Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 8, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Lorraine Rocha

Lorraine Rocha started out studying architecture but quickly realized she wanted to draw more than just floor plans and returned to school to study illustration and animation at San Jose State University. After graduation, she worked at Industrial Light + Magic in the art department, contributing to such films as National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Miracle at St. Anna, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Ironman.

Following her time at ILM, Lorraine worked as a concept artist on the game Bioshock 2 and taught classes at The Art Institute of Las Vegas.

Upon her return to the San Francisco bay area, Lorraine focused on picture book illustration, and creating funny, whimsical images. Lorraine’s debut picture book, Zebra On The Go, published in 2017.

Lorraine lives with her two favorite people, her husband and daughter. All three enjoy singing and dancing, and Lorraine’s cooking.


The thumbnail drawings are drawings that I made for myself, to describe ideas for the compositions of the respective spreads.

Thumbnail rough sketch.

Image I submitted to Peachtree Publishers for the drawing phase for page 4/5. These were drawn at full scale.

This is how the final paintings look in print. 

Rough sketch. 

Image I submitted to Peachtree Publishers for the drawing phase of page 20/21. These were drawn at full scale.

This is the image I painted for the SCBWI Illustrator Intensive, before I was asked to be the illustrator for ZEBRA ON THE GO.

This is the final image in print. There are some differences in the 20-21 painted images.  The art director for ZEBRA ON THE GO wanted me to show the pier, where the Zebra and Lion chase would head to in the following pages.

How long have you been illustrating?

I have always liked to draw, so I’m not sure I can pinpoint when I started. My best guess is since I was six years old.

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

I interned in the art department at Factor 5 (a video game developer) in 2005. I produced artwork for them and it was a paid internship, so that’s when I was first paid for my artwork.

What made you choose San Jose University University to study illustration?

My sister (Anne Fix) and brother-in-law (Colin Fix) had graduated from San Jose State’s illustration/animation program. They knew that I was unhappy working in architecture, and they encouraged me to go back to school.  I am really grateful for their urging.  San Jose State University has a fantastic program for illustration and animation.  The professors are very knowledgeable and there is a student community ( that pushes everyone to do their best.

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

While I was in the illustration/animation program at SJSU, the faculty would bring in representatives of companies like Hallmark, Dreamworks, and Factor 5 to look at student work. That is how I heard about the Factor 5 internship, and about the position in Industrial Light + Magic’s art department – where I would eventually work.

What do you feel that also studying animation influenced your illustrating style?

Animation was definitely not my strong suit, but I think it helped me with the ideas of pacing and of framing a shot (composition).

What type of things did you learn at your job with Industrial Light + Magic?

At ILM, I learned about composition, lightning, color and how to use Photoshop very well. When I worked on Bioshock 2, I made drawings and paintings of furniture, statues and architecture for the game. Those ideas were then given to modelers.  It was a lot of fun – the art director needed most of my work to be in the art deco design style, which was nice to research and work with.

Was ZEBRA ON THE GO your first picture book?


Before you got the job to illustrate your first book, what type of things did you sell? Example: Book covers, ads, commissioned art, etc.?

I didn’t sell anything before I illustrated my first book.  I began to make whimsical paintings in my spare time.  I also submitted work to Illustration Friday (  I posted my work on my blog (which I don’t really use anymore).  I found out that my work was shared through another site that has a large following.  Soon after, I received an email from an associate editor at Paula Wiseman books.  She wanted to know if I was interested in illustrating books for children.  After several more email exchanges, she recommended that I join SCBWI.  I did!  Shortly after I joined, the California: San Francisco North and East Bay chapter of SCBWI hosted an illustrator intensive.  Participants for the intensive were invited to storyboard one of 3 manuscripts in advance of the Intensive for Loraine Joyner, who was an art director for Peachtree Publishers.  I chose to show work for author Jill Nogales’ ZEBRA ON THE GO, which did not yet have an illustrator attached.  During the Illustrator Intensive, Loraine let me know that she wanted me to be the illustrator for ZEBRA.  Needless to say, I was very excited!  It took a while for all the stars to align, but happily, I did get to illustrate my first picture book, ZEBRA ON THE GO.

How did you land is Las Vegas to teach at The Art Institute of Las Vegas?

I left ILM and the bay area when I got married. My husband’s job transferred him to Las Vegas, so away we went.  When we were there, I did freelance work for 2K Games, and I met someone who taught at the Art Institute.  I gave a presentation to the students there, and then got a job teaching.

I see that you have another picture book coming out in March titled, When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree published by Sterling. Have you finished the illustrations for that book? How long did it take?

Yes! WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE (Sterling, 2019), written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan and illustrated by me, and it’s publishing date is March 5, 2019.  I think it took about a year to illustrate.  I finished the bulk of the paintings in August, and made all the tweaks by September of this year.

How did Sterling find you for this book?

I think Sterling found me through my agent, Stephanie Fretwell-Hill of Red Fox Literary (

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

I’m not sure about illustrating for an author who wants to self-publish. I would have to ask my agent for her input.

Have you worked with any educational publishers or children’s magazines?

I have not worked with educational publishers, or worked illustrating for children’s magazines, but it sounds like a fun endeavor!

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

I would like to write and illustrate my own children’s book. Writing for me is a huge challenge.  Maybe I’ll be able to do it someday!

Have you ever thought of doing a wordless picture book?

A wordless picture book is an appealing idea, but there still has to be great story behind it, quite the challenge.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I like working traditionally. Watercolor and gouache are my favorite.

Has that changed over time?

I used to prefer acrylic, but it takes longer for me.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio?

My studio is in our 1930’s era house. I think it used to be the laundry room.  It has low ceilings, and is pretty messy.  I need to work on that.

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

I try to work on art as much as possible, but I never seem to have enough time.

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

I do take pictures and I look for reference images in books and online that will help with a new project.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, it’s because I posted images online that an editor in children’s book publishing noticed my work.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Sometimes I use Photoshop, and I also use Procreate.

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

I use a wacom tablet when I work digitally.

Do you ever exhibit your art?


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

No… Just to keep on going!

What are you working on now?

Now I am working on a sequel to WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE. It is called WHEN GRANDPA GIVES YOU A TOOLBOX (Sterling, 2020), and it is written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan.

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 really like to use Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils when I draw. I also find that my electric eraser  (Sakura cordless) comes in very handy.

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

I’m not sure how wise my words are… I would say that focus is important. For me, that means that I continuously check out picture books from the library, draw, paint and learn as much about children’s publishing as I can.  Oh, and share your work with others!  Posting work on social media is a great tool.

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

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. SUCH beautiful art, Lorraine 😀 And I’m always impressed with how many illustrators have roots in animation! You can always tell, I think. And I appreciate the mention of an electric eraser because I never understood the “why” behind the mechanical end. Maybe it’s time to give that a try!


  2. Love this illustration detail – so much realism and humor. I had already built a teaching unit around ‘Zebra on the Go,’ so it’s quite nice to meet the illustrator. In fact, I’ll link this post to that unit, available on Teachers Pay Teachers (if you’re curious:


  3. I really love the castle with the bed full of dragons. All the are is wonderful, but that is stunning. Thanks for the post.


  4. I love this art. Lorraine, you work really grabbed my attention when I first saw Zebra. I hope to see much more.


  5. Loved this whole interview with your illustrations! What a gifted artist you are!! Blessings and I pray you get more work offers! You are terrific!!
    Joyce G.


  6. I was so excited to see you featured on Kathy’s blog, Lorraine! I very much enjoyed reading this post and seeing your beautiful artwork. You are so wonderfully talented. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on your new books!


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