Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 7, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Ana Ochoa

Ana Ochoa was born and raised in Mexico City. She studied Graphic Design at the national University of Mexico, with an average of 9.2. She started working as a designer and illustrator after college, and after a while she decided to concentrate on illustrating children’s books.

In 1994-95, Ana received a scholarship from the French government to study in Strasbourg, France, at L’Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, at the illustration department with M. Claude Lapointe.

In 1996 she was chosen for an encouragement prize at the Noma Concours for children’s Books in Japan; with “La vaca querida”; and in 1997 she was chosen for the illustrators catalog at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, with “Las Tormentas del Mar Embotellado”.

Her work has been exhibited in Mexico, Tokio, Taiwan, Bratislava, Bologna, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro and Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). These last three exhibits sponsored by IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People).

Ana has worked with most publishers in Mexico (both private and government), doing picture books as well as school text books.

Ana Ochoa studied Graphic Design in Mexico and illustration in France. Her work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Bologna, Taiwan, New Delhi, Colombia, Bratislava, Rio de Janeiro, and Mexico City. She lives in Mexico City.

Here’s Ana explaining her process:

I start with a pencil sketch. My final drawings are usually very clean and tight.

I add texture layers, usually in Soft Light that become evident once I start adding color.

I add color in layers, starting from the background and up.

I use lots of layers to be able to go back and modify as I build my image.

I like adding individual textures to my characters clothes to make them more interesting.

I like working on the basic of faces: skin color, eyes, noses, cheeks, eyeglasses, etc. And then I dress everyone up!

I love adding and working lots little details: the newspaper that you can “read”, characters on the kids’ clothes, decorated socks, etc.

After all the base colors are done, I go back and work on everything using the burn tool to detail faces and expressions. I also use the burn tool to detail and pop clothes, hair, etc.

Lastly, I add my name with a water mark and sign my piece. Done!


How long have you been illustrating?

I probably have been illustrating professionally for more than 25 years, I think. I can’t remember a time when I have not been drawing!

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

I used to make mobiles and sell them to my friends, neighbors, and mostly my aunts and cousins. I drew all kinds of characters on white cardboard, black marker and colored pencils, cut them up and make mobiles. Not sure if cloth dolls count as art, but I used to make lots and sell them. Once, a girl my age asked for 15 to give her friends on Christmas!

Do you think your Mexican culture influences your illustrations?

I think it did at the beginning, but when I started to get more illustration jobs, I feel I lost that part; maybe I tried to blend in with what the market asked of me. Lately I have been actively and consciously recovering Mexican culture in my illustrations: bright colors, characters, everyday life scenes!

How did you get the scholarship from the French Government to study art in France?

My mom always made it her business that I learned french. Somehow, she knew it would come in handy one day! And it certainly did: I was confident to ask for the scholarship and I got it! I applied for one school but the lady at the embassy had a look at my portfolio and moved me to Strasbourg. I had the best teacher: Monsieur Claude Lapointe.

What type of art did you study in France?

I attended the Illustration Department. The emphasis was on learning how to tell stories trough images. Then we worked on the graphic representation side.

Did you make friends while there and get to explore the country?

Oh yes! Funny thing, I made friends from other countries, not so many french. I have two close and very dear greek friends from that time, Natassa and Thanasis. They are not artists!

I certainly explored France and other countries: Ireland, England, Spain, Italy. Through the scholarship I got to visit the Bologna Children’s Book Fair twice!

Did you do any freelance art while studying art?

No. I just concentrated on my studies.

How many Spanish text picture books did you illustrate before getting your first English text book?

About ten, probably…

How did you find illustration jobs when you first started your career?

A friend gave me the number of a lady who edited a kid’s magazine. Later I got a directory of editors and just called the ones that did children’s books and asked for appointments.

Does Mexico City have opportunities to interact with other children’s book illustrators?

Yes. There’s the International Children’s Book Fair, a few organizations, groups that friends organize between them.

Have you ever illustrated a self-published book?

No, I have not been asked to yet!

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

It depends on the story. And how serious the author is.

How did you get the contract to illustrate Lupe Lupita, Where Are You? A Board book published in 2016?

The author-editor contacted my then agent, Chris Tugeau.

Was this your first board book?

My first and only board book.

Did you illustrate other books in this Lupe Lupita series?

No, I did not.

How did you connect Kar-Ben to illustrate Maya Prays for Rain?

The editor at Kar-Ben saw my portfolio and liked a tiny spot art of a little girl in a yellow raincoat and she asked for me to illustrate the book. It’s about a jewish girl praying for rain; in 2019 I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Israel, and it rained!

