Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 23, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Jaime Kim

Jaime Kim(pronounced JAY-ME) was born and raised in South Korea before moving to the USA when she was 18.

Jaime Kim was born and raised in South Korea before moving to the USA when she was 18. Although she was a timid child who was afraid of just about everything, she discovered a sense of serenity in drawing. As a grown-up, Jaime finally stopped being afraid of everything, but kept on drawing and painting. She works with gouache and acrylics to create nostalgic and dreamlike illustrations, inspired by childhood memories of her family, as well as movies, art, and the outside world. Her favorite things are the sun, the moon, the sky and stars – which is why they always creep into her artwork. Her debut illustrated picture book, Take Heart, My Child, was a #1 New York Times-bestseller. Jaime is also the illustrator of Kate DiCamillo’s La La La.

​Here are some of Jaime’s clients: Candlewick Press, Simon&Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan,Lerner Publishing Group, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Babybug,Ladybug, Spider and Cricket Magazine,McGraw-Hill, Ranger Rick Jr, Pearson, Music Together, Shinsagae(Korea).


I work in a slightly different way for each book project. Sometimes I use traditional media and digital tools together, but this is the process when I work 100% digitally.

I begin with a rough sketch. I usually do rough sketch digitally using with thick photoshop brushes.

Then I clean the lines and add some details with thinner brushes.

I start coloring the background first. Before coloring, I simply add some shadows to check the darkness of the spread.

Then color the entire background. The overall color and atmosphere of the spread are decided in this process.

And add textures and lighting effects.

I color everything in the foreground, including the main character.

Lastly, adjust the contrast, saturation and color. And add more details.


How long have you been illustrating?

I started working as a full-time illustrator right after graduating from college. I graduated in 2014, so I’ve been working as an illustrator for about 8 years.

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

I was offered a book deal for And Then Comes Summer from Candlewick Press a semester before graduating from college, and that was my first ever job as an illustrator.

What made your family move to the US from South Korea?

I wasn’t planning to settle here when I first came to the US. At first, I was just here on a long trip with my family. I took a gap year after finishing high school, and because it coincided with my father’s sabbatical, the whole family went on a year-long trip in the States. My family returned to Korea after a year but I wanted to stay in the US a bit longer, so I decided to stay. At the time, I didn’t think that I’d be living in the US for such a long time, but I ended up staying for more than ten years, finishing school and working, and found myself living as an immigrant in the US.

What state did you move to when you moved here?

The first place I lived with my family was College Station, Texas, then I went to art school in Maryland, and currently live in Charlotte, NC.

What made you choose the Maryland Institute College of Art to get your BFA?

Actually, the reason I chose MICA was because MICA had a great fine arts program and I wanted to major in fine arts when I entered college. However, after accidentally taking an illustration elective class in the first semester, I changed my major to illustration before the semester was over. As soon as I took the class, I was convinced that I wanted to become an illustrator.

What made you decide to want to illustrate children’s books?

The reason I first became interested in children’s books was very simple. I just liked to draw children more than adults. However, after taking Shadra Strickland’s children’s book illustration class, I seriously considered becoming a children’s book illustrator, because I really like the process of illustration and story becoming together and turn it in to a book.

Did MICA help you find work before you graduated?

For me, the college program was definitely helpful. I had opportunities to show my portfolio to the art directors and editors from publishing companies.

Did you do any freelance work while attending MICA?

I got a book deal from candlewick a semester before my graduation.

I often got small commissioned works, but I didn’t do much freelance work while I was in school. As you know, it’s not easy to work while keeping up with the college schedule.

Since you graduated in 2014, and two years later had illustrated an-award winning book, it sounds like you immediately started your career as a freelance illustrator. Did you know about the book while in college?

Being the New York Times bestselling illustrator in 2014 was such a big deal for me.

A few months after my graduation, I got a book deal for Take heart My child, so I didn’t know about the book while in college.

How did you get so lucky to illustrate the award-winning picture book, Take Heart, My Child, by Ainsley Earhardt with Aladdin Books as your debut picture book in November 2016?

It wasn’t the first book I received an offer from a publishing company, but as my schedule was adjusted, it became my debut book as an illustrator. The atmosphere of the story went well with my illustrations, so I had fun working on it. I was a newbie illustrator at that time, so I didn’t really expect the book to be an award winning book. I still think I was so lucky.

