Amber Hsu is a Chinese-born, US-raised, UK-based artist, illustrator and writer and is this month's Featured Illustrator. See Amber's portfolio on our Featured Illustrator Showcase page!

Hi, thank you so much for inviting me to be here and share some art.  I feel honoured to take part.

So, about that Banner Art.

The banner art is from an illustration that was a selected winner for 3x3 Magazine’s Illustration Annual Show Children’s Show. That was exciting for me because I’ve admired their anthologies for so long and they’re always filled with such inspiring work. I’m in the process of developing this into a full book. I’ve conceived of the story already, and now it’s just a matter of finding some time to put it down. Here’s the complete piece below.
My winning entry for 3x3 Magazine.

Personal Path

The past year or so has been very exciting for me illustration wise. Until then I’d been doing mostly design work, photography and some slightly strange 3-D things. I’d exhibited here and there and did some fashion and costume work. But I really wanted to develop my work in a more narrative and textual sense as I also write. Story and world-creation is something I’m always doing and very important to me and how I process the world.

So I was really happy when I learned I’d won a place in the 2012 SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Anthology. I knew the judges were looking for strong narrative work so I was thrilled to be chosen as one of the winners. My favourite judge’s comment was, “We’d really like to know what goes on in this illustrator’s head.” I took that as real compliment as I am always trying to excavate some sense of the world that’s in my head. And a lot of the time I don’t really know what’s going on in there either!

My winning entry for SCBWI 2012.

Tiny Pencil

Through all of that I’ve been approached to develop some picture books and have also been encouraged to try developing a graphic novel. All of which I’ve been trying to continue working on though some of that work has had to take a step back recently as I've been so busy launching a new artzine. It’s called Tiny Pencil, and it’s devoted to art, illustration and comics in the medium of graphite. It’s also turned out to be far more work than I had ever anticipated!

My piece for Tiny Pencil. As soon as things calm down a bit I plan to give him his own little book!

It’s been a real adventure and I have to say also, a huge learning experience. I have an even greater appreciation now for what editors have to go through. It really helped me to see my own work and portfolio from a fresh perspective. I see with more clarity now the holes that are there and how I could make it better. So, it’s something I would really recommend any illustrator or artist to go through (and also if you don’t mind a bit of torture!).

Also, it’s been really great to see independent makers and the culture that surrounds that. I’ve heard people saying that Britain is on the verge of a growing golden age of comics and I think there is really something to that and it’s wonderful. To get something either handmade or independently produced is a real pleasure these days. Even the whole process of seeking out and buying independently produced books is a different kind of experience. A lot are sold at fairs or via online word of mouth, so it’s really different kinds of communities that are developing and growing around all these interesting and unique voices. I’ve really only just started going to independent fairs and I’m always struck by the atmosphere and energy at them. They really bring books as a printed object to life in ways that a retail shop experience can’t.

So I feel really fortunate to be creating in a day and age where “personal paths” seem more varied in possibility than ever before.


I'll usually start with a small thumbnail sketch and get some amount of balance right then blow it up and go from there to a final finished piece. I do tend to make lots of adjustments along the way and detail might come in a really organic manner depending on the piece. It’s always nice to keep a bit of the process free and ad hoc if you will.  Even though I often work primarily in pencil or pen. I often use digital colour and will compose elements of a final picture digitally. 

Bookplate commissioned for SCBWI annual conference in 2012.


Do the work that you love. This is so obvious and everyone says it, but that’s because it’s true and easy to forget because every illustrator needs work so you’re also always trying to fit into a marketplace. I am someone who is always struggling with this because my work naturally tends to be a bit idiosyncratic and strange, and it isn’t really easy to fit in anywhere. I hear about this feeling with lots of illustrators, who are always tempering their individual tendencies to fit a marketplace. Though, like I said before, I think we’re really fortunate nowadays that the marketplace is a very fluid thing. Things are always changing and a marketplace can also be what you try and make of it. I think there is a real demand out there for more authentic authorial voices. So I think if you do work that you really love it will only come through stronger and you can only get better. 

Check Amber's work on the Featured Illustrator Site.
Amber's Portfolio Website www.hsubili.com
twitter: @amberhsu
Or follow her on Facebook


  1. "To get something either handmade or independently produced is a real pleasure these days."
    Yes, it's the perfect balance to all the digital possibilities! I love handmade.

    "a day and age where “personal paths” seem more varied in possibility than ever before."
    ...and completely agree. We're in a time where creativity can really take off.
    I really enjoyed your piece, Amber and love the stories in your work. Your head must be a fascinating place to be!

  2. Celia J Anderson24 May 2013 at 08:28

    Wow, Amber, your work is stunning! If you find out what's actually going on inside your head, let me know! On the other hand, that might cramp your style. Keep it up!

  3. I love your artwork, Amber - please keep it strange! Good luck with Tiny Pencil.

  4. Great stuff Amber, love it.

  5. Beautiful, stunning work, Amber! Keep going and keep the inspiration flowing!

  6. Yes - you know Amber I've been a big fan of your work since I first saw it - and admire your use of light and shade, and subtle tones. I so agree - do the work you love!

  7. Beautiful - really atmospheric and lots of lovely texture. I really love your illustrations!

  8. I'm a fan too - lovely work, so well crafted, and with a marvellous fantasy vision.
    My own work has been pulled in one direction after another over the years in the pursuit of making a living, it's hard to just do what you want when bills need to be paid! However you're absolutely right Amber, if you do what you really want to do the work will resonate, and that's so important!

  9. Absolutely amazing work Amber!!

  10. Moody, atmospheric, and creepily weird in the way that the best children's book illustrations are. Love it.

  11. Ordered Tiny Pencil and it's absolutely beautiful!

    1. And I still want a poster size version of that bookplate.

  12. Gorgeous intriguing illustrations - they pull me in and I want to know the story. Especially your rabbit character for Tiny Pencil!

  13. Thank you so much guys for all of your kind words and comments!! And thanks SCBWI for having me here!! :0)

  14. I love your banner! Well done it all looks great, good luck with your projects too x


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.