Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 1, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Anil Tortop

Anil illustrates children’s books. She also works as an animator and character/concept designer, but have been called away from this affair as my relationship with children’s books becomes more serious.
She was born and raised in Turkey. Then moved to Australia in early 2011 and has been trying to get used to the local eight-legged house intruders and slithering visitors to our garden ever since.
Nowadays, she lives in Brisbane with my husband. In a small home studio together, playing “Children’s Booksmithing” at Tadaa.


I’m going to share the process of my latest picture book, A First Time for Everything (written by Tiffiny Hall and Ed Kavalee, published by Albert Street Books–an imprint of Allen&Unwin.) The main stages are pretty much the same for all my books but some details change. For one book, I may find myself creating a little tree model out of wires; while for some I may practice stalking celebrities, watch current affairs shows for inspiration, and even work-out like crazy! Yes, I’ve done all this in the making of this book!

I usually start with drawing thumbnails on my Storyboard Notebook in a way that only I can understand. It helps me to warm up to the project. This is also the stage where I start planning my visual narrative.

Then when I feel ready to share my ideas, I clean them up a little bit so other people can understand, too. From that point on, I usually do everything digitally on Photoshop.

Storyboarding is usually the stage where we exchange heaps of emails with the publisher and discuss ideas. For this book, those emails were usually a lot of fun mostly because of the nature of the book. In this book, illustrations show just the opposite of what the text says. So, every new idea was funnier than the one before.

When we’re all satisfied with what’s happening on each page, it’s the time to do the roughs.

I try to add as many details as possible on this stage. I also focus on characters during the roughs rather than creating them at the beginning of the process. This allows me to know my characters better along the way. That’s where I had to watch TV shows and stalk my authors! Because they are a celebrity couple in Australia (which I had no idea until I received the offer), and the book is based on their first experiences with their baby. So I was asked to make the characters resemble them as much as possible.

Anyway, this was also a book with a very short deadline, so I had to limit my TV time, finish the roughs and continue with the coloured illustrations.

I picked this illustration to show you because it has a little background story. No need to hide, I’m a jealous person. Since the book was all about Tiffiny, Ed and Arnold, I felt super left out. Then I decided to include myself and my partner, so reserved the table at the back for ourselves. 🙂

MEEKA-washing up / timelapse from Anil Tortop on Vimeo.

Anil, before we start: Have you been affected by the wildfires in Australia?

Except for a bit of smoke, not directly. I’m in a lucky location.

What spurred you to leave Turkey and move to Australia?

Life was getting unpleasant in Turkey. With my partner, we wanted to leave. With a quick thought, Canada was too cold, we picked Australia. 🙂

How long have you been illustrating?

Professionally, since around 2008.

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

I was a student in high school. A Turkish TV channel made a little TV series that teaches painting basics and different techniques. I was one of the five students from our class who painted in that show, along with an art teacher of ours. Maybe I can’t say I got paid for my artwork because I kept them all, but it definitely wasn’t for my acting!

Did you attend school to study animation? 

Yes, I studied for 4 years at uni and got my bachelor degree.

What school did you choose?

Anadolu University – Faculty of Fine Arts.  Back then it was the only university in Turkey that has an animation department. We had to pass a “special talent” examination to enrol. Before uni, I studied fine arts in high school as well. It was again a school that focuses on arts, without doing much of other subjects.

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

Yes! I didn’t even look for a job. My first employee was on the hunt for new animators. He had a visit to our university and with the suggestion of a professor, I and a friend of mine made a deal with him to start immediately after graduating. I worked in that company happily for 3 years.

What type of work did you do first starting out?

The company I mentioned above was a start-up that made games and interactive educational materials for children. I was kind of an all-rounder. I became the head of our small creative team in time. My duties started from imagining the games, including possible scenarios, and continued with creating characters, doing concepts arts, animating, rendering, post-production etc. I even had to play games sometimes, just for inspiration! It was fun.

When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

My first illustration project found me in 2008 when a friend of mine – who was an art director in a publishing house – asked me if I was interested in illustrating a book series for them. At the time it was mainly for fun. But after a while, I started as a full-time illustrator in that publishing house. I never looked back.

I found a book titled, Medusa’nin Gozyaslari / Tarih Aynasi 5 that you wrote in 2003. It is not in English, so I could not read the description. Did you write this when you lived in Turkey? Did you plan to make writing a career?

It was one of the books in the series named Tarih Aynasi (Mirror of History) that I actually illustrated. I haven’t written any books. It would’ve been great though! They were written by Cigdem Ozelsancak Atas.

Was Ralph’s Weird Week that was published in 2011 your first published book?

No, it wasn’t but in a sense, we could say it was. After relocating to Australia, I found that my portfolio and experience from Turkey was almost useless here. And this book is one of the firsts after I re-started my illustration career from scratch.

Then my first Australian trade publishing deal was River Riddle (written by Jim Dewar, published by Scholastic Australia in 2015.) So I consider this one as the real first in Australia. Because everything started to get better after River Riddle. (Looks like I have lots of firsts!)

Ralph’s Weird Week was written by Kate NelsonGavin Nelson, and Ozan Tortop. Is Ozan your husband and Kate and Gavin friends of yours? Was this a self-published book?

Yes, it was a self-published book written by Kate and Gavin, who were very young siblings based in the USA (if I remember correctly). I don’t know them, they just found me through a freelancing website. Ozan is my husband, my personal art director and my business partner. He did the design of that book as well as many others I illustrated.

How many of your clients are self-published authors?

I don’t know the exact number but they must be more than my trade publisher clients. Also, there are some self-published books that I don’t illustrate myself but do the art-direction.

