Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 19, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Carrie Salazar

Carrie Salazar is a freelance digital and traditional illustrator. Although mostly specialized in Children’s Illustration, Carrie enjoys working in a variety of styles. Her work features diverse characters with a range of ages and backgrounds.

She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her work has been featured in young adult and children’s books.

Carrie, the daughter of immigrants, grew up in a small community in southeastern Louisiana. She now lives in California with her family and many pets.


Not always, but for this drawing I started out with thumbnails and chose one. Sometimes I ask Instagram to pick.

Then I start the drawing on top of the thumbnail. It looks very ugly for a long time. I try to get the anatomy right before putting on clothes. I added flowers first so I could position her between them.

I had to work a long time on her because of the difficult angle I chose to draw her in. I should have used perspective lines instead of eyeballing it. Once I got everything right, the image looked too boring.

Making the image interesting is the absolute most fun part. It is what I working for after all the frustrations are over. Made it a windy rainy weather to justify her holding her hat and added another focal point (ladybug). Final thing is to overlay everything with gray to even out the atmosphere.

Finished Illustration.

Below a couple book covers:


How long have you been illustrating?

As a child and teenager, I drew cartoons. But I didn’t grow up with a lot of money so I picked stable careers and went years without drawing anything more than recreationally. I picked it up again only about eight years ago.

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

I think it was my early watercolor portraits. Then I sold a lot of pencil panels of a webcomic I did in 2011 under a pseudonym.

Have you always lived in California?

I was born in New Orleans and spent most of my young life in southeastern Louisiana. I moved to Berkeley for graduate school and never left. California is my home.

Did you go to college to study art?

No. I came close with BLA and MLA in Landscape Architecture so I did draw a lot of maps, plans, and landscapes.

Do you feel art school influenced your illustrating style?

I didn’t go to art school, but the design, drafting, and architecture classes probably had a lot of influence.

Was A New Leaf for Lyle a book you illustrated for a self-published author?

Yes, and I learned everything from that book.

What type of illustrating were you doing before that first book?

I wasn’t doing children’s art. I was mostly doing traditional fanart, comics, and portraits (which I still like to do in my spare time).

Have all your illustrated books been published with 4RV Publishing?

No, I started with a self-publisher, but the bulk of my work so far has been with them. But I am about to start illustrations with a new publisher. Can’t talk about it now, but I’m super excited. The book will be out 2020 so stay tuned.

How did you contact the publisher and get the contracts?

The self-published author I worked with made the introduction to 4RV (who she previously published). I also send out postcards every 3-4 months and a publisher contacted my art rep from that.

What book was the first one you illustrated with them?

It was H is for Houston by Kathy Slaughter, an alphabet book about the city.

Is WHERE DID PANTHER GO? Your latest book?

Yes, and it was a 2018 Literary Classic Book Award Finalist and earned the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

Have you done any black and white interior book illustrations?

I did black and white spot illustrations for a middle-grade book called Joy and Mary Save Christmas by Wayne Harris-Wyrick. Older children is an age group I love to create for.

How many books have you illustrated?


Do you have an artist rep to represent your illustrations? If so, who and how long. If not, would you like to find one?

Yes, I’ve been working for the last six months with Janet DeCarlo at Storybook Arts. She has been amazing and keeps me very busy.

Have you done any book covers?

I’ve done the book covers for all the books I have illustrated. I LOVE doing book covers and hope to do more whether I illustrate the book or not, or possibly for magazine covers.

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

It would depend on the story, contract, and the author. I enjoy working with publishers because they have all the bases covered: book designers, marketing, editors, and art directors who know about the business. It takes so many people to create a book! So a self-publishing contract and story would have to be amazing. That said, I got my start with a self-publishing writer and I doubt my work would have been seen by publishers without it.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I only recently started working with a few educational publishers. They haven’t been published yet so I’m not sure I can reveal their names yet.

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

Unfortunately, not yet.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I would absolutely love to. The illustrator side of me would want to be all about the art! But I’ve been wanting to branch into author/illustrator with or without words.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Biggest for me isn’t monetary. Rather, I felt the most accomplished after illustrating Spearfinger by Chuck Suddeth. I had to do a lot of research on Cherokee clothing and equipment, and the book design was difficult with Cherokee syllabary and English words. I do feel a good amount of pride being part of, as far as I know, the first Cherokee/English bilingual book. Books about and for underrepresented and marginalized groups is something I want to do more of (being part of an underrepresented group myself).

What is your favorite medium to use?

Depends on the purpose. For illustrating I like digital because of its speed and ability to edit. For personal work that doesn’t get edited, I love watercolor.

Has that changed over time?

I’ve only been digital for a few years, so yes. Traditional art used to be easier but that has turned around.

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

Every damn day. Except when on vacation with the family but even then I’m always looking and studying other artists.

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

Usually, though some projects require more research than others.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I couldn’t have done any of this if it weren’t for the Internet. I didn’t go to art school, so I didn’t have a lot of fundamentals or the ability to meet the “right people”. I learned by watching videos and doing concentrated practice, getting online tutors, receiving hard and true critiques from professionals far away. And once I honed my skills I used the internet to research art reps and publishers that might be interested in my art. I can’t imagine doing any of this the old fashioned way. I have been to physical conventions, but the Internet has given me almost all my opportunities.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Mostly Photoshop and occasionally Procreate on the iPad for sketching.  I sometimes use Illustrator and InDesign, too, for specific things like text or book layout.

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

I use a Cintiq. I’ve tried cheaper tablets but I could not get the hang of drawing on one surface while looking up at a screen. I also use an iPad because it is easier to carry around for sketching.

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

Short term: work with bigger publishers. Long term: Be a writer/illustrator–I have a lot of stories to tell.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on some illustrations for a Science Book and a poster for a big city library. In the next few months, I’ll start the sketches for a new children’s book contract. Between jobs, I’m working on writing memoirs for my own book and developing a screenplay for my fictional graphic novel. I’m also taking writing classes.

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.

Well, I love my Cintiq. I’ve tried similar brands but nothing comes close to Wacom Cintiq (for me) though I’ve heard good things about Huion. And with traditional art, I use only the best watercolors: Daniel Smith. I have the best success when I burn through my wallet a bit for top-of-the-line supplies. But if you are just testing out digital, and iPad/Apple Pencil works great before purchasing an expensive Cintiq. An iPad is expensive but it has multiple uses besides art that you can also use it for. I borrowed a digital tablet before making big purchase.

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

Work on your craft a lot: keep learning, keep taking classes, keep getting critiques, actively practice. If you get that right, people will notice.

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

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

Talk tomorrow,




  1. Carrie – so wonderful to read more about your illustration work. I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with you in the kidlit world post-grad school. Looking forward to your upcoming books!


  2. Carrie – Thanks for sharing your process and your wonderful illustrations. Your commitment to craft and reaching new goals is admirable. So glad you returned to your passion several years ago – better late than never!


  3. That was a super helpful and inspiring interview. Thank you so much for sharing your advice. It is very encouraging!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: