of us who have left the world of childhood have forgotten the lavish
and colorful illustrations that abound in children's books. This
is a world that Chris Soentpiet
never left, and one which he helps create everyday as one of the
nation's top children's book illustrators. A Korean adoptee who
came to the U.S. when he was eight, Chris, now 27, was recently
honored with the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators.
For Soentpiet, getting to this point hasn't been child's play. "As
an illustrator I had to draw the words of others, and authors often
don't take into account how the story will be illustrated when they
write", he says. "It was sometimes frustrating to try
and turn page after page of just two people talking into illustrations."
Moreover, Chris found that publishers saw him as "the Asian
illustrator" and automatically
assigned him books that were about or by Asians. "While I initially
sought out and enjoyed illustrating
Asian books, I realized I was getting typecast," says Chris.
"It was important for me to demonstrate that I had greater
range." But when he began looking for different kinds of assignments,
he was met with resistance. "Publishers tend to assume I'm
an expert on all Asian cultures," he notes, "when I've
got to do as much research as any non Asian illustrator."
Now, after years of illuminating
other people's books with his stunning watercolors, he's writing
and illustrating his own books.
Unlike some illustrators who move on to painting for galleries,
Chris is happy with the work he's doing now. "At one time most
people thought of children's book illustrations as being of lesser
quality than art that's hung in galleries," he says, "
but more and more fine artists are discovering this industry, and
illustrating books. It's not just Cat in the Hat artwork
Aside from painting and writing, Chris promotes the love of children’s literature and the arts by speaking at schools and libraries across the country. To find out more information about his illustrator visit or author visit please visit his website http://www.soentpiet.com/program.htm
excerpt written by Gilbert Cheah for A.Magazine
photographed by Matthew Salacuse