Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 11, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Yas Imaura

Yas Imamura is an Asian American illustrator who has done work for clients like Anthropologie, Sanrio and Papyrus. She also owns a greeting card shop called Quill & Fox which has been a delightful pursuit of infusing humor and fun quips into her drawings.

As a child, Yas has always been fond of doodling, and much to the dismay of her parents, on surfaces she shouldn’t-like the treasured pages of children’s books. Much of her work now draw inspiration from those same books she enjoyed as a kid, her art evolving into an amalgamation of both the timeless and modern. Her preferred materials are gouache and watercolor and often finds herself drawn to projects that are playful and a little offbeat.

Yas lives with her husband Andrew and their dog Lisa in Portland, Oregon— a perpetually rainy place that necessitates a multitude of her indoor hobbies.

Interview with Yas Imamura:

How long have you been illustrating?

Art has always been a part of my childhood, but I’m very thankful to be illustrating professionally for about 10 years now. 

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

Oh man, I might be getting this wrong because my memory is a little hazy, but perhaps when I was 16, through a print on demand website? But in terms of bespoke type of work, outside working for a studio, I’ve done some customized illustrations a little before I started my greeting card shop, around 2009. Mostly stylized portraits with a fun setting. I remember illustrating a really fun nautical environment for someone. That was kind of fun! 

Did you go to school to study art? If so, where and what did you study?

Not so much art, but I did go to school for Advertising at the now defunct Art Institute. 

You are the founder of Quill and Fox. Is your shop virtual or physical?

It’s a virtual shop that I’ve put on hiatus for now. We do ship to a lot of physical brick and mortar stores though! 

Were you greeting cards the reason you created Quill and Fox?

Yes! I started off doing customized illustrated invites for weddings and then eventually got into doing illustrated cards.

I see that you have cups and plates. Do you send your artwork out to a company that makes the ceramics and adds your designs? 

Yes. All of the ceramic wares I’ve designed was through Anthropologie.  I just designed and illustrated, sending off the files to them for production.They’re incredibly supportive of any artistic vision and I was really honored to be able to work with a company that can adapt to any kind of product format.

Did you make the pillow case and do the artwork right on the fabric?

The pillowcases I’ve designed were produced by Anthropologie. But I’ve always wanted to paint directly on fabric, that would have been fun too.

What do you feel helped you develop your style? 

A constant amalgamation of styles I like I suppose. As I develop more as an artist, I start to have a broader spectrum of appreciation for style executions that I like and also ones I don’t like. I think the latter is incredibly important because you’re learning not to put everything you admire on a pedestal. Being able to deconstruct, pick apart, and admiring the things that truly resonate with you and being more cognizant of the ones you don’t like is a constant reshaping of my style and personal aspirations as an artist.

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

Doing illustration work in publishing has always been in my mind somehow, but I’ve never really narrowed it down to children’s books until recently.

Was Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist, the first picture book you illustrated?

Yes! What a ride! 

How did you get that contract?

I was emailed by the super lovely Asia Citro of Innovation Press, the week of my birthday too! She had seen my illustrations from Quill & Fox. It was really serendipitous! Couldn’t pick a more nurturing publisher to take on a fledgling artist like me into the crazy world of kit literature.

How did Sleeping Bear Press discover your illustrations?

I was already represented during this time, so I think they have most likely seen my work through my agents at Bright.

Did Sleeping Bear Press give you a lot of direction during the process of illustrating Winged Wonders? 

They gave me a lot of helpful materials in terms of the Monarch story, the community effort behind it and some reference images that helped me stay true to the overall vibe of the era. It was all generally set in the 70’s so I wanted to imbibe that with warm colors, a subtle vintage tone to it overall without being too on the nose. After sketching, I did one color pass of a spread just to check if we’re on the same page in terms of visual direction and colors. After that, they really let me just run with it. 

The Very Oldest Pear Tree is coming out in August. How long did Albert Whitman give you to illustrate the book?

