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Hi there! My name is Chris Soentpiet. I am illustrator and author of children's books. I also enjoy illustrating books by other authors, which has taken my imagination on many exciting adventures!

I was was born in South Korea. When I was eight-years-old, my sister and I were adopted by the Soentpiet family, and we moved to Hawaii. Much later, while doing research for my book Peacebound Trains, I had the opportunity to return to Korea and visit my biological siblings for the first time since I was adopted. I was so happy to reunite with them. In fact, I plan to write about my adoption experience sometime in the future.

I studied Fine Arts and Education at Pratt Institute in New York City. There I met two very special friends, Ted and Betsy Lewin, who encouraged me to pursue my passion for painting by illustrating children's books. Since then, my work has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Houston Chronicle and Newsweek.

When I was first starting out as an illustrator, I took my portfolio, along with some original paintings, around New York City. I met with ten publishers, but none of them wanted to take a chance on me, since I had never published a book. After all these rejections, I felt discouraged and almost gave up on my dream. Fortunately, I didn’t have to! After a chance meeting with HarperCollins Publishers, I was given an opportunity to illustrate and write my first children's book, Around Town.

Around Town
The books I create reflect my interest in people, history, and culture. Teachers around the world use my books in their classrooms, so it's important that I take the time to do a lot of research, especially if it's a historical story. I spend weeks in the library, and I also travel to the actual location of the plot so I can sketch and take pictures. Because of my attention to detail, a book can take me a year or more to finish.
More Than Anything Else
For my books that are set in earlier times, I must make sure that what I paint is historically accurate. For example, on the cover of my book, More Than Anything Else, Booker T. Washington is wearing a hat from the 1850s. In order for me to paint that hat, I went to the library to look for books on fashion in the mid-nineteenth century (Washington's lifetime). I researched not only the hat but also the clothes people wore at that time. Every article of clothing and their colors are carefully thought out before I start painting.
Sometimes my research surprises people. In Molly Bannaky, I painted a Holstein cow in one scene. When the artwork for this book was finished, a critic believed that although there were Holstein cows in England during the 17th century, there were not any Holstein cows in America at that time. Because I had done detailed research which refuted such a claim, I immediately contacted the Holstein Cow Association and asked them to provide a letter proving that there were Holsteins in America during that historical time; they did.
Molly Bannaky
Peacebound Trains Cultural accuracy is also important to me. While working on Peacebound Trains, a book which centers on a Korean family, I made sure I painted the characters in Korean attire. I would never have painted the Korean characters wearing a Chinese cheongsam, Japanese kimono or Indian sari. Though Asian communities share similar values and physical features, each group has its own, unique culture that is different from the others.
Coolies

After my research is complete, I ask models to play the parts of the main characters. This allows me to achieve a realistic and consistent look from page to page. Using the results of my research, I make the costumes and fix each model's hair and makeup. A good example of this can be found in my book, Coolies which won the Parents' Choice Gold Award. In this book, as in all my books, I took photographs of the models to use as tools to help me during the painting process. This method of painting is very similar to that of my idol, Norman Rockwell.

Whenever I illustrate, I get to know the characters very well. I feel as though they have become my friends, and I'm always a little sorry to leave them when I finish the illustrations. But finishing a book means I get to look forward to meeting other fascinating characters, who will become my new friends as I work on my next book.

 

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All Chris Soentpiet's books are available through bookstores such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com
However if you would like an autographed copy, please visit Soentpiet's
Web Store
Chris Soentpiet's web site is updated frequently. So visit again for new releases and updates. If you would like to share your comments with Chris, please sign the guest book below. Thanks for stopping by!
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