitchen, though. Change of scenery gives me fresh ideas.
Are you active in your SCBWI Chapter? If so, have they helped open any doors for you? 
 I think joining SCBWI was one of the most important steps I made. I love our community of authors and illustrators, they all are very supportive. Our Western Washington chapter is very active and full of interesting events during the year. Thanks to SCBWI-WWA I made a lot of new friends and, most importantly, I found the “Broad Strokes” – my critique group, full of very talented authors/illustrators, who inspire me a lot!  
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft? 
There’s no specific amount of time, but I try to work every day even if I don’t have any specific project. It keeps me on track and helps to improve my skills. 
Do you take pictures or research a project before you start? 
 Depends on the project. If there are real places or events I do my research and find reference pictures, mostly on the Internet, but I prefer drawing from imagination more.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you? 
Oh, yes!  Everything I’ve achieved so far would be harder to get without the Internet. My knowledge, all my projects, ability to connect with other illustrators around the world, my agent! All with the help of the Internet. 
What do you think is your biggest success? 
 The biggest one would be signing up with Christy Ewers and The CAT Agency! But honestly, pretty much everything I achieved so far I consider as a big success. 
Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations? 
I use Photoshop when I work in digital. I’m exploring Procreate now too, so time will show where it goes.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating? 
I use Wacom Intuos Pro and an iPad. I would like to try Wacom Cintiq one day.
Do you ever exhibit your art?
Yes. I participated twice in the annual Illustrators exhibition organized by SCBWI-WWA, very often you can find my works on display in Seattle coffee shops and exhibitions like RAW.
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill? 
Many, but the biggest one is to be in the children’s book industry as long as I can 🙂
What are you working on now?
Now I’m working on my portfolio, practice drawing everyday day and hope to have an interesting new project very soon.
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 have tried – A how to tip, etc.
I love trying new materials. Just recently I found Dr. Ph. Martin’s liquid watercolor. They are concentrated and very bright, so I dilute them with water in glass jars (I use tealight candle holders for that). My all-time favorite is the White Nights watercolor, micron pens, and Fabriano cold and hot press paper.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
Besides drawing every day (which I think is a MUST!) I would recommend all the beginner illustrator to try being in contact with other authors and illustrators by joining SCBWI, to find a critique group and open an Instagram account and a website, where they can share work and get inspiration from other talented illustrators. And most important to believe they CAN! 

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

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. Anait, you capture so much energy in your characters! Loved seeing your work.


    • Thank you very much!


  2. Congratulations! So in love with your works Anait! Thanks for this interview, very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank so much, Ilona!


  3. Fantastic work! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your work, Anait, and love that you too are mostly self-taught! Very inspiring! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rebecca!


  5. This work speaks to me- simply beautiful. And I like that there was not a single ruler-drawn line in sight. Thanks for sharing. (


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