How to Illustrate Your First Children’s Book

Children’s Books, Picture Books

Welcome to my weekly guest blog series:

Success in the Arts – Touching the Lives of Children

This week I’m featuring Mariana Flores (a.k.a maria mar), a freelance illustrator living in Portugal.

How I Illustrated my First Children’s Book

When I thought about telling the story of how I illustrated my first (and so far only) children’s book, I didn’t think there was much to share. I was wrong. There were so many heartwarming moments and wrong turns, someone may learn from it. Not to do as I did.
955x960Before I decided I wanted to be an illustrator, I went to art school to study animation (that was my first love). When I graduated I was offered a job doing industrial design and I took it. I was in awe with the pay checks and stability. I realized my mistake a few months into the job. It just wasn’t my world and I needed to pretend like it was.


What I did next shocked everyone around me. I quit that well paid, stable job, and took a part time job as a cashier. People thought I was done. I could see the pity in their faces. But I had a grand evil plan. And I was just getting started… I took the extra time to work on a portfolio and look for opportunities doing illustration.


An opportunity presented itself in the simplest manner. An author needed an illustrator to draw her story. She couldn’t pay much, but I fell in love with the story. It was my story and I had to draw it.


Her name was Daniela Caprichoso. She is a children’s psychologist and she had written a story intended to help both children and parents going through the changes of separation or divorce. It’s called “My parents are separating… what now?”. I cried and laughed and cried again the first time I read it. I came from a broken home and knew the characters all too well. I could feel them in my fingertips.


So I got started. I had little experience, so I did mistakes. I didn’t do as much thumbnails as I know I should now. The character designs could be bolder. The colours could be richer. Looking back, the illustrations are charming, but I would have done them so differently now. Of course, at the time it was just the best I could do.

I’d work over eight hours on that cashier. I wasn’t allowed to have a chair or to keep a bottle of water with me. I had to make serious physical work and smile through it all. Then come home and work as much as I could on the illustrations. Then do it all over again the next day. Once I actually fainted on the job. They dragged me to the kitchen and the cleaning lady handed me a pack of sugar. Ten minutes later they were calling back to work.

I couldn’t afford to quit and just do art, so I kept on doing both. Eventually I finished the book. There was a bit of a struggle with the editors, because they wanted to paint bucket each page of the book a different random color. Imagine that. I did my very best to make sure the book would be printed in good taste and eventually, it did get published.

It was a great victory for me and Daniela, a dream come true!!! We did one book release and felt like we did something wonderful. I still believe we did.

I kept on working on that portfolio and got myself a job doing art for a game company. I learned a lot there. Now, four years later, I’m back to freelancing. Full time this time, no cashier uniform. My heart is still set on that children’s book and on all the books to come.

 Mariana Flowers

Hi, my name is Mariana Flores (a.k.a maria mar). I’m a freelance illustrator with a passion for children’s books and fantasy novels. I live in Portugal with my nerdy boyfriend, in a house filled with books, medieval swords, pets and plants. I love reading and playing d&d. 

You can contact me via email at I’m available to do illustrations and would love to hear if you have a project. You can see my art on my portfolio: I also have a facebook page:


 Guest blogger host, Joseph Drumheller, is an award-winning author and energy healer.  He creates children’s books for Golden Bell Entertainment.

If you’d like to guest blog or want more info into the worlds, books, meditation, healing, and spirituality, please visit my website at:

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About Joseph Drumheller

Joseph Drumheller is an energy healer and award-winning author. As a healer, he’s conducted over 2,000 private healing sessions since 1991 and worked six years in a cancer radiation clinic, honing his craft as a healer. He lives in Sppokane, WA.
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