Do you think your illustrations in Take Heart Child caused Lerner Publishing to seek you out to illustrate your second book, If You Were the Moon?

I think so… I had uploaded some spreads of Take Heart My Child to my Instagram and website at the time, and the art director contacted me after looking at my website and Instagram.

You had just illustrated And Then Comes Summer Written by Tom Brenner and published by Candlewick Press in May 2017

Yes, And Then Comes Summer is a book that gave me lots of joy. The book was my first project as an illustrator, and I still remember the excitement when I first got an email from Candlewick Press.

Does Claire let you know when you are in the running for illustrator of a book or does she wait until the publisher requests you for a book?

When I just started to work as an illustrator, Claire helped me a lot to promote myself to the publishing companies. She still gives me lots of advice when deciding on a project or making my own story.

Where you excited when you found out you were chosen to illustrate La La La: A Story of Hope by Newbery Award Medal winner Kate Decamillo in 2017, published by Candlewick Press?

I was really excited when I first heard that I was going to be an illustrator for Kate Dicamillo’s book, and I was excited again because the book was almost wordless.

I always wanted to make a wordless book, so I felt like I crossed off one of the items on my bucket list. Since it was almost wordless book, the workflow was a little different from other books, so it is a particularly memorable, fun, and meaningful project for me.

In May of 2018, you illustrated I AM a BIRD by Dana Walrath with Atheneum. Did you they meet with you to go over their vision for the book or did they give you a free hand to take the illustrations in any direction?

I made a sample art for Atheneum before I was offered an official book deal for I Am a Bird. They liked the sample art, and after the sample art was approved, they gave me a free hand!

And then in 2018 you illustrated Isle of You Written by David LaRochelle published Candlewick Press, Dec.11.2018

Isle of you is a book that comforted and soothed me a lot while I was working on this book. I really like the warm and comforting atmosphere of the story, and I still read Isle of You whenever I get down.

Did you sign a three-book contract with Candlewick when you signed to Illustrated And Then Comes Summer,  La La Land and Isle for You?

I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was!

Where Are You From by Yamiile Saied Mendez was the first book that you illustrated for HarperCollins. Why did the Spanish version come out before the English language book?

I don’t know the background story of the Spanish version, but I heard from Yamile that the Spanish and English versions were completed at the same time, I think she wanted to release two versions around the same time.

In 2019 you illustrated Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill. Did you have to juggle illustarting this book with Welcome to the World that ame out in 2020?

-I started Welcome to the World as soon as I finished The Table That Grandad built.

How much time did Candlewick give you to Around the Table That Grandad Built Written by Melanie Heuiser Hill (Candlewick Press, Sep.10.2019)?

I can’t remember exactly, but I think the schedule was similar to other books.

It usually takes 4-7 months for me to complete a book.

In March. 2020 you illustrated your fifth book with Candlewick, Welcome to Your World Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls. Do you think your job is easier when you’ve worked with the publisher before?

Welcome to Your World was my 4th book with Maryellen Hanley, the art director. I can’t tell the process was easier than the previous books, but it’s was definitely smooth! She is a really kind and professional art director, and working with her is always such a pleasure to me!

There was six months between Welcome to Your World and The Aquanaut by Jill Heinerth. Did you have a chance to relax a little between these books?

The publication schedule for those two projects were pretty close, but the working schedule didn’t conflict with each other. So I did have a chance to relax a little between those two book projects.

You have illustrated a book with Candlewick every year, except 2021. Are you under a special contract with them to be readily available?

I’m working on my second author illustrated book with Candlewick right now.

Is First Friend: How Dogs Evolved From Wolves to Become Our Best Friends. a non-fiction book? If so, is this the first non-fiction book you illustrated and did you need to do more research before starting?

Yes, it’s a non-fiction book. It was my second non-fiction book after If You Were the Moon. I had to do a lot of research, but it wasn’t that hard. Because I was able to receive various materials from the publisher and writer, and those were really helpful.

Was Thanks A Lot your first board book?

Yes, Thanks A Lot was my first board book project, but Take heart, my child and welcome to your worlds were also published as board book versions.

