Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Event: Illustrator Gatherings, Featured Illustrator Interview, and Much More

The Narrative Art Award information is now up on the website!
 For more on this and other grants, click HERE.
Submissions are open September 15 through October 21, 2022.

To submit to be a featured Illustrator on the main SCBWI site click here.

 Scroll down this page to see our chapters featured Illustrator interview and pictures.

It will soon be the one-year anniversary of the death of notable author, naturalist, and longtime SCBWI member, April Pulley Sayre. We invite you to share our conference to honor her memory (on November 5th) with your members. It should be of interest to anyone who wants to write or illustrate nonfiction, particularly about nature, for kids. Indiana chapter is holding an April Sayre Celebration Conference on November 5th. For more info click here.  All attendees will have the opportunity to submit to the faculty, specific information given at time of registration.

This year’s Illustrator SchmooZoom will take place online in zoom on the third Thursday of each month from 7-9 PM, except December. There is no Schmooze in December.

Each month be sure to email Lisa, at her special Schmooze email listed below, that you will be attending so she can send you the Zoom invite. The Schmoozes are a great place for chapter illustrators to gather to share inspiration and enjoy the company of other illustrators of children’s books. We will also exchange ideas, tips on materials, etc. and critique work.

To stay connected and share your creativity. Join Us!

Here are the dates for our 2022/2023 season Schmoozes: Be sure to email Lisa (email address below) as she will need to email you the Zoom invite each month.

Sept 22 – Online

Oct 20 – Online

Nov 17 – Online

Dec (No Schmooze in Dec)

Jan 19 – Online

Feb 16 – Online

Mar 16 – Online

April 20 – Online

May (No Schmooze in May)

If you’d like to be included on the illustrators SchmooZoom email, and to receive the monthly Zoom invite, please contact me, Co-RA Lisa Venditelli Karmel, at

San Diego Chapter’s Featured Illustrator Interview

      Olga Tenyakova

How long have you been a member of SCBWI? 
In 2016 I learned about SCBWI and joined the San Diego chapter to learn more about picture book illustration. This November will be 6 years of being an SCBWI member.

How did you first get into Children’s Book illustration?
One fine summer day I brought my children to a book illustration exhibition in California Arts Center in Escondido. I admit, the show was more interesting to me than to the kids as they were a bit too small (1.5 and 5 years old) to appreciate the amazing process of picture book making: rough sketches, color studies, page layouts, etc. 
And also I got to meet Salina Yoon presenting her “Be A Friend” book! She was the one to tell me about SCBWI and about SDSU illustration courses. She also told me to wait while my kids grow up a little more though, but I didn’t follow that advice.


Where did you study art?
I started at school at the age of 7. Since that time I have been studying fine art formally and informally, at school and in private studios. I took several illustration courses at SDSU Extension, attended SCBWI seminars, conferences, and workshops. Learned from more experienced illustrators online and in person… So the world of illustration is a non-stop growing process for me!

Which medium do you prefer and why?
For the longest time I have gravitated towards pen and ink for my fine art explorations. However when I started my transition to children’s book illustration the need for color brought me back to my watercolors! 

I love the flowing nature and vibrancy of watercolor paint on paper, the flexibility of visual effects one can achieve with this medium. My clients specifically come for my colorful watercolor illustrations. I have a wide range of skills: from very realistic to magical and dreamy, so together we figure out what works best for a story and go with it!

Is there a skill you would like to learn or improve upon?
I am yet to master digital watercolor. But I’m working on it!

What is your illustration process? 
Speaking about technical side of the process, I break my full-color picture book work into 4 major phases: 
(1) rough concept drawings developing the visual flow of a story and main characters, sketching, thinking of a color pallet; 
(2) working on details and refining composition, finalizing my page flow, and making final touches to detailed drawings;
(3) transferring detailed sketches to paper and painting; 
(4) scanning or photographing finished art, doing digital post processing and preparing files for print, if my deliverable is a print-ready file.
First three phases I usually do digitally in ProCreate, which considerably speeds up my process and makes it easier to communicate with a client. 
Do you have a dedicated art space?
 I have a “dedicated” corner in a common room in our house. With no walls and doors my family gets to see everything I’m working on at a given moment. Sometimes kids come to offer me critique or ideas ☺ 

What fun projects are you working on now?
Currently I am working on 3 books simultaneously. Balancing between them is a challenge, but I love it – all 3 are very different in style and in content. I can only speak of 2 books though due to contract terms. 
One is a comeback of Badger Boris, which I illustrated several years ago. In book #2 we are once again traveling through the forest with our 3 friends, overcoming obstacles and learning good lessons. The book is made in the same realistic – yet fairytale like – watercolor style as the first one.
Another book is a bi-lingual collection of poems by Ogden Nash. My illustrations are done digitally in black and white, imitating a pen and ink drawing on paper. This project is not as elaborate as a full-scale picture book, but I decided to challenge myself here: I bring elements form different limericks into one composition, making a quirky and fun illustration. A little mind-bending game!
Any tips for illustrators who are starting out?
You cannot just invent your personal illustration style that everyone is talking about. It develops with practice. The more you work, the more visual elements that are not naturally yours fall off. What remains on a page is your style!  

What’s the most impactful thing you’ve learned from being in SCBWI?
Meeting amazing children’s writers and illustrators is the best part of being an SCBWI member for me. And, of course, there is a valuable practical aspect – I can learn from the best professionals in the industry, from their experience. Keeping it real, you know. 
Where can people find more of your work?
I post regularly on Instagram @otenyakova, and also keep my FB page going.

Olga Tenyakova Interviewed by Marjorie Taylor

September 2022