Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 11, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Alexander Mostov

Alexander (he/him) grew up in central Ohio, but has been drawing in Seattle since 2013. With a background in architecture, his illustration style incorporates playful angles, dynamic perspectives, and a focus on how characters interact in a space. He is inspired by plants, animals, and mid-century modern design. Alexander uses a variety of mediums including digital, ink, and gouache.

Alexander has illustrated many picture books ranging everywhere from board books to middle grade nonfiction titles. Outside of children’s books Alexander has been commissioned by Google, Facebook, and the New York Times.

When not drawing, Alexander can be found riding his little silver motorcycle through the farmlands of rural Washington, snowshoeing, and drinking lots and lots of coffee.

Step 1: First I make loose sketches with a soft graphite pencil. The point of these is simply to figure out how the page will be laid out. I like to show the publisher what my general idea is for the page and where the text will go before getting into any fine details.

Step 2: Next, I create detailed sketches, incorporating any feedback that comes in from the client. I try to make these pretty tight so that any changes in the artwork can be addressed here rather than needing to rework the layered, color illustration that comes next.

Step 3: Now I color, shade, and texture the illustrations in Procreate. I mostly use brushes that simulate gouache because I love the opaqueness with grainy pencil-type brushes on top.

Step 4: After any final tweaks that come in from the publisher and color adjustments on my end, the artwork is complete! The publisher will add in the text and the book is ready for print.


When did you first realize you could draw?

Like many illustrators, I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid. The first time I thought, “Oh, I might be OK at this,” was in sixth grade. We had to draw a castle from our imagination and the teacher really praised mine. My mom actually still has the picture— she hung it beside a few other drawings and painting of buildings I’ve done since then.

What was the first art thing that you did where someone paid you?

It wasn’t until I was out of college. I was working as an intern at the Williamstown Theatre Festival Massachusetts. I illustrated and designed posters for some of the shows.

You grew up in Ohio. Went to College in South Carolina. How did you end up in Seattle?

I bopped around a lot right after college. I was in Massachusetts for a summer, then in Louisville, Kentucky for about a year. My then girlfriend (now my wife) got an internship in Seattle and we decided to move there. It was pretty spontaneous but now we love it here.

What made you to decide to attend Clemson University and study architecture and design for
your BA?

I decided I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid and persued that path through my junior year of college. Clemson has a really reputable architecture program and a fantastic study-abroad program Italy that I wanted to do. I also just wanted to try living in a place totally different from where I grew up, which Clemson, South Carolina certainly was.

You LinkedIn page mentions Russian, design, and illustration. Where you particularly interested in studying Russian architecture?

I’m definitely a cultural Russophile. I’m of Russian descent, and during college I became infatuated with Russian architecture, film, graphic design, and literature. My minor was in Russian Studies and I took four years of the language. Russian aesthetics, specifically that of the early and mid-Soviet Union have had a big affect on my design sensibility.

Did you do any freelance illustrating while at Clemson University?

I did not. I was first considering pursuing graphic design and was dabbling more in that than illustration. I was writing and drawing my own short comics at that time, too.

Did you get an architecture job after graduating for Clemson in 2012?

I was accepted into Parson’s architecture graduate program and almost went! It was an uncertain time of my life and I couldn’t decide whether or not to pursue architecture as a career. Ultimately, I went in a different direction and pursued graphic design, which eventually led me to illustration.

You have done editorial illustrations for: The New York Times, Real Simple, Teach for America, Fine Gardening, Notre Dame Magazine, Purdue Alumnus Magazine, Rhode Island Monthly; what did you do to find these jobs?

I can’t say for certain, but I believe most came from me sending physical postcards to art directors. Before the pandemic, I did that 2-3 times a year. The payoff was often very delayed, but I believe I got in front of a lot art directors that way.

Who was your first editorial client?

My very first client was a super tiny literary magazine, which is sadly now defunct. They can’t pay much, but literary magazines are a great way to learn about the process of working with editorial clients and to get some published work into your portfolio.

Under commercial you list Google, Uber, Facebook, Amazon (among others). What type of work did you do for them? And how did you make the connections for these jobs?

I have done quite a bit of commercial work alongside my editorial and children’s books. For Google, I was hired to illustrate icons for the Google Translate app. For Uber, I did some editorial-type work for their employee magazine. I worked on a Facebook animation about mental health awareness. And lastly, I worked in-house for Amazon for one week developing
their Amazon-One brand system. So, as you can see, it ranges pretty widely. For most of these types of projects, I am contracted by design agencies.

When did you decide to focus on illustrating children’s books?

As I was developing my illustration style for editorial work, I found myself attracted to the work of illustrators in the kid-lit market. While I love editorial, I started to recognize that my whimsical animals and characters were a great fit for children’s books, too. I also just loved the idea of making something that would be seen and enjoyed by kids.

Was Go, Bikes Go!(2019, Sasquatch Books, 2019) your first published children’s book?

It was! I was so over-the-moon to get that book. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

It looks like you have illustrated three other board books for Sasquatch Books. Go, Boats, Go!, Go, Planes, Go!, Go, Trucks, Go!, How did you make the connection with them?

I first got on Sasquatch’s radar via physical postcards. One of their art directors really liked my work and we ended up making four books together.

Also in 2019, D-Day: Untold stories of the Normandy, was published by Quarto. How did you connect with them?

