Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 24, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Nadia Hsieh

Nadia Hsieh is a professional illustrator, originally from Taiwan. She specializes in children’s books, art licensing and creating charming characters with warm, lovely stories about empathy and understanding others. She recently graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Art University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication Design. Naida is skilled in both traditional and digital forms of illustration. 

Prior to studying abroad, Nadia spent two years learning English and working as a high school art teacher. She taught her students basic art skills and encouraged them to explore their imaginations; always pushing them to create work using a variety of materials and in different forms. Nadia creates her work with traditional ink and digital color. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Society of Illustrators.

Nadia is represented by The CAT Agency and is a member of SCBWI and Society of Illustrators. She currently lives in San Francisco and teaches students from kindergarten to middle school in drawing, and building models using Tinkercad.



Interview with Nadia Hsieh:

How long have you been illustrating?

It’s been a long time already! Since I was little, drawing has been very important in my life. I drew what I saw from life and practiced constantly. I’ve been illustrating, drawing for almost 25 years.

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

It was a sample project of the two character designs and one graphic novel page with the publisher.

I was doing a portrait illustration for a friend when I was in art school.

When did you leave Taiwan to live in the United States?

I moved to the United States for my MFA study since 2015.

What made you choose the Academy of Art University to study Illustration?

In Taiwan, Taiwanese universities or colleges don’t have departments specific to illustration. However, some departments offered illustration courses, such as the Department of Visual Communication Design at DaYeh University, in which I pursued my Bachelor of Arts. Still, the illustration classes were geared toward graphic design. One day, I saw the Academy of Art University website, and learned about their illustration department and solid foundation courses. At the same time, some of my friends who has already studied the illustration program in AAU, they highly recommend about the curriculum. It is why I decided to study illustration abroad in AAU.

What type of classes were your favorites?

I appreciate most of classes at school, especially the figure drawing class. In illustration department, we have character designs class that we draw models doing different action poses. When I do the drawing, I consider about the narrative for the poses. I like to make those drawings into children’s book layout or I make the drawings turns into the graphic novel panels.

Did art school help you get illustrating work when you graduated?

The art school did help me building the portfolio pieces before I graduated. I showed my portfolio in different conferences, and art studios and I heard many good feedbacks from it. I was lucky to get a chance of talking with some publishers who are interested in working with me.

What type of illustrating did you do when you first were starting out?

It was the sample project of the two character designs and one graphic novel page.

How did you decide to teach art after you graduated?

In fact, I spent two years working as the art teacher before studying in America. I taught my students basic art skills and encouraged them to explore their imaginations. I pushed them to create work using a variety of materials and in different forms. I was always impressed by how their personalities and minds showed through their work, and I was glad to be able to help them improve. It becomes the motivation that I want to teach art as well as doing children’s illustration work.

When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

I believe humans become who they are via their experience since growing up, especially from their childhood memories, experience. While I was teaching art with children, I notice they learn many things from school, family, and any media, such as books. They easily get attention from visual images. My ambition is to share my stories with others, with the hope that my work can help people in similar situations find guidance and encouragement to face the challenges in their lives. It’s why I decided to be an author and illustrator of my own story, especially children’s books.

Have you had an opportunity to illustrate a picture book?

I haven’t had an opportunity to illustrate a picture book currently. I keep building solid work for my portfolio and look forward to illustrating a picture book soon.

I see The Cat Agency represents you. How did you connect with them?

I went to my first SCBWI conference in New York this year. I did a portfolio review then I was lucky to get attention from Christy, The Cat Agency. I was pleased to talk with her since then and eventually join the lovely Cat family.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

I read and watch many comic book, picture book, and animation that has influenced and inspired me a lot.

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

I do have the desire to write and illustrate a book. I do have a story idea about twins. Interestingly, I’m a fraternal twin in real life that I’m thinking, writing and doing the illustration for a story relates to twins.

Are you active in your local SCBWI chapter?

I do visit some events of my local SCBWI chapter. In fact, I’m going to the local SCBWI Illustrator Day on 10/12/2019 in Fort Mason Firehouse, San Francisco.

Do you exhibit your art in galleries?

I do currently have an illustration group show with friends at the school gallery. It is located in 688 Sutter Street, San Francisco. The exhibition is from August 1st to August 29th and opens Monday to Friday from 9:00am – 6:00pm

Have you ever illustrated a book cover?

I haven’t had an opportunity to illustrate a book cover yet but I’m looking forward to illustrating a book cover indeed.

Do you have a studio in or outside your house?

I have a working spot in my house and sometimes I work outside at the cafe.

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

I would like to cooperate with publishing houses at the moment.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I haven’t had an opportunity to work with educational publishers yet but I’m looking forward to working with them.


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

I haven’t done any illustration for children’s magazines but I’m looking forward to working with them.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I have considered illustrating a wordless picture book. It will be a challenge working on a wordless picture book, but I look forward to it!

What do you think is your biggest success?

I can do what I want and get paid for it.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I enjoy using brush pen, ink, pencil, and markers.

Has that changed over time?

Not at all. I haven’t changed the mediums since my first time using them.

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

If I do have deadlines, I definitely spend a lot of time on my work and possibly stay up late for it but I usually don’t stay up late for work on projects.

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

Definitely! I mostly find a reference from the internet. Sometimes I take pictures for reference. Whenever I draw a figure gesture, I will find the reference pictures from the internet, if I can’t find one, I ask a friend to model for me. (Of course to pay your model!)

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. I can work with different clients from various countries via the internet. The only thing that might be hard to connect with the client from the world could be the time differences.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I do ink and pencil traditionally for line work, and color digitally in Photoshop.

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

I own a Wacom graphics drawing tablet and it is handy for me now. But it is a small drawing tablet that sometimes drives me nuts when I draw with it. I do consider to get a Cintiq graphics tablet in the future.

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

It is an expectation for me to work as a full-time based illustrator, and work as a part-time art teacher in colleges or art studios.

What are you working on now?

A graphic novel for the toddler, and kindergarteners. In the meanwhile, I’m working on my own story for the children’s book about twins.

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 use Pentel brush pen (Medium Point) for inking my line work. It is easily to get from any art supply shops or Amazon. The brush is hardly to control at the first because the brush is too soft. Before I use it for my final drawing, I do sketches or line work study before I use for the final work.

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

The first thing is asking yourself a question, “Why do I want to be a writer or illustrator?” I believe the writer and illustrator must be a storyteller. Once you know the answer, achieve it bravely. As for illustrator, I encourage to work on a unique, original style and have faith in it. Keep doing drawing study and building a solid portfolio. Come to the children’s book-related events or conferences often and talking with professional illustrators, publishers, agents. They have helpful critiques and feedback that you can work on the revision to make your work better. As for the writer, I haven’t had any experience working as a writer, but I highly recommend to try to write your own voice and find any writing-related events to show your work to professional writers or editors to get critiques.

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

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Love your people – such great expressions! Good luck with your own story. I’m certain it’ll be out in the world soon!


  2. Bravo, Nadia! Your publishing day is coming and then some. Keep drawing and believing!


  3. Really enjoy your work, Nadia!


  4. Nice interview! Best wishes!


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: