Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 19, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Ana Latese

Ana Latese is a yellow obsessed African American illustrator who happily lives between North Carolina and Florida. She graduated in 2021 from Jacksonville University with a BFA in Illustration. Her work, which ranges from editorial to narrative, focuses on communicating positive ideas and images of people of color. Her current client list includes The Washington Post, Hulu, and Scholastic. When she’s not illustrating, she enjoys playing video games, bundling up with her dogs, and watching Criminal Minds 24/7.

As a black artist, Ana strives to communicate positive ideas and images of people of color with her art. She likes creating work that not only illustrates the beauty and strength of a person of color, but also create work that is identifiable and relatable to us.


This is one of the last illustrations that I did for university, a mock book cover called “The Night Is Ours”. To keep their forbidden relationship alive, the prince and the local baker’s daughter must sneak out once the sun has fallen.

I usually start out all my book cover projects with multiple thumbnails to see what I can come up with by myself. Then, I’ll take a few of the thumbnails and find references to make them a little bit more interesting. Below are the ones that I choose.

The next step is to do the linework, which is my favorite part! I use the program Procreate on my iPad 12.9 inch and use the 6B pencil brush for all my lines. I think of my whole process like a coloring book, except I’m creating everything myself.

Usually, I would start out with the flat colors of my characters first but decided to go straight into the background. I like to have a somewhat limited color palette when I start my illustrations and decided that I wanted my background to be mainly blues and purples. I try to keep in mind of values, contrasts, and any lighting situations I can apply to help bring the subject of the piece out. For this one, it would be my characters Eli and Madison.

I love any chance to add plants! Using the references from before, I created some foliage to help frame Eli and Madison to draw your eye to them.

Next, I went in and filled the colors of Eli and Madison. Since they would be near each other throughout the whole story, if there were interior art, I wanted to make sure their colors looked well together.

Finally, onto the shading and lighting. Using mostly the 6b pencil brush, the bonobo chalk brush, and multiple blending modes, I go into the final details of the illustration!


Have you always lived in North Carolina and Florida?

Yes and no, haha! I was born and raised in North Carolina, but always had family in Florida. My immediate family would travel so often to Florida that I just always considered it my second home.

How do you split your time between the two states?

Before I went to university, my immediate family would visit Florida during the summer and of course we had to go for holidays. Then, the university I ended up choosing just so happened to be in Florida!

What was the first thing you illustrated that you were paid for?

I believe it was illustrations for a small mug company back in summer 2018.

How long have you been illustrating?

Just like any artist, I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. I still remember drawing on the walls in my bedroom with crayons. With the intent to make art my profession, I started in 2018 after leaving the film program at my university.

What made you chose Jacksonville University for your BFA in Illustration?

Fun fact: I actually went to Jacksonville University for film! I wanted to become a video editor, but realized the program at the time wasn’t for me. After taking a digital art class, dedicated to learning photoshop and illustrator, I rediscovered my love for drawing again. I learned from the associate professor of illustration that was teaching the class about the illustration program and was completely sold!

What classes did you enjoy the most?

I truly enjoyed figure drawing! Not only did it improve and change my art style in so many ways, but it was the first time I really worked with traditional mediums such as pastel and charcoal.

Did JU help you find Illustrating work?

JU didn’t really help me find illustration work, but they did provide resources on how to find work. They encouraged the use of postcards, social media, and networking.

Do you want to illustrate Children’s picture books?

Yes! One day, I would love the opportunity to illustrate a children’s book for a big publisher.

Was How The Home Was Built your first illustrated book?

“How The Home Was Built” was my very first one!

How did that opportunity come about?

The author, Seyhandra Benjamin, found my illustrations on twitter and DM’d me on creating an illustration for her self-published book.

What type of book is Brown Boy Dreams?

Brown Boy Dreams, written by Clamentia Hall Jr., is a children’s book about a boy discovering all the possible career choices he could have.

Did you do just the cover or did you also do some interior art?

I did the cover, and I did all the interior art.

You mention The Washington Post in your bio. Did you provide an illustration for one of their articles?