An editor at Quarto reached out to me on Behance. They said they loved my work and were looking for an illustrator for a book about WWI. The WWI book was nixed before I even started sketches, but the editor remembered me later when they decided to do D-Day.

The Secret Life of Spies was published by Quarto, too. Did you sign a multiple book contract with them?
They were separate contracts. I don’t think it was originally intended to be a series. But I’m glad it became one!

Was it your relationship with Quarto that got you the job to illustrate Let’s Save Our Planet: Forests, Ivy Kids, in 2020? I ask, since it looks like they may be an imprint of Quarto.

No, actually not. A completely different editor at Ivy Kids reached out to me. I’d included her in an email campaign the year before and she’d kept me in mind.

Last year Frances Lincoln Children’s Books published Nikola Tesla: Little People, Big Dreams. How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

That book was really fast! I think the entire project was only 4 or 5 months long. That series is huge, and they have a pretty streamlined process. Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, who writes and creative directs Little People, Big Dreams is really great at what she does.

How and when did you connect with Christy Ewers at the CAT Agency?

I reached out to Christy for representation in early 2020. She was my top choice for an agent, and I’m so glad she brought me on board.

Did Christy secure the contract for The Our Stories, Our Lives: The British Empire: A Powerful Retelling of the British Empire through 20 True Stories coming out in September 2023?

That series of books, which started with D-Day and Spies, began before I joined the CAT Agency. Those are the only books that I still represent myself on.

How many illustrations did you do for this book?

We’re still putting on the finish touches, but it is a big book. There are 20+ full-bleed illustrated scenes. And then lots of illustrated front and back matter. The book has been a ton of work, but also fun, educational, and important.

You illustrated Think Like a Goat: The Wildly Smart Ways Animals Communicate, Cooperate and Innovate by Lisa Deresti Betik that is coming out on Oct 3, 2023 from Kids Can Press It looks like a very interesting book. Did you learn anything you didn’t know while illustrating it?

So many things! I especially loved learned about birds. Did you know that when chickadees sing, the number of “dee”s they say in a row reflect how dangerous a nearby predator is?

There isn’t anything up on Amazon for The Planets We Explore, being published by Magic Cat Publishing, coming out later this year?Are you still working on it?

That book has been done for a while, but it’s available exclusively in the Chinese market. Unfortunately, it will never be available in U.S. bookstores, which I knew when I accepted the project.


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

Yes, absolutely, that is a big goal of mine. I have several completed manuscripts that are still looking for the right home. The latest is about a family of squirrels who became master tailors and clothing designers, much to the dismay of a local merchant named Igor. It’s kind of a sustainability parable, with lots of fashionable squirrels.

What do you think helped develop your style?

I agree with the notion that artistic style is largely a reflection of what an artist consumes. My first love was vector illustration and those bold, clean shapes still play a big role in my designs. I love looking at vintage picture books that incorporate super loose graphite and/or ink linework on top of blocks of color. There are also dozens of astounding contemporary illustrators out there that inspire me.

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I don’t usually take my own photos, but I spend a ton of time searching the internet for reference material. Lately, I have been using photo references to make tight, accurate sketches and then relying on my imagination as I develop those to final art.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I would say nearly every single piece of artwork I make finds its way into Photoshop at the end. Even when I paint and draw traditionally, I like to clean up my work— mostly getting rid of dog hairs—in Photoshop.

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

Never say never, but it would have to be a really special circumstance. The compensation would have to make up for the fact that the book would realistically have very low sales and little distribution or longevity in the market.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I do. I am so lucky because I currently have both a small home office AND a shared workspace in downtown Seattle. So I get to alternate depending on the project and where I feel like working that day.

What book do you think was your biggest success?

I think my biggest career success thus far was landing my first book, Go, Bikes, Go! It’s just so challenging to get that very first book and even though it was a short board book it felt, and still feels like a huge accomplishment.

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

Right now what I am doing is waking up and doing my “computer” work for two hours. This includes sending emails, marketing, social media posts and any other business-related administrative tasks. After that, I walk my dog and then draw for the majority of the rest of the day. And of course, I drink coffee throughout all of this.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

I am about to sign on for two new books, but I can’t share any more at the moment. And I’m excited to see what else comes up in the year ahead.

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

It definitely has. It’s allowed me to connect with major publishers without living in New York City.. It also opened me up to the British market which is a big chunk of my clientele now.

What are your career goals?

I would like to be an author-illustrator, in addition to illustrating books by other authors. I want to paint a large-scale mural. And someday I’d like to illustrate a full-length graphic novel.

What are you working on now?

I am juggling four different books at the moment, all at different stages. I’m also doing commercial work for a tech client in the mental-health field called Brightline. I’m in the process of ramping up my print and merch business—my wife and I are actually launching a kid’s clothing company called Sleepy Tiger Club. Besides that, I have a few personal projects that I try
to spend time on whenever I can.

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

If you want to tape off the borders of your watercolor paper prior to painting to keep them white, first lay each strip of tape against a pant leg or the chest of your t-shirt. This will “dull” the adhesiveness enough so that the tape won’t rip the paper when you remove it at the end. I wish I had known that trick from the start!

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

Work really hard. But after you have done that, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a hard career path and very competitive. Not getting the exact projects you want is not a reflection of you as a person.

Alexander, 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 Alexander using the following links:





Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wonderful use of color. I especially love the foxes around the candle tree. Thanks for a lovely post.


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