 Yes, very exciting to have that one come out this year! After the rounds of sketching, I had about two months for the final art.

An adventurer’s Guide to Outer Space, September 2020. Was that hard to juggle illustrating all these books at once? Did you finish one before starting on the others? 

Oh yes, last year got a little crazy for me. I did enjoy illustrating this one, as it was a really refreshing variety from all the foresty-nature projects I was doing at the time. This book gave me more avenues to experiment in loose textures, get a little crazy with the watercolor medium a bit more and find new ways to illustrate space with crayons and paint. I think since I was very new to it all, I had to learn the hard way that projects can and will unexpectedly overlap, despite your best efforts. I was working on 3 projects during this month, in different stages. It’s just the fluid nature of these things. Having a good buffer is important between projects, something I’m trying to better at this year!

The cover for World of Wonder coming out in Feb 2021 is already up on Amazon. Is the rest of the book finished?

Yes! It’s actually a board book growth chart for infants that also has different illustrations the babies can look at. We made sure the illustrations are both colorful and contrasting.

Do you work full time as an illustrator? 

I’m fortunate enough to, yes.

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

No, not yet. But it’s one on my professional bucket list.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I do! My work space has gone through a lot of transitions, having to shift from selling cards and making room for stock to having to create a really zen work space I can paint in full time.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book? 

I have some working ideas for one, but no not yet!

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

Absolutely. I’have two in the works that I’m still developing. Doing author illustrated work is something I want to start pushing for next year.

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

I connected with Anne specifically for the Winged Wonders project. That was one of my first projects with Bright, during my first year. It was fun being able to work with different agents and projects during that year!

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

I’m definitely not opposed to it, if the project is right! 

What do you think is your biggest success?

I think my biggest success is a more dynamic concept than a specific landmark. I’m incredibly proud of my work ethic–how I developed from not having much process to my madness to being super organized and accountable now. It was a lot like birth by fire honestly. I’m also proud of how I’ve improved as a traditional illustrator this past few years and how I’m constantly finding ways to still get better.

What is your favorite medium to use? 

Right now it’s water soluble wax pastels.

Has that changed over time? 

Yes, it was gouache for a long time.

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

I grew up using a wacom in my teens but now I’ve been working on my iPad pro a lot, doing a lot of my digital work in Procreate.

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

Pastels, gouache, my iPad!

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

Yes, it takes me a few hours to get a more finished work done. I definitely spend time on my craft.

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

I love doing visual development before projects, even personal ones. 

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! One of my big breaks professionally was because of pinterest, and I’m always thankful for having instagram to leverage my work more easily.

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

Maybe a new yorker cover, actually get to designing more illustrated scarves for people, an illustrated children’s book of Neil Gaiman’s stories, a stop-motion film!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on sketches for a book, tidying up the last few bits of another book’s final interiors and working on visual development for two other ones. It may seem like a lot, but they’re all in different stages right now, one nearly done, so it’s very manageable.

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 highly recommend Neocolor II. It’s the wax pastel I use that I’ve since been using more as watercolor than pastel. I’ve always had trouble with muddy colors with paint tubes because I’m not very patient and methodical. But when I just wet these wax sticks, I’m always getting fresh colors, and when they do get a little dirty, it’s very easy to just rinse off the dirty colors on top of it. You get more use out of them too than constantly sharpening them to use dry.

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

Practice. Just sit on your desk and do the work despite your anxiety or self-doubt. Anything you enjoy enough to get better at, you can get better at with practice.

Thank you Yas 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 Yas’ work, you can visit her at:


Bright Agency:




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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wonderful work, Yas!


  2. I am simply ❤ ing your work!


  3. Charming art work. I love Stay Creepy. So cute. Thanks for another interesting post.


  4. Fun to see your work, Yas! I see several pieces I love. Best wishes!


  5. Wonderful post. I love Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist!


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