Are you still open to illustrating a picture book for an author wants to self-published?

Yes, I am open for sure. In fact, after our experiences with several self-published authors, with my partner, we founded a self-publishing services business in 2013, called Tadaa Book. Focusing on mostly the visual aspects, we have been helping independent children’s books authors since then. We call ourselves Children’s Booksmiths.

How did New Frontier Publishing discover you and your art and give you a contract illustrate SCAREDY CAT for 2019?

A self-published author had approached me to illustrate her book in 2015. She published her book with New Frontier Publishing’s sister company which does partnership-publishing only. Since the two companies owned by the same people they saw my work and offered me a traditional publishing contract. So far, I’ve illustrated 4 books for them.

Is New Frontier Publishing an Australian publisher?

If I’m not wrong they started in Australia but recently they founded a UK office as well.

Does a writer or illustrator need to live in Australia to work with them?

I am not sure about that. From my understanding, some Australian publishers are particular about the creators’ location while some others don’t care much.

Are you still working on the artwork for Bat vs Poss: A story about sharing and making friends – coming out July 28 2020? How long did it take you to illustrated that book?

Oh, there must be a mistake with the date. Bat vs Poss (written by Alexa Moss) was published in January 2019. According to my records, it took 145 hours 22 minutes in 11 months of period. I always track my time! 🙂

How did you get the contract with Lothian Children’s Books to illustrate BAT VS. POSS?

I sent my portfolio to publishers and conferences. One of them must’ve worked! But I don’t know how Lothian (an imprint of Hachette) found me. Out of nowhere, the offer came into my inbox! After this one, I illustrated another book for them, called Santa and the Sugar Glider. It’s coming out before Christmas 2020.

I found 11 books on Amazon that you illustrated. I bet they are missing some of your books. How many books have you illustrated?

Yes, they are missing some for sure. I’ve illustrated around 30 books in the very beginning of my career when I was working as a full-time illustrator back in Turkey, around 15 for trade publishers in Australia, and around 20 for self-publishers from different countries.

Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have you with them? If not, would you like to find an agent?

I don’t have an agent. When I was desperate for work I tried to find one, but usually agents didn’t even reply to my emails. Then I haven’t tried again since for the last years I’m usually booked out for the several following months, if not the whole year.

Did you do the sculpture of the figure of Ozan Tortop, jr.? Is this something you do beside illustrating?

Yes, I did it in a 4-day stop-motion puppet workshop held by brilliant Ozlem Akin. It was great fun, but unfortunately, it’s my only experience.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

I think my animation background has a big influence on my characters, backgrounds, poses and mimics, and colours.

Do you work full time as a free-lance illustrator?

Yes, I don’t have any other job. Except, I art-direct some other picture books, and sometimes I do character/concept design for animated TV shows rather than illustrating.


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

I have some projects in mind but I’m not brave enough to finish and send them out. Maybe one day…

Have you ever illustrated a book cover?

I haven’t illustrated cover only. I always do both the interior and the cover together.

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

I have been illustrating for a bimonthly Turkish children’s magazine since their first issue in 2013. It’s called Arastirmaci Cocuk (Young Researchers). I have two regular pages, and usually some additional pages in it. Most of the time I do the cover illustrations as well.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

None of my personal ideas is wordless currently but I love those books. Would love to illustrate one!

What do you think is your biggest success?

Settling down in a country where everything is so different, and doing what I love to do for a living.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I’m a digital person. I mostly use Photoshop and a graphic tablet.

Has that changed over time?

Before starting illustrating books, I enjoyed lots of different mediums. Acrylics and watercolour were my favourites. But I started my illustrator career as a digital illustrator and find it more efficient for my professional work. I gradually stopped trying new mediums which I sometimes regret a little bit.

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

I have been trying since I started, with no success. But I’m not nocturnal anymore which counts as a bit of success I guess!

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

Google is my best friend! Only rarely I take photos. When I struggle with a posture I sometimes get my husband to pose for me.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Almost all the time it is Photoshop, from the very beginning of the project to the end. I tried Painter a while back for a book but wasn’t very happy with the result. I am experimenting with Procreate nowadays, but I always finish the project with Photoshop.

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

Yes, I’m working with a massive Wacom Cintiq.

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

Oh, living on my royalties and illustrating only one or two books a year just for fun would’ve been really great!

What are you working on now?

I’m wrapping up a book called Detective LB and Hopper for a self-published author. Then a very exciting trade publishing contract, that I can’t talk about yet, will be waiting to start immediately. In the meantime, I’m working on an activity book for CBCA Book Week (produced by IDTL Network). Two other Tadaa projects are on the pipeline. And every second month I have this children’s magazine work that keeps me busy.

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.

Technology is developing too fast and many of us struggle with adopting new tools. (I guess I’m not in the young illustrators’ club anymore!) At the end of the day what you do matters, not how you do it. But catching up with the trends might make life easier. Having said that, I’m trying to get used to using Procreate on the iPad. It has amazing brushes. But finishing a job totally on Procreate currently seems impossible to me.

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

Considering everyone has a different path and a unique journey, I could say, don’t try to follow someone else’s footsteps. But if you find a rich partner before pursuing your dream, it seems like the best first step. J (Do I have to add, I’m kidding?)

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





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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Such a wonderful body of work! Thanks for sharing with us. LOVE that you included yourself in the restaurant. LOL. Best wishes!


  2. Wow. So many cute illustrations. Thanks for such a fun post.


  3. I enjoyed reading about your life. I can’t imagine moving to a different continent and starting over. I live in Canada and yes winters are cold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! In these super hot summer times, I sometimes wish we had chosen Canada. 🙂


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