For Featured Illustrator this month we welcome Mehrdokt Amini. An Iranian-British children's book illustrator, Mehrdokt has lived in the UK for many years and works widely for publishers in this country and the USA. A White Ravens honoree and participant in the Bratislava Biennial of Illustrations, in 2017 her work for Chicken in the Kitchen was nominated for a Kate Greenaway Medal. See more of her work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery

I did not draw or doodle often as a child but I developed a love for the picture books relatively early in childhood. My mum was a literature teacher and of the generation who believed that too many toys might even have a negative effect on children's cognitive development by taking away too much of their reading time. She still tells me how in her childhood she could play happily for hours with a doll and few books. She loves books and always bought me a few whenever our path crossed the local bookshop. The first book I remember being read for me before I could read myself was a thick collection of Persian folktales with which I had a love-hate relationship. I loved the stories and the images that they created in my head, but every time that I looked at the simple line illustrations, I was disappointed as to how dull and unimaginative some of them were compared to the beautiful colourful worlds that the words of the stories created.

My most precious picture book was one by a famous Iranian illustrator, Bahman Dadkhah whose work was the only one that could satisfy my curiosity.

Later on, I also gained a few books by the brilliant illustrator, Farshid Mesghali who later won the Hans Christian Andersen award for his work. I remember that as a child I was sometimes scared to look at a picture in one of his books and I had to hide it somewhere as not to accidentally open it.

Later on, I started to appreciate his works and now he is one of my favorite illustrators as his work encouraged my imagination, even in my childhood, to go beyond what he had drawn on paper.

Following primary school, during which I did not show much interest in maths or sciences, I went to a secondary school of fine arts at the age of 14. I remember once a teacher asked me to choose a story and make illustrations based on that. I chose The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen, it was the first time I tried to illustrate a book. I enjoyed the process so much that I decided there and then that I wanted to do that as my profession, I decided that I should learn as much as I could about this art form. What I enjoyed most and what continues to give me pleasure with illustration, is the opportunity that every project gives me to live in an imaginary world, create my own characters and scenes and share them with others.

After getting a high school diploma I wanted to continue with my studies in the creative field and since “Illustration” wasn’t available as a full course at in university level I choose the second best which was Graphic Design. During my second year at University I illustrated a poem from one of the most celebrated contemporary Iranian poets, Ahmad Shamlou. I didn’t have any particular publishing house in mind at that time. The only thing I knew was that most of the publishing houses were clustered around a few avenues around Tehran University. So when I finished the draft of the work, I took in my portfolio case and started searching around in that area for a publisher. By chance I came to one that specialised in children’s books, the editor of the time liked the idea very much and decided to have them published.

Definitely I benefited from beginners luck as, since that first published work, which got me totally hooked on illustrations for children, I have come to realise how difficult it is for some ideas to get published and be commercially successful. This first attempt of mine working as an illustrator was successful, and during the following six years I worked on several other poems of Shamloo and others with the same publisher.

I came to live in UK in 2004 and for while I didn’t know how to continue my career here as a freelance. I had no connections and was too shy to just pop in the publishing houses to showcase my portfolio. Instead I created my website and subscribed to a few illustration directories. It was a hard time for me professionally, and I kept myself busy by learning digital illustration techniques, painting and drawing and trying to expand my network on the Internet. Thankfully, after what seemed to be a very long time, I started to get a few small commissions here and there, then when my first book with Chronicle Books was published everything started to get better.

After all these years and despite the demanding nature of the profession, I still get the biggest buzz when I get a new project started. Every new project is like the magic wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia. You open it and step into the world of wonders.


You can see more of Mehrdokht's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.  Her personal website is here.


  1. Wonderful work - thanks for sharing the story of your persistence as well as your fabulous talent!

  2. Wonderful work Mehrdokht, evocative and mesmerising. Thanks for sharing.


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