Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 19, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Pearl Au-Yeung

Pearl Au-Yeung (“Ow-Yerng”), an author/illustrator  from Hong Kong but raised in Shanghai, now based in the USA. She graduated Magna cum laude from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI with  BFA in illustration.

Pearl is a passionate and conceptual thinker who aims to use illustration as a means to communicate meaningful narratives in an approachable way. With her international background living in parts of Asia and North America, Pearl strives to draw upon past experiences to combine aesthetics with conceptual thought.

While writing and illustrating children’s book, she is working for Mattel, Inc. as Associate Product Designer in Los Angeles
She will be featured on Illustrator Saturday later this month. So please check back to see all her creative work.

Pearl is represented by Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literacy. Please contact her at for book illustration enquiries. Click to open resume

The seal on the upper left of my website means “pearl” and was done by PeiLing Tsai



Character sketches.


I work in shapes rather than line. 

I like to block out large shapes of colour, focusing  on the tension between saturation and value then using line work as line quality and as  pops of texture. I think this allows me to free my own movements and convey more in the scene’s atmosphere. In the first draft below, I used colours I had previously used in another piece about Hong Kong.

However, I didn’t think those colours worked well for this story. So I pivoted and adjusted, roughly photoshopping the illustrations to test out a new palette. I didn’t want a dominating red colour in my 32 page book. I wanted something that conveyed “vintage” but wasn’t overdone or cliche. “Red” felt cliche for a story set in China.

I got the general feeling of the marketplace settle, but I wanted to pull out of the scene and let the motif of “smell” dance across the page more playfully. So I used my second round sketch as a benchmark and went in again with the large shapes, utilizing the new colour palette. I continued to adjust as I went. I knew I wanted the main character to stand out and for the crowd to feel like a chorus group in a theatre performance– important but complimenting the spotlight on the main character. 

I knew that I wanted to keep the colonial soldiers, the restaurants, the arguing hawkers in the foreground and mostly my grumpy main character. I was really happy with the colour scheme at this point and went ahead to clean it up and finish with line work. I created character turnarounds for the recurring characters and continued referencing their proportions and personalities as I went. I did all of these illustrations on Procreate on the iPad. Video process of the drawings are posted on my instagram!


How long have you been illustrating?

For as long as I remember. I always enjoyed drawing and was given great encouragement from my family to practice. “The Best Kind of Mooncake” is my first published piece, so I made my official debut as a working illustrator this October, I guess.

What was the first thing you did where they paid you for your art?

I sold paintings when I was in high school where I donated all proceeds to charity. I sold this painting of the Shanghai skyline with lanterns going across the canvas… and this slightly creepy painting of my head and hands coming out of a pond of water lilies.

Your website says you are Hong Kong but raised in Shanghai what made you move to the US?

I moved to the US to go to college at RISD. I went to an American school growing up and it was just the thing to do to go to the US for higher education after.

What made you decide to choose Rhode Island School of Design to get a B.F.A, in Illustration?

Overseas, I had only heard of RISD in the US and Central Saint Martins in the UK. But I didn’t want to study fashion design so I turned my attention towards RISD. I was always interested in drawing people, conveying humor and forms of art that are accessible—so illustration made sense to pursue. RISD has a great Illustration program and I applied with Early Decision. So I like to say that RISD chose me.

You graduated Magna Cum Laude at RISD, what were their requirements to attain that honor?

Just a certain GPA.

How were you chosen for a teaching Assistant position at RISD?

I had good relationships with professors at RISD and I simply signed up to be a teaching assistant—since Professors were always open to having one. I was a teaching assistant for mostly sophomore Drawing and Painting classes.

What type of things did you do as a Teaching Assistant?

I wasn’t much older than the kids I TAed for and didn’t have that much more experience than them—I was more of a peer. I was really just someone who provided feedback consistently throughout the day. I really enjoyed crit as the student and having even more time to look and learn from other people’s work was a real treat.

It looks like you did some freelance work while attending RISD with Dark Horse in Shanghai, China. What type of work did you do for them?

Dark Horse was where I got my first taste of working in licensing. I made style guides for characters that Dark Horse owned the intellectual property of. This mostly consisted work of illustrating standardized poses and environments of such characters and organizing them into a guide for licensees to use! It was fun to work with known characters such as The Mask and Hellboy.

Did you take any classes other than Illustrating at RISD?

I really enjoyed history classes and took courses at both Brown University and RISD including The History of Food and Art, Chinese History, Russian Art and History… These classes gave me the opportunity to do deep dive type of research which inevitably influenced my creative work.

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

I try to be active on social media. In the physical world, when my book came out, I knocked on my neighbor’s doors and asked them to check out my work. It was so weird…

Did RISD help you find the job with Mattel?

Yes! RISD’s career portal included an application to Mattel. I didn’t even know that toy design was an option for me to pursue with my degree.

Is Mattel the reason you moved to Los Angeles?

