Please welcome multi-published picture book illustrator/author Holly Hatam to Frog on a Blog! If you’ve read the New York Times Bestselling picture book Dear Girl, A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, then you’ve seen Holly’s amazing art. Holly, who’s been creating art since she was a little girl, is also a greeting card designer, and a textile engineer. Her latest book, Dear Baby, A Love Letter to Little Ones by Paris Rosenthal was published this past September. Let’s hear more from Holly!
Please tell us a little about your background and how you got started in children’s book illustration. Have you always been interested in creating art?
H.H. My first year of college was a one year course studying every art medium. My professor saw that I showed skill in graphic design and suggested I study that after this course. So, instead of listening to my own heart, I followed the professor’s suggestion. After three years, I had my BA in graphic design. I had two jobs out of college working for design firms. I hated every minute of it. After being fired from both jobs, struggling for years as a freelancer designer and running my own wedding invitation company for 9 years, I finally listened to my heart and followed my dreams of becoming a children’s book author/illustrator.
I have been interested in art since I was a little girl. My parents tell me I was always drawing and would often hold gallery openings in my room. With taped drawings on the wall, I would charge my parents a 25 cent admission fee. As a little girl, my biggest dream was to become a children’s book illustrator and work in animation. Both of those dreams have come true.
What is your preferred medium to work with when illustrating children’s books?
H.H. I create all my art digitally. It makes it easier to make changes when editors and creative directors ask for massive revisions.
How important do you consider diversity to be in children’s books and how do you support diversity in your own work?
H.H. Diversity in children’s books is so important to me. Growing up in the 80’s as a person of colour, I felt invisible. I felt different. I never saw a character on tv or in books that looked like me. It made me feel so unimportant. It made me hate my culture and being different. And now as a mom, I still see the same thing happening with my son. My son is biracial, so it’s that much harder to find books with characters that look like him. I don’t want him to grow up feeling invisible like I did. I try whenever I can, to make the hero of my books a person of colour. It is my goal to shine the spotlight on every kid who has felt invisible or unheard. It’s time for them to be the heroes.
Dear Baby, A Love Letter to Little Ones by Paris Rosenthal, and illustrated by you, was just published in September. Please tell us more about this beautiful book.
H.H. Dear Baby is the third book in the Dear series. It’s a sweet book, filled with loving advice and encouragement for the little humans of the world. It reminds the little ones that there is no limit to what they can be, where they can go or what they can do!
Can you share a bit about projects you’re working on right now?
H.H. I have so many exciting projects on the go right now! I wrote and illustrated two more board books about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I’m working on the fourth book in the Dear series; Dear Teacher. And I’m working on a chapter book series with the amazing Megan McDonald. I have several other projects as well, but I can’t share quite yet! 😉
As a bestselling picture book illustrator who has illustrated several books, do you have any advice for illustrators who are just beginning their journey?
H.H. My advice for illustrators is to always be true to who THEY are. Don’t compare yourself to other illustrators. Certainly be inspired by other artist’s work, but don’t try to emulate or copy them. You are a unique individual with your own unique story. If you illustrate what you love and what inspires you, it will shine through your work.
Where can fans go to connect or learn more about you?
H.H. You can connect with me on Instagram where I’m most active: https://www.instagram.com/hollyhatamillustration/
Holly Hatam is the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Dear Girl, and Dear Boy, which she had the pleasure of creating with Amy, Paris, and Jason Rosenthal. Some of her other books include Made by Maxine, written by Ruth Spiro, and Jack (Not Jackie), written by Erica Silverman. Holly lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her wacky husband and even wackier son.