Kid Lit Village: Annely So, Illustrator

Hello and welcome back to Kid Lit Village, where children’s authors and illustrators are featured. Today, I’m thrilled to interview Annely So, who is a member of my local SCBWI group, in fact, she serves as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI Canada West. We have something else in common too: we are both teachers of nature school. Annely has been teaching nature kindergarten for several years. But today, I’m excited to show you her illustration work. I know you will LOVE it!

Annely So, Illustrator, photo credit: Hope, age 2.5 !!!

Outdoorsy-girl, dancer of sorts, music maker, writer, illustrator, photographer, educator, hacker of many things and general mischief seeker. Find me on Vancouver Island.

Welcome to the Kid Lit Village blog!

We think it’s so cool that your profile picture was taken by a 2.5 year old!

by Annely So

What appeals to you about illustrating books for children?

I find visual storytelling very appealing and I also love how children respond to beautiful stories where the words are complemented by illustrations.

What challenges you as an illustrator?

Working full time as an outdoor education teacher and actively participating in outdoor activities, dance and movement classes, and playing music, as well as other aspects of daily life, makes the precious time for illustrating too short or limited. 

I also find hands and eyes difficult to draw!

Who do you admire as an illustrator and why?

There are so many illustrators that I admire that this list could go on for weeks!  The ones I draw inspiration from are often author-illustrators who are able to use words and pictures together to weave a story. 

Here are just a “few” favourite author-illustrators:

Ezra Jack Keats, Christian Robinson, Vanessa Brantley Newton, Jon Klassen, Julie Morstad, Isabelle Arsenault, Lauren Child, Elise Gravel, Emily Gravett, Mo Willems, Antoinette Portis, Marie-Louise Gay, Oliver Jeffers, Melanie Watt, David Small

List 5 favourite picture books. Explain what you like about them.

As a child, my favourite story was The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats.  I loved copying the actions of Peter and would make footprints and drag sticks in the snow. I even put a snowball in my pocket more than once.  It is still one of my favourite picture books and I find myself flipping through the illustrations noting the collages, vintage wallpaper, fabric prints, and clothing fashions. 

by Annely So

Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis is a favourite book in my Nature Kindergarten classes and as a daily ritual, a student acts out a scene with a “not a stick” and we guess what it is.  The imagination that is generated from this book is unreal. 

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is one of the most cleverly juxtaposed text and illustration works I have seen in picture books.  Every time, I read this book, I notice something new in the illustrations.  These illustrations tell more than the words do alone.  And when you notice the nuances, they are hilarious.  When reading this book to young children, some notice things in the images and some don’t which leaves room for so much conversation, confusion, and laughter.

Another classic from my childhood is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  What appear to be simply drawn ink illustrations are actually emotive and provocative images.

One of funniest books I have read about food pickiness would be I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child.  Charlie creatively guides his little sister Lola through funny stories and little white lies to try new foods.  The mixed media collage and digital illustrations give the impression that a child had made them, but the book including the typography are cleverly illustrated and designed by Lauren Child herself.

by Annely So

Can you recommend any resources for developing your talents as an illustrator?

Joining writing and illustration communities are really helpful for developing your talents as an illustrator.  In person and online groups are super important, as you can find like-minded people, mentors, and collaborators this way.

A few groups that have been useful in my journey:

-SCBWI is an international group that supports picture book makers with conferences, workshops, meet ups and loads of information online.  Locally we have a group that meets in person and online.  I also participate in an online group of BC illustrators who meet 2 times a month online. 

by Annely So

-Victoria Urban Sketchers-part of the international Urban Sketchers who do live drawing sessions in various venues

-Kraken Komiks Collective-a group of Vancouver Island Based comic book artists that collaborate on anthologies and do comic jam sessions together

-52 week illustration challenge on FB

-The Illustration Station on FB

-They Draw Illustrators Circle with Salli and Nate

-The Storyteller Academy-with Arree Chung

There are also a lot of free or inexpensive online video resources on writing, art, illustration and more.

-YOUtube-just type in illustration or the medium of choice


-Creative Bug

-Sketchbook Skool with Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene

by Annely So

How do you select what goes into your portfolio?

This is something I will continue to work on and I am always looking for guidance on this.  But I usually choose topics thematically and seasonally to showcase in a portfolio.

Describe the techniques and materials you use to create your illustrations.

As someone who is less talented at drawing and more gifted at “making” things, I generally use a lot of different mediums depending on the project I am doing.  I have many mediums for sketching, paints, collage materials, fabrics, wool, and found objects I use to build or make an illustration.  In the past 2 years, I have enjoyed learning to use Procreate on the iPad and love the layering and feeling of building an illustration.

You can reach out to Annely and see more of her work here! Thank you for being on the blog today, Annely!

Thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Village blog. Please support all our Kid Lit Village authors in whatever way you can. Leave a comment here, request their books from the library, or post a review!

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Cynthia Mackey

Published by cynthiahm

I am a preschool teacher/music teacher who loves to take photos and write stories in her spare time. My dream is to become a published author. Follow my journey as I work towards turning my dream into a reality.

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