Yes. It was really exciting for me to leave the winters in the East Coast for sunny California. I was really looking forward to something new.

What type of work are you doing at Mattel?

I’m a dolls designer and get to design the entire doll or playset from head to toe! I work with sculptors, engineers, cost engineers, marketers, packing designers etc. to make a child (or adult) happy. So far, I’ve worked with licensed brands, so I’ve had the opportunity to work with Disney, Dreamworks etc.

When did you decide you wanted to write and illustrate children’s Books?

I always wanted to make a kid’s book when I was a kid. I knew going into RISD that there was a children’s book class and that it was only for seniors. So I patiently waited for that time to come for me and the rest is history!

How did you come up with the idea to write THE BEST KIND OF MOONCAKE?

It was based on a true story told to me by my dad’s side of the family. Every time we retold this story to friends or family, people always laughed and enjoyed it. I thought it only made sense to bring this story to more people.


Did anyone give you feedback on this while at RISD?

Yes! This story became a manuscript and a book dummy with illustrated final spreads in a class at RISD. Without the feedback from my peers, this wouldn’t be possible. My classmates and professors critiqued both the writing and illustrations and gave me incredibly helpful advice to polish the work.

How long did it take you to write and create a book dummy?

It took 2 weeks first to write the first manuscript and sketch a sample spread. Then it took about a month to create a complete book dummy.

I see that you are represented by Kelly Sonnackat Andrea Brown Literacy. How did you connect with her and long has she represented you?

I joined SCBWI towards the middle of 2021 as I wanted to connect with more people in the Kid Lit industry. At the time, I was desperately looking for an agent because my Page Street contract was difficult for me to get through and fully understand—I was new to legal jargon and industry norms. I won a BIPOC scholarship award for the summer conference and saw that Kelly Sonnack was hosting a seminar wherein she gives feedback to writers! I looked her up and found out that she had lived in Singapore for a little while… So did I! This connection was really exciting to me because as a Chinese person and an expat, I wanted an agent who could understand me. I signed up for her seminar and read the unpublished manuscript for “The Trouble in Flour Town” and showed my accompanying illustrations. We had really good chemistry and I followed up on her feedback for my manuscript and asked her to take 15% of my future book paychecks.

Is Kelly responsible for getting you the contract for THE BEST KIND OF MOONCAKE with Page Street Kids?

Unfortunately not. I negotiated that contract myself as a student.

Is THE BEST KIND OF MOONCAKE your debut picture book?

Yes! I’m very excited to see how people receive it. It’s already been so wonderful to receive pictures from friends holding their copy.


Do you plan to write and illustrate another picture book?

I am currently in the works of illustrating another picture book.

Would you be open to illustrating a self-published book?

I am not. I really prefer the support of publishers and the editor, art editor and publicist and legal team that comes with it.

What do you think helped develop your develop your style?

Individual style is inevitable the same way that we all walk with our own style. I think that the rigorous amount of drawings I had to do at RISD along with looking at other people’s work on Instagram and in books and animations shaped my hand.

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Research is my absolute favourite part. I can’t rely solely on my mind to create—that would limit me far too greatly.

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I use Procreate on the iPad because it’s much more affordable and has similar capabilities as Photoshop. It even records your process which I always find great to share on social media.

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

I use a Wacom Cintiq for my 9-5 and an iPad for my personal work.

Do you have a studio in your house?

As a fresh grad, I work in my bedroom and have housemates. I certainly hope to have a studio in my home later down the road.

Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I try to keep my life balanced. I make sure to exercise regularly, I enjoy my meals, I have hobbies outside of the art world and shut off my brain with watching TV to give myself the recharge needed to continue in my creative career.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

My first toys will be out in stores in Fall 2023 and I’m currently working on a more picture books. Hopefully I can share more information soon!

Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

100%. I applied for my job at Mattel on the internet. I correspond with my publishers and potential employers through email and virtual conferences. The Internet has created the oppurtunity for more voices to be heard and create demand!

What are your career goals?

I would love for “The Best Kind of Mooncake” to be translated into many more languages! I hope to create or contribute to many more uplifting, funny and goofy stories that make people laugh!

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

See my blog, illustration fixation.

If you can afford it, I really recommend the iPad. It’s a great investment, is portable and apps such as Procreate are cheap, reliable and powerful. I also recommend looking at more artists! Study their work as try making master copies to understand their technique. I personally really love Jennifer Packer’s paintings… Her line quality and use of colours have greatly influenced my work.

Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Seek and accept feedback!  Your self-worth is not determined by how “good” people think your work is. Allow yourself to feel the full spectrum of emotions and accept that you will be challenged in order to grow.

Pearl, 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 Pearl using the following links:






Talk tomorrow,



  1. Beautiful. I love that cake! Thanks for a fun post.


  2. Wonderful post! The Best Mooncake looks like a great picture book! Congratulations on all of your work – and best wishes!


  3. Great interview and wonderful illustrations!


  4. Love your work so much, Pearl!


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