Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 15, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Juliana Oakley

Juliana Oakley Is an Illustrator from Latvia based in Bahrain. She loves color! She says, “The world is a beautiful  place and I am trying to reflect it in my art. My inspiration comes from my surroundings, my travels, the people I meet and beautiful memories from my childhood. My art is contemporary in style but with a bit of nostalgia -i am a big fun of mid century designs. My work is very colorful, often childlike, with a touch of humor and mystery.”

Her illustration process often starts with pencil sketch. Some elements of her illustrations might be done in colored pencils, gouache or acrylics and then incorporated in the illustration and finished digitally. 

She lives with my family; my husband, 2 children, a dog and a cat.


I chose this illustration because I wanted to show how wonderful and weird our brain works!

The idea for this illustration came to me in a dream! It was one of those very vivid magical dreams that you just don’t ever want to let go, so I had to preserve it fast.

I didn’t of course remember every detail, but the atmosphere of that old Christmas shop was what I was trying to convey.

So, a quick sketch was made.

Then I went on and started building the background, very loose, just to get the feeling of space.

At this point I am just trying to understand if the general layout is working for me.

When I had a feeling that I like where it is going, I went back to my sketch and added some more details.

This is a beauty of working digitally for me that I can go back and forth and change things as I go along. I rarely have the set final image in my head when I start working on piece, it sort of evolves in the process.

Then I proceed working on elements of illustration.

I’ve had an idea that all the toys in the shop should be from various famous children stories, so person looking at the illustration can guess them!

I was trying very hard to give it warm, magical ambiance.

And voila! Finished piece. The little girl I guess is me, I have never grew up and still looking for magical thing around!


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating for around 3 years now.

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

I did series of cooking illustrations for a friend who owns a pasta shop here in Bahrain.

You were born in Latvia. What made you move to Bahrain?

I met my husband, we used to work for the same airline. We got married and moved around for his job ever since.

How long have you lived in Bahrain?

We’ve lived in Bahrain for 14 years now.

Did you need to learn another language?

Not in Bahrain, as practically everyone speaks very good English here.

Did you always speak English?

No, I studied English at school, and after in aviation college, I had to speak English at work when I was working for an airline, but, of course, the best language university-is being married to an Englishman!

Did you study art at a university?

Sadly, no. I am self-taught artist.

What made you decide to make a career illustrating?

Just over 3 years ago (I am a very late starter!) another of my friends here in Bahrain asked me to illustrate the children’s book she has written. I was always drawing and painting, but illustration as such was something I’ve never done before. And it was like a switch. Finally, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

What type of jobs did you take while building your career in art?

It was mainly children’s book illustration jobs.

Does Bahrain have a community of artists you can interact with?

Bahrain has a very vibrant community of artists, from a very diverse background. There are many artistic events and exhibitions happening here.

I see that you create greeting cards. How long have you been doing that?

When I understood that I would like to work as an illustrator, I started building a portfolio. To get an inspiration and an insight into the industry I started to participate in various online art challenges. And when it came to Christmas- the challenges, of course were all about the most wonderful time of the year. So, this is how my first greeting cards were born.

What type of things did you do to promote yourself as an illustrator?

I regularly posted on my Instagram and Facebook pages. I became a member of Illustrators for Hire-a curated list of freelance illustrators. I looked up for illustration competitions and sent my works there.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

I love books, simple as that. Everything about them. So, it was easy decision.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

My absolute idol in the world of children illustration is Tove Jansson. I loved her books as a child, I have kept all of them, and they still tickle my imagination! Also I am always looking at works of other illustrators, there are so many amazing talented people out there-they are the endless source of inspiration for me!

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

I always loved children’s books, as a kid I remember copying illustrations from my favorite stories.

So, when I signed up with The Bright Agency and got my first book illustration job-I was delighted!

Have you made a book dummy to help sell a book idea?

Not yet. But I would love one day to illustrate my own book and book dummy would be the way forward!

Was Same Difference written by Nicola Sherry, published by  Diversity Press inSep 2021 your first illustrated book?

Technically my first illustrated book was the one I did for my friend. But it was the first illustrated book I’ve done with an Agency.

In June this year Saving Orb came out with the same author and publisher. Was this the second part of a two-book deal?

No, it was a separate book. It was very kind of Nicola to ask me to work with her again, it made me very happy and it was a great boost of confidence.

How many black and white illustrations did you do for the book?T

There were about 48 illustrations all together.

Is Diversity Press an educational publisher?

Very much so. It’s in the name. It teaches kids to look at the world and each other with kindness and care.

How did you get this contract?  I

t was through the agency, lovely agent Robyn Newton got myself and Nicola together, for which I am very grateful.

The Bright Agency represents you. How did you connect with them and how long have they been representing you?

When I was starting out, I knew practically nothing about the world of illustration, especially about the business side of it. That is why I started to look around for representation. I research various agencies, created portfolio and a website, and contacted them. I was absolutely thrilled when The Bright Agency took me onboard.

That was almost 2 years ago now.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Yes, I have done it and would do it again if I feel the strong connection to the story.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own books?

I would love to be able to do it in the future. I have still a lot to learn.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I work digitally, I do use sketch books and random pieces of paper to scribble on my ideas, but the finished work is always digital. I love the freedom it gives me.

Has that changed over time?

I always on a look out for new things, and I would love to use more of the traditional media in the future, so changes are inevitable.

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

It depends on the amount of work I have presently. Some days are much longer and some days I feel that I need to recharge and step away from my work. Even if for a little bit.

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

Always. For every new project I set up a new folder on my computer, and it gets filled up with various reference materials, research is a massive part of the project, it sets up the mood and command direction in which to go.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! I would’ve never gotten where I am now without the internet. Its truly the best thing for the artists of the world, it allows us to connect, to learn from each other, to reach customers and loads more.

What do you think is your biggest success?

In the spring I finished work on the book called Never Give Up by Debby Dadey. (Lerner Publishing Group) The book is about Hungarian born scientist Katalin Kariko. She was a pioneer of MRNa vaccine. Biographical book was something I’ve never done before, it was challenging, but I am very happy with the results, and I hope that readers will be too!

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I mostly use Procreate and Photoshop.

Do you own or use a graphic tablet?

I use an iPad Pro.

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

I never want to stop drawing! I would love to work with children’s magazines as well as do more of editorial pieces. There is so much to do really!

What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working on the book about one very beautiful but mischievous hat!

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 love my iPad but when it comes to traditional materials, I absolutely adore Derwent INKTENSE series, I just love the bright colors!

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

I think just by doing it-every day, by putting yourself out there, learning from the best but also believing in yourself. One little step at a time. This is what I still do. Just little steps and you never know where they might lead you tomorrow!

Juliana, 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 Juliana using the following links:






Talk tomorrow,



  1. Oooh, I love your illustrations. A lot!!!


  2. Creative illustrations!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: