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Few 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 anymore."

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
excerpt written by Gilbert Cheah for A.Magazine
photographed by Matthew Salacuse


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