Published February 20, 2021

Angela Dominguez, illustrator of this year’s official Festival artwork and author of Stella Díaz Dreams Big, was born in Mexico City and grew up in Texas. She now resides in Virginia. She is also the author and illustrator of several books for children and a two-time recipient of Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. Learn more about Angela and her work at angeladominguezbooks.com.

Keep reading for a Q&A with Angela and mark your calendars for her event in the 2021 Festival, I See Myself: Diversity in Children’s Literature, on Thursday, March 25 at 4 PM ET. Register for FREE by clicking here.

Festival: What were the ideas and inspirations behind the 2021 Festival artwork? What feeling did you want to capture?

Angela Dominguez: The poster was a true collaboration, and I have to really thank Sarah Lawson for helping this poster along. The real goal was to convey a love of reading and brightness. I’ve been to the Festival a couple of times in the past, and it always marks for me the start of spring. Before sketching, I researched spring iconography and found myself inspired by bird images, especially those most visible in spring. I was also inspired by Charlie Harper for the color palette as well. Before I knew it, I had a sketch that worked well, and the rest was so much fun to do!

What is your creative process like?

I always begin with research and inspiration. Good ideas don’t form, at least for me, without it. I will spend some time just looking online, at the library, or at my own book collection to see if anything sparks an idea. From there, I might write down some rough notes or themes. I also try to find connections or ask myself questions. Then, whether it’s an illustration or a story, I get to work on the outline or the thumbnail sketches. Generally, I would say I always start a project slowly, and the pace grows in momentum as the project progresses.  

How did you find/shape your own artistic style? Who or what are your creative influences?

I’ve never outright tried to copy another artist style. While that is a great way to learn and practice, I like to think that my style is influenced by many different artists and illustrators. I consider myself a collector, and my art is a reflection of that. In college, I definitely was inspired and influenced by the amazing illustrators that I saw in the illustration annuals like Society of Illustrators and Communication Arts, as well as legends in children’s literature like Leo Lionni, Lane Smith, Evaline Ness, and Ezra Jack Keats. Outside of that, I think practicing in my sketchbook and experimenting has helped me develop my own artistic style.

What is your favorite part of being an illustrator, especially as a children’s book illustrator? 

I have always loved telling stories whether it’s with words or pictures. I think that is what drew me to being an illustrator, especially a children’s book illustrator. I also love drawing images that are fun, playful, and sometimes cute. Children’s books are the perfect medium for me to do that.  

What does it mean to you to write and illustrate inclusive children’s literature? 

I’ve spoken to quite a few diverse children’s book authors and illustrators about the topic. The consensus is that the majority of us didn’t realize until we became adults that we didn’t see ourselves in books as children. We also all agree we would have benefited from that experience. I feel that is the big reason I do it. I create the books that I would have loved to have seen growing up. Books that would have helped me feel less alone and more seen. Books that also hopefully broaden people’s perspectives and instill more empathy as well.

How did your character Stella come about?

It all started with a drawing that I did of a girl with curly hair and a polka dot dress. I hung the drawing over my desk and after a while a story started to take shape. I thought it would be fun to write a picture book about a girl who is too shy to talk to any of her classmates while visiting an aquarium and who runs away from a classmate all day. I worked on this story for nearly a year with a previous editor, but it wasn’t acquired. I was very disappointed, but then it hit me that I could try writing it as a longer story. That would give me the opportunity to explain who Stella was and, in particular, her shyness. I’m so grateful that I did because it has turned into a four-book series, and I discovered how much I enjoy writing, too. I hope to write more Stella Díaz books or books for that age group.

 What are you most excited for in the upcoming Festival? If you’ve had a chance to see the schedule, are you interested in any of the other Festival events?

I’m just thrilled to be on such a great panel with Vashti Harrison and Dub Leffler. Vashti and I participated at the OMG! Book Festival back in 2019. She’s such a talented and thoughtful creator, not to mention a kind person. I’m eager for our conservation and for her event, Little Dreamers with Vashti Harrison, as well. Of course, I’m also excited for An Evening with Jacqueline Woodson and Double Draw Dare. Looks like it’s going to be a particularly great Festival!

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