I illustrated 3 articles for them! Two for the Real Estate section and one for the Juneteenth issue of the Washington Post Magazine.

How did Erik Robertson find you to Illustrate his self-published book, Don’t Bite the Orange?

Erik Robertson found me on Instagram and decided to email me about illustrating his book.

It looks like you have illustrated another book, Dear Little Black Girl written by self-published author. How were you able to find those jobs?

Most of the jobs that I acquired before I joined The Cat Agency were all from social media, mainly Instagram.

What type of illustration work did you do for Hulu, and Scholastic?

For Hulu, I was commissioned to illustrate a promo piece of Andra Day as Billie Holiday for the premiere of the Hulu Original Film, The United States Vs. Billie Holiday.

For Scholastic, I created four quarter size illustrations of Mae C. Jemison, the first black female astronaut.

You have just joined The Cat Agency. How did you make that connection with Christy?

I noticed Christy followed me on Instagram around Summer or Fall of 2019. After watching a SCBWI webinar from her about building a children’s book portfolio. I decided to send mine months later!

Since you just graduated from Jacksonville University, you must of done all your illustration work while your were working on your degree. Did the school encourage you to pursue this?

I would say the school encouraged this but made sure I thought about what I was able to handle.

Where any of the illustrations you show on your website part of a Senior project at school?

Yes, I have a couple of pieces on my website that came straight from my book, “Born to Dream: Black Women Who Never Gave Up”. The book illustrates and tells the stories and dreams of fifteen amazing black women in diverse careers. Two of them on my website are Mariya Russell, the first African American female chef of a Michelin starred restaurant, and Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet to write and recite at a presidential inauguration in US history.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

It would be a dream come true to illustrate my own children’s book! The ability to provide more diversity onto the bookshelves and have children find a character that looked like them would be amazing!

Would you still interested in illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-published?

Currently, I’m only taking on self-published cover work with no interior art.

Do you take pictures or do research before you illustrate a book?

Most definitely! I personally feel that taking references and researching is key to a successful project.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes! I illustrated for Scholastic’s children’s magazine on their article for Mae C. Jemison.

What do you think helped develop your style?

Not stressing out about my style was the first step! Finding my style was something I struggled a lot with. It was probably the hardest obstacle to overcome during my art journey. Instead, I began focusing on my art fundamentals and getting better at drawing. Once I started gathering more knowledge of the basics, eventually my style developed as I was influenced by other art styles I liked and wanted to create shortcuts for the objects I see in reality.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Haha, I have a small corner in my room dedicated as my studio.

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

It would be a dream come true to illustrate my own children’s book! The ability to provide more diversity onto the bookshelves would be amazing!

What do you think is your biggest success?

I believe my biggest success was graduating university. It was a long and hard journey that I can proudly say that I conquered!

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

Majority of my pieces are painted in Procreate with a 12.9-inch iPad. I also use Photoshop and my Wacom Cintiq 13HD whenever I work with large files.

Has that changed over time?

I believe it’s currently changing now. Since I have been working on bigger projects that require more layers than Procreate can handle, I’m slowly transitioning from Procreate to Clip Studio Paint or Photoshop.

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

When I first started my art journey, I owned a Wacom Intuos Draw. It’s a great way to introduce someone into digital art!

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

I try to spend as much as I can working on my craft. I love learning and experimenting with new techniques that I might’ve found exploring books or the internet.

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

Most definitely! I personally feel that taking references and researching is key to a successful project.

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

I would love to illustrate a graphic novel or create my own book!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently developing my portfolio, working on package design for a company, and coming up with story ideas.

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.

Recently, I have been enjoying the Max Pack watercolor brushes!

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Don’t be afraid to put your work out there on social media! We are in such a digital age right now, that it is much easier for art directors to find you just by your Instagram. You never know what one little post can do for you!

Ana, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

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


Talk tomorrow,



  1. Gorgeous illustrations! Thanks for sharing your work with us, Ana. 🙂


  2. This work is absolutely stunning! I was trying to pick a favorite and it’s REALLY hard to narrow down! lol And doing one of Amanda Gorman 😀 So lovely!


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