Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 21, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Vivien Milderberg

After graduating from ArtCenter College of Design with honors in Illustration, Vivien Mildenberger packed up her pencils and moved with to a lovely farm just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. There she works on her illustrations, pottery, and other general magic-making. She loves illustrating for children most of all. Her work has been featured by publications such as New American Paintings and American Illustration. Publishing clients include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, QuartoKids, Little Bee, Penguin and Macmillan/Henry Holt.


Vivien Mildenberger is represented by Anne Moore Armstrong

I will add Vivien’s process pictures and discussion of how she works, when I receive them.

I featured THE VOICE THAT WON THE VOTE the other week. It is not too late to get in the running to win a copy. Here is the link:


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, but illustrating professionally for about 3 years.

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

Ooh boy! I did a few odd illustration jobs in college. I’m not quite sure what the very first drawing I ever did was now. Probably a forgotten spot for someone’s self published book a long time ago.

In 2011 you attended Camberwell College of Art a got a Foundation Diploma. What type of things did you study for that type of degree?

It was a really cool program that exposes you to all sorts of different artistic paths. Every few weeks you would rotate to a different practice like Graphic Design, Illustration, Fine Art, etc. It helped me to really narrow my focus to illustration because that was what I enjoyed most.

How did you decide to go for a BFA at the Art Center College of Design?

I decided to continue my studies at Art Center because they had a reputation having a very intense Illustration program that was very industry focused. I wanted to be challenged and put in a lot of hard work because I was determined to make drawing my career!

What was your area of focus? What types of classes did you enjoy the most?

I majored in Illustration where I dabbled in all sorts of different areas. I honestly didn’t consider children’s illustration until the very end of school when I took a class in the subject that ended up opening my eyes to the realm where I felt my work fit the best. It ended up being one of my favorite classes!

Do you feel school helped you develop you style?

Definitely! Developing a style is so mysterious and personal. As far as style goes, I think the best you can ask for from your art education and mentors is the vocabulary and tools to look critically at art. Art Center definitely guided me in developing a set of tools to think about who I am as an
artist, my work, and where I wanted it to go. It also gave me a good set of foundational drawing skills to build off of.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

It did. I’m still friends with a lot of my teachers and I have definitely gotten some cool opportunities through them.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I did a lot of odd jobs, pretty much anything I could get my hands on! I also started making ceramics and selling them online. It wasn’t anything glamorous but all of those little projects were stepping stones to the books that were in my future!

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I think deep within myself I always knew I wanted to do children books, but I didn’t seriously consider it until I was almost graduating college. I got sidetracked for a while by what I believed was “serious” art, whatever that means. It seems so silly to me now, children’s books are so important and there are so many amazing and talented illustrators working on them. Once my eyes were opened to that magical world I knew I wanted to join them!

Was The Flourishing of Floralie Laurel by Fiadhnait Moser, the first picture book you illustrated book?

Yes! It was the first real book deal I ever got. I still remember getting that email, I was so excited!

How did you get that contract?

I got it shortly after I signed on with my agent, Anne Moore Armstrong, at Bright. Once I signed on with her things really started to get exciting!

In 2019 you illustrated Time Sight, by Lynne Jonell. Was that a middle grade book?


Did you do Black and white illustrations throughout the book?

I did! It was a rather long and exciting book that spanned so many different eras and settings. I really loved the challenge of working on a big project like that. I was in love with the manuscript the second I started reading it.

You also illustrated Think Smart, Be Fearless by Sharon Mentyka and All in a Drop by Lori Alexander, HMH Kids in 2019. Was that hard to juggle illustrating three books at once? Did you finish one before starting on the others?

I worked on them all at once! I was also working on Famous Family Trees with Quarto at the time. I had to learn a lot on the go but it was a great experience. Each project was so different and posed new and unique challenges, I think I grew a lot as an illustrator in those short months! There were definitely a few tears and some frustrating moments, but I wouldn’t trade it!

The same thing happened this year with A Vote is a Voice by Eliza Boxer, Sleeping Bear Press Judah Touro Didn’t Want To Be Famous by Audrey Ades, Kar-Ben, coming out on April 7th, and later this yearEpic Voyages: Sacagawea by Gerry Bailey, Bramble? Is this old hat, now?

I’ve definitely gotten better at handling multiple projects at once. I’ve gotten quite quick! A big area of growth for me was learning that I needed time to play and experiment. It’s hard to take time off of work for a deadline to throw some paint around, but its a super important part of my process. Taking a breath and allowing myself that play has really helped me get more comfortable with my style and quicker with my painting! I’m really excited about the books coming out this year!

I have not heard of Bramble. Are they a new publisher?

I don’t think so! They’re in the UK.

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

I do!

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

I’ve worked with Cricket and Spider Magazines, along with a Turkish children’s magazine called Arastirmaci Cocuk Merkezi!

Do you have a studio in your house?

I do. I spend most of my time working there. I also share a studio space in Nashville with a bunch of other artists and illustrators. I love going in to town and visiting with my friends there. Working from home as a freelancer can definitely get lonely at times, even when you’re pretty introverted like me!

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

I’m actually working on one right now! It’s one of the first of my own books that I’m trying to get out there this year!

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate more picture books?

Definitely!! I’m working on a bunch of my own stories at the moment, alongside some fun new books. I love this job and I want to do as much if it as I can. Every book is like a new adventure.

How did you connect with Ann at The Bright Agency? And how long have you been with them?

I’ve been with them for about 3ish years now! Anne found me through Instagram and I’m so glad she did. At that point I was still pretty self conscious about my work and I was too scared to send it to Bright because I thought it wasn’t ready. Once we connected I started getting so many amazing books!

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

I did for a while when I was starting out, and I think there is definitely some merit to self publishing a project you really believe in! But I don’t often anymore.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Honestly, I’m just proud that I get to draw for a living! The fact that I can support myself with my biggest passion is really wonderful.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Everything! I’m a huge art supply dork and I love to experiment with anything I can get my hands on. No two of my paintings use exactly the same materials. But watercolors do have a special place in my heart.

Has that changed over time?

It’s always changing. Because I love to experiment my work is never the same for too long.

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

I do. I worked on the iPad with the Apple Pencil for a while. I still love it for sketching and traveling but working traditionally is where I am most happy.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I use all sorts of combinations of gouache, acrylic, watercolor, colored pencil, pastel, chalk, pan pastel, and sometimes digital media.

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

I definitely need lots of time for personal work to try out new things and move my work forward. So even when I don’t have project on I’m usually drawing almost every day. I really enjoy it so I don’t usually need to set a time to work on it. If anything I have to make sure I remember to take
breaks as to not burn out!

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

I often collect reference. Especially since a lot of the books I’ve worked on are nonfiction and had very specific settings. Though I don’t often draw from reference. I like to let all the research collect in my head and then interpret it in my own way on to the page.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely! If it wasn’t for Instagram my agent wouldn’t have found me. I also love the community of artists and creatives I’ve connected with online. There are so many people doing such inspiring things and sharing their knowledge.

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

Right now my big dream is to get my first author/illustrator picture book published!

What are you working on now?

I’m working on several of my own stories and a nonfiction biography with Chronicle.

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.

Bind your own sketchbooks! There’s many informative tutorials on book binding online, and making your own sketchbooks is not only super cost effective but you can make them in your favorite sizes with your favorite paper!

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

Be honest with yourself. Work hard. Think critically about your work often. And try to make the work you want to see out in the world, not what you think fits with what everyone else is making.

Thank you Vivien for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. You have done a good job using social media to show off your talent, which is so important for an illustrtator. To see more of Vivien’s work, you can visit her at:


Bright Agency:





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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Such, marvelous, beautiful work, Vivian!


  2. I ❤ your work, Vivien All the best and much success to you!


  3. Wonderful to see your work! gorgeous palette and lovely details!


  4. Wonderful work. I particularly like the cover for Famous Family Trees. I love the details.


  5. Wonderful body of work! I love the emotions you invoke in your illustrations. Best wishes!


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