How did you get to illustrate Miss Pinkeltink’s Purse with Tilbury Press?

The editor there asked if I would be interested in presenting a character for Miss Pinkeltink, a sort of small contest, I think they asked other artists to submit ideas. He liked mine the best! I loved working on Miss Pinkeltink!

In 1996 you were chosen for an encouragement prize at the Noma Concours for children’s Books in Japan. How did that happen? Did you submit an illustration for consideration?

Sadly, the Noma Concours no longer exists. It was organized in Japan and not every country was invited to participate. I got the information from IBBY Mexico and just went ahead and sent my illustrations. The book is called “Una vaca querida”. I have my medal and I enjoy looking at it and thinking how good it felt getting it. Just as happy as when I got the letter from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair letting me know I was chosen for the Illustrators Exhibition and catalog!

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

Oh, yes! I write a LOT. And I’ve been told I am not bad at all; but I need a particular editor willing to work with me. I have illustrated two of my stories, if only for my amusement.

Would you like to find representation with an agent?

Absolutely! Yes, please! I am open to go beyond picture books; I would love to work on anything that needs images: puzzles, games, children’s products, etc. etc!

Do you still work on your portfolio? 

Yes! I make illustrations based on whatever is going on. The internet is an endless source of every day ideas! I know I have to make new pieces to stay alive out there!

What do you feel your style has changed over the years?

Yes, somehow, maybe? Or, perhaps my style is the “same”, but I think I have gotten better in time.

Have you illustrated anything for children’s magazines?  

Back when I started, yes. It was so much fun, because I got to illustrate all kinds of subjects, games, cut outs.

I noticed earrings you created on Instagram. When did you start making jewelry?

I started making jewelry in 2004. I felt the need to learn something new. In my life I have always made things, and jewelry looked interesting because it was so much different from illustration: I got to be with other people (illustration work is a bit lonely), and it was loud and you got your hands dirty, and it was so much fun! Right now I am working on some special pieces for people who love embroidery. I love, love making jewelry.

Do you sell your work online?

I am starting to! It’s hard work: creating the pieces, making my brand, designing the packaging, etc!

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

My biggest success is looking at everything I’ve created so far, feeling happy about how my life has gone, how much I’ve been able to accomplish, how much I’ve learned. My biggest success is being able to appreciate how much I can still do; how much I have to offer.

What is your favorite medium to use? 

Paper, pencil, colored pencils, scissors, glue. Everything starts there, simple tools.

Has that changed over time?

I don’t think so. I like drawing and it will always be pencil and paper. Maybe I just got better at using them, I am a master with scissors!

Do you own Graphic Tablet when illustrating?

Yes. I have a Wacom Cintiq.

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

Since these days I am working on different things I do try and set time: I embroider in the mornings because of the light, and I draw in the afternoon. If I am preparing some jewelry pieces, I dedicate the whole day.

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

I don’t take pictures but I do research. Internet is great!

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you? 

Not so much, really. I have an Instagram account for my illustrations and another for embroidery. I think still have to learn about how to get people come over and have a look.

What are you working on now?

I work on my illustrations every day; but I am also embroidering on photographs over fabric and making jewelry for embroiderers. I am working with an art director and a prop master on two movies; being able to make all kinds of things with my hands is opening a whole new world of opportunities!

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 that if I could share any thoughts on material it would have to be work on the best stuff for YOU. You are dedicating your talent and time on something that is important, use materials that make you feel confident and happy with the results. I have a friend who could not afford buying silver, so she worked with brass: some of the most beautiful pieces I have seen! Another did an entire series of poster sized illustrations on white cardboard, brown paper bags and colored pencils, gorgeous! Sometimes expensive stuff is just that, expensive. Sometimes expensive stuff takes you to the moon. Work on anything that works for you!

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

My grandfather’s words of wisdom were: “If anyone offers to teach you something, anything, even if it is how to sweep, go ahead!”

Learn your craft, love it and make it grow as much as you can. But it’s a good idea to have a means for plan B, C, D. You never know what life’s plans are, so try and be prepared!

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.

You can visit Ana using this link:



Talk tomorrow,



  1. Hi Ana!!! SoSO good to see and read about you! Always learning and crafting!! Christy and I still love our silver CAT pins!!!!
    Keep it up and be well! ( I am retired now and fine art and Plein air painting tons! Happy!). 😻


  2. Fun! Thanks for sharing, Ana!


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