Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 19, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – METTE ENGELL

METTE ENGELL is an illustrator represented by the Bright Agency. She grew up watching Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough with her parents, and from a very early age she knew she wanted to become a marine biologist.

Mette Engell is a self-taught children’s illustrator and a surface designer. She grew up in the northern part of Zealand, the largest island in Denmark. She studied biology at the university of Copenhagen, where she earned her masters in marine biology. She has always loved coming up with stories and characters, so after her first child was born, she picked up her pencil and hasn’t put it down since. Today she lives by the ocean with her husband and their 3 kids, 2 cats, and a lionhead bunny in a blue house filled with art supplies, picture books, and Lego.

However not long after getting her masters in Biology, she picked up a copy of “On my island” by Marie-Louise Gay, and fell in love with picture books.

She has illustrated several books and magazines for publishers in the US, the UK, and other European countries – and she hopes that one day, she can add author to her portfolio.

Mette lives in a small town by the ocean in the north east part of Denmark, where she enjoys life with her husband, 3 kids, and their 2 cats.


Interview with Mette Engell:

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for 5 years, but the journey started long before that.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

Oh gosh, I’m not entirely sure, but I think it must have been while studying biology and my neighbor bought two charcoal drawings I had made.

Did you take any art classes while getting your degrees in Biology and a Master in Marine Biology at the University of Copenhagen?

Studying at a university in Denmark is much different from in the US. Once you get there, you have chosen which specific area you want to study, and you then either study that for 3 years and get a bachelors or you continue 2 more and get a masters (cand.scient). After that you can continue 3 more years, and there by earn a PhD. So, no, all my classes where strictly science classes.

What did you study?

I studied biology at the University of Copenhagen, and my thesis were on marine biology more specifically on the reproductive cycle of sea anemones in the north east Atlantic Ocean.

Have you taken any children’s illustrating courses since graduating?

Yes, I’ve taken several online classes on illustrating for children, and drawing and painting in general.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

Yes, but that was not related to illustration at all.

Do you feel studying biology helped you develop your style?

I think that knowing about anatomy has helped, yes. And the fact that I love nature and science has influenced my style. I love doing research on the characters and places before starting a new project.

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

I worked as a network designer before starting my illustration career. The first type of job in illustration were designing for websites and small businesses. I then moved on to surface design, before I finally found the Bright agency.

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

Just after my daughter was born, I picked up up a picture book by Marie-Louise Gay.  Before I was halfway through the book, I knew that I had found my calling.

How did you connect with the Bright Agency and how long have you been with them?

Illustrating and writing my own picture books have been a long time dream for me, but I always put off applying to agencies, thinking that I wasn’t good enough. Then one day, I was talking to one of my friends about it, and she convinced me that it was time. So I spend the next 2 months working on a complete new portfolio, and once I felt I had enough samples, I emailed Bright and hoped for the best. A few weeks later, Bright invited me to join them, and I couldn’t have been happier. That was back in 2017, which makes it  3 years with Bright.

Was 10 Things I Love About You published by Yoyo Books September 1 2018 your first illustrated book?

No, my first picture book, was Hello, I’m home by Beth Bowen, which were published in 2016.

It looks like you have other books with this publisher. Did you sign a multi-book contract?

The yoyo books contract was for 4 books.

How did you get that contract?

I think that  was the first contract that I got through the Bright agency.

How did you book Hello Family, I’m Home end up on The Today Show.

That is a good question. As far as I recall, the authors sister, send the book to the show, and it got picked up. That was amazing seeing my first picture book on the today show.

Who published the book and is it still available to purchase?

It was a self published book, and I’m not sure if it’s still available.

Were the following books: Matzah Belowstairs, Cat on the Mat, I’m Feeling Outrageous Orange: A Halloween Book (Crayola), Snow Day, Up the Tree, and Huggle Wuggle, Bedtime – all board books?

No, only Outrageous orange and Huggle wuggle bedtime snuggle. The others were regular picture books.

Was Get a Move On! A Bloomsbury Young Reader and Lily and the Brachiosaurus the two books you illustrated in 2019.

Lilly and the brachiosaurus was illustrated in 2018, it is one of four  books about a group of kids meeting their favorite Dinosaurs.

