Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 4, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Islenia Mil

Islenia Mil (she/her) is an Afro-Latina illustrator freelance Illustrator based in NYC who received her Bachelor in Illustration from the School of Visual Art. specializing in conceptual editorial and fantasy illustrations, problem-solving and thoughtful storytelling. Her work is easily recognized by her use of engaging composition, detailed line-work, texture, vibrant color, and love of textures. She aims to transport her readers to another world. When she is not working, Islenia is out enjoying cinema or sinking her teeth into a new show.



At this stage, I’ve developed a rough draft of what the final piece will look like. My goal here is to know exactly what the final composition is, and what the color values are. I think the figures I draw during this stage are extremely loose and whimsical and I aim to maintain that as we go into the line art stage.

Line Art:

I now recreate the sketch in detail. My go-to brush is the procreate ‘Dry Ink’.


I then color-block the image with what will be the base color of the final illustration. I add simple cell shaping in a clip-mask layer to the skin and hair.


I continue to add more shadows to the environment and the figures’ clothing to give a soft dimension. Some flush against the fingers. I’m working with several different brushes now to add texture and gradient to the image.

Finishing Touches:

I begin to wrap everything up. I give color to the background and by now all the original black line art has been changed to fit the new environment that it’s in.

Color Correcting:

In photoshop, I use selective color along with other adjustment tools to change the palette until it looks more to my liking. I refer to my back & white value layer to make sure nothing was lost in my manipulation of the colors. The illustration is now complete!


How long have you been illustrating?

Professional? For about 5 years now. But I’ve been illustrating since I was in elementary school.

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

I drew a lion and a lioness for a classmate’s homework assignment in exchange for candy in the third grade. My next paid commission wouldn’t be til 2019 when I was reached out by AARP to do the cover art for one of their articles.

What made you decide to move from Santo Domingo to NYC?

The decision wasn’t mine to make, as I was only 2-3 years old when my family left the world they knew behind for the States. Like any child of immigrants, I’m here today because my family wanted a better life for themselves and their children.

How did you decide to get a Bachelor’s in Illustration from the School of Visual Art?

I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in Illustration at a very young age. Financially, I was in no position to go out of state for my education. SVA was perfect for me in that it was within NYC and its illustration department had artists I was inspired to be like.

What made you choose to specialize in conceptual editorial and fantasy illustrating?

It offered the perfect level of creative freedom with guidance. I’ve always been insecure about making art for myself. But I do love making art for others. Editorial allowed me to do that. And the restrictions that come with each assignment only motivate me to think more in the realm of fantasy.

How did you get to create the SOMO large mural exhibit? Where was it located?

Twitter reached out to me. They use to have a large section within their NYC HQ where they’d commission murals to be hung regularly. They were interested in collaborating to create a mural in celebration of Hispanic Heritage. the spaces occupied a lot of foot traffic and lounging, so everyone within their company could enjoy it.

Was this something your worked on while attending SVA?

I’d already graduated.

How big is the mural?

The Mural was 53.2 ft by 9.6” ft.

Did you do the mural in pieces? Did you create a smaller version and have it blown up on sturdy material to place on the wall? Can move this mural to other locations?

Yes, It was done at a smaller scale and then placed on sturdy material against the wall but can be moved to other locations.

How long did it take you to create this colorful detailed mural?

I only had a month to conceptualize and develop the whole piece because it had to be printed and placed in time for Hispanic Heritage.

Do you a lot of research before you started this project?

Yup, most of my research was looking through different iconography throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. I curated through them as many as I could fine to see which would work best with NYC landmarks and other iconic visuals.

Have you created other murals?

I got a chance to collaborate on a small mural for US Open in 2021

What did you do after SVA?

I got my name out there through quarterly emails promos while also having a day job to support myself

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

Mainly just the email promos and social media. Though I struggled a lot with the former. To this day I still don’t really know how to utilize online platforms. But thankfully the emails and hashtags got my name out there enough so that more and more jobs kept coming my way without me having to do much else.

What did you create for AARP?

A number of different editorials cover for their articles.

When did you decide you want to illustrate Children’s Books?

I have an interest in entering a bunch of different sections within the illustrating industry. Children’s Books happened to be one of them.

How did you get the opportunity to illustrate A Mind Like Mine: 21 famous people and their mental health by Rachael Davis, which came out in July 2022?

The publisher, Wide Eye Edition came to me with the project. It was a great opportunity to take my first step into the children’s book world.

How many illustrations did you do for the book?

Including the cover, 30 illustrations.

What was the first book you illustrated?

A Mind Like Mine

I see you are represented by The Cat Agency. How and when did you connect with them?

I was contacted by my wonderful agent Aliza R. Hoover. She had known about my work for some time and had wanted the opportunity to work together.

How did you develop your style?

I learned the fundamentals and then did what I wanted lol. I also stole a lot from those that I admire. I didn’t focus too much on making my style look any particular way. I just collected the things I liked and over time the look of my work came together on its own.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate you own book?

I do! but currently, no ideas come to mind. Hopefully though the inspiration and opportunity align in the future.

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

Tech, I spend all my adolescence developing my craft lol. I’d known I wanted to be an illustrator since I was 6-7. But if you meant how long it takes within my day-to-day to complete my assignments, it really depends on the nature of the project. If I have 2 weeks then it takes me 2 weeks. If I have 4 months then it’ll take me 4 months. Usually, because the demand requires it.

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I finish all my pieces in photoshop for color correcting. But the bulk of the work is done on procreate.

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, I use a Wacom when transferring my images over to my computer. But the majority of the time I use an Ipad Pro.

Would you be willing to work with a self-publisher picture book writer on a project?

That’s a discussion to have with my agent lol

Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Yes, I’ve appeared a couple of times now in Science America and I actually have two more separate projects that’ll release in February and March.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, just a little corner off to the side, I spend most of my time there.

What book do you think was your biggest success?

I currently only have A Mind Like Mine under my belt. But I would still consider this a big success. It what lead to my current relationship with Aliza and it prepared me for what is to come next in my journey through the children’s book world.

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

I wouldn’t call it much of a routine, but I always tried to maintain consistency when it came to promoting myself. I made sure to email quarterly, and post whenever a new project went live.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Nothing that I’m allowed to speak on, unfortunately.

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

It definitely has. The thing about the internet is that you’ll never know where your work will end up. I’ve had so many clients tell me that they found me through sites that I hadn’t ever heard of. I think that’s why it’s so important to continue to post online. Even if your following is small, the simple fact that your work is out there means that the right person could find it.

What are your career goals?

There are so many avenues I have an interest in. More children’s books for sure, but I’d love to also tackle a poster project or an international ad or apparel. So the goal I guess is to continue to broaden my horizon.

What are you working on now?

It’s a secret

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

I’d say to those who aren’t confident in picking color palettes. Start focusing more on the value of your color instead. I always have a black layer modified to ‘Color’ that I refer back to throughout my whole coloring process in order to make sure that the colors are emphasizing what I need them to.

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

I still consider myself a young illustrator. I don’t feel like I have enough under my belt yet to offer anything. I will encourage folks to give just as much time as they do perfecting their craft into learning the business side of being an illustrator. This line of work is primarily freelance. This means you’ll have to wear many hats. A great starting point is to get a copy of the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook’s Pricing & Ethical Guidelines.

Islenia, 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 Islenia using the following links:





Talk tomorrow,



  1. Impressive! Thank you for sharing your work and process, Islenia.


  2. So colorful! Thanks for sharing with us.


  3. What an amazing array of styles! I love all of them!


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