Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 8, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Lenny Wen

Lenny Wen is a children’s book illustrator and author born and raised in Indonesia. She currently lives in the countryside of Austria.

She loves to draw whimsical, spooky, funny, and nostalgic childhood illustrations, possessing a mixture of storytelling, imagination, and emotion.

When she is not illustrating or writing, you might find her staring at the trees, doodling hundred of bears in her sketchbook,  filling up her cup with coffee, or hugging her dog a bit too much.

Selected Clients

  • HarperCollins
  • Penguin Random House
  • Macmillan
  • Little, Brown for Young Readers
  • Simon and Schuster
  • Candlewick Press
  • SourceBooks
  • Scholastic
  • Storytime Magazine
  • Crocodile Creek
  • Hansol Education
  • Singapore Symphony Orchestra
  • Bolinda


I started by jotting down small and rough ideas or thumbnails in my sketchbook.

Then I moved to Photoshop, sketched on the exact dimension that I’m looking for. Tried to figure out the best composition.

Made a tight outline from the rough sketch.

Made color rough in Photoshop. Sometimes I made over one iteration to see which color composition conveys what I’m aiming for.

Then I printed the outlines out on a standard plain paper and traced it on a hot pressed paper with a light pad.

From here I basically just painted it with gouache. I started with a very light layer of color as the base tone (here is blueish tone) then layered it with thicker paint all over. I didn’t focus on one part/object but on the bigger picture to get the balance.

With colored pencils and pastels, I added textures.

Finally, it was done! I scanned it into Photoshop and cleaned up a bit. This process depended on my final painting on paper. Sometimes it requires more adjustments.


Interview with Lenny Wen:

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, but I’ve only been illustrating professionally since around 2009.

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

My first illustration gig was an educational book in 2009 about drug misuse from an unknown press in Indonesia.

You were born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, and now living in Austria. What made you decide to move to Austria?

I moved to Austria because I married an Austrian/French.

How long have you lived in Austria?

I’ve been living in Austria since 2018.

What made you decide to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Design Communication from Universitas Bunda Mulia?

I got a scholarship there and the university was close to where I worked at that time.

What type of things did you study while getting a BA in Visual Design Communication?

I learned things related to graphic design and very simple animation-video-related things.

Did you do any illustrating work while going to school?

While studying, I worked a day job as a graphic designer and freelance children’s book illustrator.

Did Universitas Bunda Mulia help find illustration work you could do after graduation?

I wouldn’t say the school helped me find illustration work, but to get office jobs in Indonesia, most companies require a degree from the university, so it was helpful.

When did you learn to speak English?

I didn’t learn to speak English formally outside of school. I didn’t actively speak English until I met my husband.

What type of job did you do after you graduated?

Graphic designer

Do you feel art school influenced your illustrating style?

I don’t think it influenced my illustrating style. My illustrating style is mostly influenced by what I consumed or what I love at the moment.

How did you promote yourself as an illustrator?

Aside from having an agent, I’m regularly posting on social media and recently built up my newsletter.

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

I’ve always loved storytelling in any form. As a kid, I barely read children’s books, so I wasn’t aware until my 20s that this profession existed. I dreamed of becoming a comic book artist when I was a kid. Once I learned this form of storytelling, I immediately fell in love.

Was The Play Tent of Imagination published in 2016 the first picture book you illustrated?

No, I illustrated a couple of picture books in Indonesia before I illustrated that one.

Was Khalie and the Dragon published in 2016 your first illustrated chapter book? Was this a self published book?

It’s not a chapter book, it’s a self-published picture book.

Between 2017 and 2019 you illustrated 5 books written by B.C.R. Fegan with TaleBlade Press. How did you get involved in illustrating their books? Is TaleBlade still in business?

The author emailed me to ask if I wanted to illustrate his stories. TaleBlade is a small press initiated by the author, B.C.R. Fegan. I think TaleBlade is still in business, but I’ve not been in touch with the author for some years. I really love working with them!

How did you get the contract with HighTree Publishing to illustrate Brave Bessie: Queen of the Sky that came out in the beginning of 2021?