Get a move on (Bloomsbury), was one of many books I illustrated in 2019.  Alien tomato by  Kristen Schroeder being another. I also worked on another 4 book series with yo-yo books, and on a book called When a t.rex comes to play by Helen Cane-Hardy,  a truly hilarious story about what could happen if you bring home a T.rex that just got released this July.

Did you have any spare time in 2019 with 8 books to illustrate?

Hahaha I have been kept very busy ever since I signed with Bright in 2017. It’s amazing how many books you can make in one year.

Is Lily and the Brachiosaurus 2019 (Dinosaur Stories) only available in Europe

I actually don’t know anything about this series, like I mentioned before, I’m not sure if it has been published yet.

I featured Alien Tomato by Kristen Schroeder on Writing and Illustrating. You did a great job with the art. How long did it take you to create the illustrations?

Thank you. I began working on the sketches in Early March of 2019, and the final artwork was done by the end of August, early September as far as I remember. However I did take the entire July of to spend time with my family, I always do that.

It looks like you have another board book Christmas Makes Me Feel Pine Green!: A Scratch-and-Sniff Holiday Story (Crayola) coming out in September. Was this part of a multi-book contract with Simon Spotlight?

Yes, it is part of the series that began with Outrageous Orange.

Valentine’s Day Makes Me Feel Razzle Dazzle Rose!: A Sweet Scratch-and-Sniff Story (Crayola) Simon Spotlight comes out in December. Is the art finished for that book?

Yes, both the valentines day book and the Christmas book in the crayola series from Simon and schuster were finished in early May this year.


Is Double the Dinosaurs: A Math Reader (Step into Reading) coming out in September 15th, your first book with Random House?

Yes, this is the first book with them. Hopefully it won’t be the last, it was a lot of fun working on this book, and I enjoyed working with the people there.

Have you done any illustrations for children’s magazines.

Yes, I’ve worked with both Highlights magazine and a Cricket a couple of times.

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

My first picture book that I worked on, Hello family, I’m home. Was with a self-published author, and that went very well. Everything was just as professionally handled as all my contracts with Bright. Today all my contracts go through Bright, but that doesn’t exclude self-published authors,  I’m actually working with one as we speak.

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

Thank you. To be honest I think my greatest success so far is that I have a picture book to work on every morning I get up. I had never in my wildest dream imagined that I would end up being represented by such an amazing agency as Bright, doing what I love every day.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Pencil and paper and Procreate on my iPad Pro.

Has that changed over time?

No, not really.

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

Yes, I own a iPad pro 12.9, and a wacom 22hd, and I love them both. However I do prefer my iPad over the wacom, but that has more to do with the fact that I absolutely love working in Procreate, it’s so easy and intuitive to work with in comparison to Photoshop, which I have used for decades.

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

I love getting my paints (watercolor and acrylics) and pencils out, but for practical reasons, I mainly use my digital devices for finished artwork, since it makes it so much faster to make adjustments in. I might scan something I made from real life materials and use them in my digital work.

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

My illustration is a full time job. I do work out of my studio in my home, so very often it extend beyond normal work hours, but I do try to keep it within a regular day job.

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

Yes, all the time, the amount depends on the project on hand of course.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely, without the internet it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I could actually make a living from my illustration, and I would never have found Bright, my agency, without the internet and thereby all the wonderful projects that have come my way.

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

I’m glad you asked, my dream is to write and illustrate my own stories.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on several projects at the moment, one is with a self-published author, and the other is a early reader book, and I’m working on two manuscript of my own, that hopefully will become published books some day.

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 think my main tip would be try everything you can, and see what you like. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive brand or product from the get go. …just don’t buy the really cheap stuff, most often it cause unnecessary frustration. Get the student quality in the beginning, and that goes for digital equipment as well.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Believe in yourself, follow your dream and be proud of what you make – it might not at first be the masterpiece you had in mind, but give it time and practice. Everyone can learn how to draw.

Thank you, Mette for answering the interview questions and sharing your expertise with us. Please let me know your future successes so I can share it with everyone.

To see more of Matte’s work, you can visit her at:





Talk tomorrow,



  1. glad she switched career paths, clearly what she was meant to do with her wonderful talent


  2. Adorable illustrations! Definitely your career path -congrats!!


  3. It’s lovely to see so much of your work here! It sounds like you have been busy!


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