Coffee and Conversation with Chiêu Anh Urban!

Good Monday morning, friends! Today may be a federal holiday, but the Cyber Cafe is open for business! Our guest is the lovely Chiêu Urban.

Chiêu is a novelty book author, illustrator and graphic designer with a BFA in Communications Art and Design. She studied at the School of Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University  in Richmond, VA.  Chiêu enjoys creating innovative, novelty books that provide fun learning and exploration for the youngest readers.  Her first book, Raindrops: A Shower of Colors (illustrated by Viviana Garofoli) was published with Sterling Publishing in 2010.  She lives with her husband and three daughters in Maryland.

Here is the cover illustration for her first book, mentioned above:

And here is Pig and Parrot:

And now that Chiêu is settled into our comfy chair with her coffeehouse favorite, a steaming cup of hot water (yes, you read that right, though she occasionally orders Americano):

And her favorite snack, a healthy/not-so-healthy combo of edamames and sugar cookies.

Let’s get started!

When did you decide to be an illustrator?

I’m a graphic designer/illustrator.  I love developing books with innovative formats that are fun and educational. My first book, Raindrops: A Shower of Colors (illustrated by Viviana Garofoli) uses die-cuts and see through-color acetates to show how primary colors blend to make new secondary colors.

How long did your path to your first sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

It took me six years to create and sell Raindrops.  During that time, I went to many SCBWI conferences and learned as much as I could about children’s book publishing.  My biggest challenge was only having a small handful of open houses that accept unsolicited novelty submissions. 

You heard her, folks! Keep attending those conferences!

So, since hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would’ve followed?

While I was subbing my first project, I wish I had started working on new projects. I certainly had plenty of ideas but was so focused on revising and getting Raindrops published.

What’s your favorite medium?

I have many favorite mediums. I enjoy digital graphics, watercolor, collage art, and chalk pastels.

 Where’s your favorite place to work?

I have a small, quiet office with a very old Mac and art desk.  When it’s time to put a book dummy together, I prefer working at the kitchen table where I can see my kids playing in the family room.  This holiday, Santa’s getting me a new Mac!

Way to go, Santa!!

Which illustrators inspire you?

I enjoy Eric Carle’s and Lois Ehlert’s work. They are bold, simple and clean. I also love the gorgeous illustrations and details in Jan Brett’s art and the stylized illustrations of Ian Falconer.

What were your favorite books as a child?

I wasn’t exposed to many books as a child. My family came to Amercia after the fall of the Republic of Vietnam and we didn’t have much growing up.  I can honestly say I never owned a book as a child. I remember my teacher reading to our fourth grade class The Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing and Freckle Juice by Judy Blume.  They were the first books I really enjoyed.

How do you describe your style and has it changed throughout your career?

I consider my work eclectic.  I love creating bold, strong digital graphics as well as soft illustrations.  I also find cut paper collage to be a lot of fun.

How were you inspired to illustrate your current and upcoming release?

I love creating novelty projects that are clever and fun learning. Seeing children get excited when they discover something new is my inspiration.

Okay, time for the lightning round!

Do you . . .

Work from photos or imagination? Both

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? I definitely share my WIP.

Prefer sketching or final art?  I prefer to get as close to final art as possible.

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?  I want to be better at it!

Enjoy brainstorming more or researching?  Prefer brainstorming, but I have to research.

Read Kindle or traditional books?  Traditional books.

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work?  While my kids are in school or asleep.

Pair of shoes? My fluffy house slippers.

Guiltiest pleasure?  Cupcakes!!


Thanks so much for stopping by Chiêu! Best of luck to you!


About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Interviews: Authors, Interviews: Illustrators. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Coffee and Conversation with Chiêu Anh Urban!

  1. Congratulations on Raindrops, A Shower of Colors, Chieu! I can’t wait to see it. Thanks for this fun interview and letting us get to know you better. I think you will have much success in your future.

  2. I loved seeing Chieu’s colorful art and getting a peek at her process. Raindrops is beautiful–and lots of fun. Here’s to many more books, Chieu!

  3. Pingback: December Illustrator Spotlight Recap « As the Eraser Burns

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