The wonderful Roda Ahmed- the author who initiated HighTree Publishing, contacted me some years ago and that’s how I got to illustrating Brave Bessie.

You also illustrated Better Together! How did PRH/Flamingo Books discover you to illustrate that book?

The team from Flamingo Books/PRH contacted my agent, Christy, one week after she officially introduced me to her clients’ list.

In August of 2021 Sourcebooks published another book you illustrated title Halloween is Coming! How long did it take you to illustrate that book? 

The process wasn’t linear. If I’m not wrong, it took at least 3 months to illustrate that book.

Christy Ewers at The Cat Agency represents you. How did the two of you connect?

Christy emailed me in 2018 and asked if I had been represented in US/Canada. After some emails exchanged, she ended up didn’t take me in as we both weren’t ready. In 2019, after polishing my portfolio, I emailed her and asked if she want to represent me.

You started out 2022 illustrating My Little Golden Book About Philadelphia. Did Christy have a hand in getting you that contract?


Your newest book, Old Friends was just published by MacMillian. Did Christy get you that Contract?

Yes, she did!

How We Say I Love You in December. Did this picture book take longer to do since you probably were working on your last and your 2023 picture books?

It was taking faster than I expected. The publisher initially planned to publish it at the beginning of 2022, but they moved the publication to the end of the year, after all.

HarperCollins is publishing When You Were New in March 2023. Is that book finished?

Yes! I’ve seen the proofs and I’m so excited about that book!

In April Little, Brown is publishing Spicy Spicy Hot! Which you wrote and illustrated. I this the first book you wrote?

Yes, this is my first authored book.

In May Henry Holt and C. is publishing Pop’s Perfect Present. How long did they give you to illustrate this book? Do you think you will get a rest once this book is done?

The illustrations are done. The publisher gave me quite a long time, so it was enjoyable. I’m having a tiny break here and there during the waiting time.

Do you want to write and illustrate more of your own books?

Yes, absolutely! My second author/illustrator book was announced some weeks ago in Publisher Weekly! It’s called Wolfgang in the Meadow.

What is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite medium is graphite.

Has that changed over time?

It doesn’t change, but the list grows longer; I love colored pencils, acryla gouache, gouache, and pastel.

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

No, I’m pretty unorganized. As long as an illustration turns out as close as how I picture it in my head, I would call it done. Deadline also plays a huge part in how I spend my time on my craft.

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

Yes! for most of the books I worked on, I took pictures, watch videos or make Pinterest boards.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I owe my entire career to the internet. I won’t be able to make a living solely on illustrating children’s books back in Indonesia. It also wasn’t viable for me to find a job in the countryside of Austria. Plus, with the internet, I could learn anything I am passionate about and connect with the most brilliant people in the industry (like you!)

What do you think is your biggest success?

I think it changes from time to time. Some years ago, for me, my biggest success was leaving my day job and becoming a full-time illustrator, then it was signing with my dream agency, for now, it’s expanding my craft into writing + illustrating and becoming more confident to paint traditionally again.

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

I want to write/illustrate a fantasy/ horror middle-grade or graphic novel. Aside from that, I want to keep doing what I’m doing now, without so much anxiety about whether I’ll still be considered for other projects in order to make enough for a living.

What are you working on now?

I’m illustrating a chapter book (unannounced yet), Smiling Eyes (a picture book written by Linda Sue Park), and my second authored picture book (Wolfgang in the Meadow). I also occasionally brainstormed my next authored picture book.

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 love Pitt Graphite Matt from Faber Castell and, recently Carand’ache neocollor aquarelle pastel.

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

From my limited experience, this profession takes years and years to build up. It takes a tremendous sacrifice (time, mental, health, energy, etc), especially in the beginning, so it requires a deep passion and love to make it works and be worthy. I would also say in order to keep up, it requires an endless learning process. The last one, since this is a small industry, being someone who’s enjoyable to work with is important.

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

You can visit Lenny using the following links:







Talk tomorrow,


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