Kristi Valiant

CREATES: Illustrations, mostly children’s books. Doesn’t work with self-publishers.

HER STORY: The graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio has illustrated five hardcover picture books for children since 2009. The Evansville transplant’s latest, The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Indianapolis author Janna Matthies, arrived this spring.

GOOD COPY: Valiant likes children’s books with a sense of humor, short text, and a personal story.

In the fourth grade, I drew a portrait of a girl. I thought it looked like a photograph. I showed it to everyone. It’s horrible, of course, but at the time, I thought it was so perfect.

A teacher gave us an assignment to illustrate a robot in one of my very first illustration classes. All the students brought in a drawing of a robot, and he hung them all around the room. Then, he passed out applications to a fast food restaurant for all of us. He said, “If you think this is an illustration, you are not going to make it.” He said, “Illustration is telling a story through your artwork, and all of these are just drawings of a robot.”

Usually the writer and illustrator have no contact (when creating a book). The reason publishers keep us separate is that the illustrator tells half the story. For a picture book, an adult usually reads the story to a child who can’t read yet. But the pictures, that’s what the child is studying while they listen. The pictures might tell an additional story that isn’t in the text at all.

There are so many kids whose moms have cancer. That isn’t covered in picture books, and that’s something that needs to be talked about with these kids. If they can read a book that is a hopeful, inspiring story, it can be a helpful book. When I read the story (for The Goodbye Cancer Garden), I thought, “Wow, this is one I want to illustrate.”

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