Lola Usupova is a children's book author and illustrator living in Nottingham, England. She
has brought to life 18 delightful picture books, collaborating with both traditional publishers
and independent authors.

From Law Books to Children's Books

My story begins in Uzbekistan, a beautiful country in Central Asia known for its rich history and warm hospitality. I had a happy childhood surrounded by a loving family, but art wasn't really a part of our lives. I loved to draw, filling countless notebooks with doodles and sketches, but I never considered it a real career option.

When adults asked about my future aspirations, becoming an artist was never on the table. Instead, I heard suggestions like lawyer, doctor, or accountant – all practical but uninspiring paths. When the time came to choose a profession, I felt so lost that I randomly selected a college from an academic guidebook, landing on a law program.

During my law studies, I realized it wasn't for me. Later, I earned a BA in Marketing and embarked on a career as a marketing specialist for seven or eight years.

Discovering My Passion for Children's Books

After meeting my husband, who shared my passion for travelling, we lived in various countries like Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Sweden, and now England. We love immersing ourselves in different cultures, but it does come with challenges, like finding new jobs every time we move.

In Sweden, I faced difficulties finding work in marketing due to the language barrier. Feeling lost and uncertain, I decided to explore my creative side. I dabbled in animation, web design, and even front-end development. Eventually, I settled on illustration, but even then, I wasn't sure what to focus on. I tried all sorts of illustration styles, from watercolours to vector graphics.

A pivotal moment came when illustrator Aleksandra Dikaya launched a charity project encouraging participants to write and illustrate children's stories. My story was selected for publication, igniting a passion for creating children's books.

My Self-Made Path to Becoming a Children's Book Illustrator

I've always had a knack for drawing. Art was my escape, a way to express myself and bring my imagination to life. While I don't have a formal art education or a fancy degree in illustration, my artistic journey has been a self-guided exploration, fueled by curiosity and a deep-seated love for drawing. I always had a natural ability, but it took time to realize I could turn my passion into a profession.

Once I discovered my passion, I became a sponge for knowledge. I devoured online courses, attended masterclasses, and read countless books on illustration. I delved into colour theory, composition, character design, and the nuances of visual storytelling.

I became a regular at my local library, spending hours studying children's books. I analyzed the work of my favourite illustrators, like Benji Davies, Alexandra Dikaya, Lucy Fleming, Monica Filippa, Julie Mellan, and Adilson Farias. I tried to replicate some of their works for educational purposes, to understand their techniques and to learn from their expertise. I even attended some of their workshops, getting a firsthand look at their creative processes.

This self-directed learning wasn't always easy, but it was incredibly rewarding. I learned valuable lessons about patience, perseverance, and the importance of continuous improvement. As I experimented, I gradually developed my own unique artistic voice.

Building a Portfolio and Launching My Career

My first published book was The Plastic Bag's Journey, a story stemming from the charity project that sparked my passion. It was a simple story with simple illustrations, but it was a significant milestone for me. Seeing my name on the cover of a book gave me the confidence to pursue illustration full-time.

I started by creating an account on Upwork, taking on various projects to gain experience and build my portfolio. I also shared my work on Instagram, connecting with other illustrators and potential clients.

Through hard work, dedication, and a bit of luck, I've now illustrated 18 children's books for independent authors and small publishing houses. Each project has been unique and fulfilling, allowing me to bring new stories to life and connect with young readers.

Looking Ahead: Dreams of Big Publishers and New Stories

While proud of my accomplishments, I have even bigger dreams. I aspire to work with major publishing houses and see my illustrations on bookstore shelves worldwide. I have so many stories to tell and characters to bring to life, and I can't wait to see where this creative journey takes me.

I believe every child deserves books that inspire, educate, and ignite their imagination. That's what I strive for with every brushstroke and line. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my passion with the world, one picture book at a time.

*all images: Lola Usupova


For a look at more of Lola's work:

Lola's website:  https://usupova.art/

Lola's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/usupova.art/


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Find their work at fourfooteleven.com 
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org

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