Featured Illustrator: Andrea Ipaktchi


This month's Featured Illustrator is Andrea Ipaktchi.  One of the debut winners of the 2016 Undiscovered Voices anthology, Andrea is a true SCBWI international. Born in the USA, long-time resident in Paris, and now Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI France. See more of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

While I was a student at Parsons School of Design in New York, I left to study for a year abroad in Paris and basically never left. As of this year, I have lived in Europe longer than in the United States. My husband is Iranian and my kids are French. While it’s interesting to see things that make us different, what makes me tick is spotting what we all have in common across borders, ages and species.

I illustrate for private commissions, a restaurant chain, newspapers, magazines and books for grown-ups but my long time desire is to draw and write for kids. I am steadily working on a middle grade graphic novel and also have some picture books ready to show.
My  Friend Mary, unpublished project

The second best thing about being an illustrator is learning about new subjects. While researching lions I stumbled on a fact that changed the whole trajectory of the story of I was writing. I learned that there is an important tree in the Kenyan savannah called a sausage tree. Mammals, reptiles, insects and birds come from all around to eat the long, plump dangling fruit. I ended up incorporating the sausage tree as a key element in my lion story. The first best thing about being an illustrator is making people laugh.

Searching for photo references never gets dull.

When I began writing, I thought an improv class might improve my storytelling and it did. In fact, improv workshops also sharpened my skills in character development, body language, comedic timing and I made a slew of friends. The same network of people led to a 2 -year long job drawing for a professional comedy musical show.

Impro-graphics ! Improvised drawing for a musical comedy.

We traveled to theaters performing in English and French for family audience and sometimes for just kids. Playing in front of 600 screaming 6 year olds helped me to draw faster and funnier than ever. I became comfortable in front of audiences and even learned new Photoshop skills. But don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t ALL roses: all those after-show bonbons and French fries really played havoc on my waistline.

My Dad was a writer and both of my parents were avid readers who subscribed to The New Yorker magazine. I poured over the humoristic and poetic drawings of Saul Steinberg, Sempé and Charles Addams in The New Yorker even before I knew how to read.

My favorite Steinberg drawing.

I was once was introduced to Sempé at one of his art openings. I was so starstruck that my knees shook like a poodle suffering from a nervous condition. I shook his hand then jiggled my way across the gallery floor to the nearest exit.

Grace and humor, as only Sempé knows how to do.

When I first learned to read I became a Ramona the Pest junky. It was as if Beverly Cleary was writing about me with all my shameful flaws and frustrations.

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.

It’s my goal to write something that makes a child feel as understood as Beverly Cleary understood me. (It’s a lofty goal, I know.)

I am the one with a purse around her neck. Proof of my innate fashion sense.

In 2014, I submitted to SCBWI BI’s Undiscovered Voices contest. I barely made the deadline and then lost. For the 2016 UV contest I decided to submit again and gave myself plenty of time. My multi-panel illustration work about a contemporary Cinderella who wants to go to the Science fair with her lab mice was published in the 2016 UV anthology. Being accepted into the anthology allowed me to meet industry professionals who gave me valuable feedback about my work that has helped me to better position myself in the market.

Undiscovered Voices 2016 cocktail in London.
I am so grateful for all that the SCBWI community has given to me. I’ve met so many talented and nurturing people along the way. Reaching out to authors, illustrators and industry professionals who are passionate about children’s literature and watching us all grow professionally enriches my life. As the current SCBWI France Illustrator Coordinator, I am happy to participate in helping to keep SCBWI alive and moving forward in any way I can.

SCBWI France. I started something called « ilLABorate «
for illustrators to find mutual inspiration by working in a lab like setting.

See more of Andrea's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.
Andrea's personal website is here, follow her on Twitter here.  

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