Do you try to limit the number of book you will illustrate each year/?

I usually do 2-3 projects a year and try not to work on more than 3. I like to do personal work in my spare time, but it’s not always easy to find time in my work schedule to create personal works.

Was Ready for the Spotlight! the first book you wrote and illustrated?

Yes, Ready for the spotlight! was my first author-illustrated book. The story was inspired by my childhood memories with my younger sister. The book is about sisterhood and jealousy.

I featured Mommy’s Hometown by Hope Lim at the end of March on Writing and Illustrating. Did you do a lot of research before you started illustrating this book?

Yes, I did lots of research before I started the project. While working on Mommy’s Hometown, I had chance to stay in Korea for 2-3 months. I could get lots of references while I was in Korea, and the whole process was extremely fun.

You have another book, Night on the Sand by Monica Mayper being published by Clarion Books in August. Have you finished the illustrations?

Yes, the book has already been completed and will be published in a few months.

What do you feel helped develop your style?

For developing my style, I try to make lots of doodle using various materials, and I try to get inspiration from various things, such as paintings, films, animations and books. When I get stuck and can’t come up with an idea or just can’t focus properly on my work, I like to change my work environment sometimes.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

Yes!! I LOVE wordless picture books. Making my own wordless book is one of my goals as an illustrator. I’m working on a few ideas right now, and I hope these ideas will become real stories someday.

Has any of your art been published in Newspapers or magazines?

I often work with children’s magazines.

What do you think is your biggest success so far?

I do what I love for a living, and that is a huge success for me. I’m still so grateful that I’m being able to work as a children’s book illustrator and author.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Most of my projects are completed digitally, but traditional media are absolutely essential for my work. I normally use watercolors and acrylic paint to create some texture. Even though I mainly work with digital tools, I love all kinds of traditional media, and I really admire illustrators who uses traditional media for their project. I myself have a goal of completing a project using 100% traditional media someday as well.

Has that changed over time?

The medium I use varies slightly from project to project. Depending on the atmosphere and mood of the story, I change my art style and choose the medium that fits the style. And I tend to spend a lot of time choosing the digital brush that best fits the mood of the story.

What type of Graphic Drawing Tablet do you use when illustrating?

I’ve been using a Cintiq tablet for the past few years, but since last year I started using an iPad Pro.

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

I usually work 6-8 hours a day, but depending on my physical condition, I sometimes work only 1-2 hours a day.

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

Yes, I tend to do a lot of research before starting any project. I usually collect reference images from internet, but I sometimes take some pictures by myself.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Even though I’m not really good at promoting myself on the internet or on social media, It definitely gave me a lot of opportunities.

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

I really want publish a wordless book in the near future:)!


What are you working on now?

I am currently working on my second author-illustrated book with Candlewick Press.

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 use digital tools a lot, but I tend to create various textures with traditional media.

When making textures, I sometimes use salt or coffee. It’s fun to be able to create special and accidental effects that can’t be created with art supplies.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find your own style. Having your own style is definitely important, but it is more important to keep drawing and painting consistently. If you try various things and get inspiration, one day you will have your own style without realizing it.

Jaime, 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.

You can visit Jaime using the following links:






Talk tomorrow,



  1. Stunning work Jamie 😍 It makes me hope our picture book paths will crossed one day 🙂


  2. I’m terrible with names (IRL too!) and smiled to see all of the books I recognized that Jamie had illustrated. Thanks for another great post.


  3. I love seeing the step-by-step process for the creation of this beautiful book! And it was fun to see her other work as well. Great interview Kathy & Jaime!


  4. Wow!! I want every single book Jamie has created! Just wow!


  5. This is beautiful work. I especially love the rooftop deck in winter. I will be looking for Jamie’s books. Thanks for the post.


  6. Awesome work! Love all the colors and excitement! Congrats, Jamie!


  7. Thank you, Jaime, for sharing so much of your beautiful artwork and thoughtful interview responses. I found myself smiling while viewing all these images, and nodding – especially at Ready for the Spotlight! since I have one older sister and those sibling feelings are strong ones! You don’t need to be that great at social media and self-promotion because your wonderful illustrations speak for themselves and are your professional calling card. Congrats on all these books and best wishes for continued success!


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