Posted by: nancyisanders | February 23, 2009

Author and Illustrator Interview: Diane Kress Hower


Meet Author and Illustrator Diane Kress Hower!
Blog: Blog by Diane

I grew up in Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie, in a very diverse industrial town. Looking back, I now treasure the wealth of experience I had living among so many different ethnic cultures and viewpoints that occurred during that time. Twenty-three years ago, I moved to Oregon, sight unseen. It felt like home. A couple of years later, I went back to school to finish a degree in art education and sculpture and then on to complete a masters’ degree in art therapy/counseling. Looking back, it was more of a PhD in single parenting my children and living on a shoestring budget. Those chapters of my life are so distant, but the experiences I gained during those times helped to create who I am as an educator, and as an author and an illustrator, today. When I am not working on my illustration and writing, I work in public schools as a behavioral specialist/counselor. I love working with people, especially with teachers and other school staff, and of course, the kids. Each day within my school day is a field trip of experience for my soul and my creative life. I am truly blessed.


“Stanley Kisses” by Diane Kress Hower

Q: Do you ever base characters in your stories on people or animals you know?
A: I use animals and people I know, all of the time. However, I have to abide by ethical guidelines and confidentiality restrictions from my work with people. My characters are never based on a single person. I have just finished a manuscript, Ordinary, Extraordinary Stanley, a therapy dog’s view of working in school. Stanley is my dog. Ricky is a combination of many students, boys and girls. Mrs. Green is actually based on a special education teacher in a middle school who would make special trips to my office to see Stanley.  I have parents voluntarily sign permission for me to photograph their children to use in photos with Stanley for the art. I never disclose students’ names or the location of where I work or live. Getting back to your question, the subjects we are the most familiar with are the ones that we can most authentically reproduce in a storyline or a drawing that touches our readers or viewers.

Q: Describe one goal you have as an illustrator and the steps you’re taking to achieve it.
A: I have many goals as an illustrator, but the most important one to me is to have my strongest work in a portfolio. A portfolio is what an editor or art director will ultimately look at if they are choosing you to illustrate your own work. You have to be able to show the skill of repeating a setting or a character while depicting information in pictures that tell the story or add to the story that create an emotional impact. This past year, my illustration critique group got together for a day and created our dream portfolio based on illustrations from successful children’s book illustrators. We analyzed what we liked about those incredible pieces and what was missing from our own work. We made a commitment to begin to add or increase those aspects of illustration into our work at the rate of one illustration a month submitting back to the group, online. In two weeks, we are going away for a weekend just to work on illustration. In May, we plan to present our portfolios at and SCBWI conference.

Q: As an artist, what technique do you prefer to work with?
A: I love to do photography. It is not used very often as a media in children’s fiction. I still use it to do a lot of research for my illustrations. One of the most difficult things for me to do as an illustrator was decide what media to use for illustration. As an art teacher, I have training in all media. I have had multiple editors and other illustrators tell me what they thought I should do based on the market and on what they thought my strengths were. Last year, I decided to go digital and work on the computer. I use a drawing tablet, art pen, and a program that allows me to use a variety of media. My most recent discovery has been working in crayon. It would be very difficult to work with it on paper. It is unforgiving. Digitally, I have complete control over it, and I love the ability to play with the opaqueness and the texture. It has given me a media that allows me to create a couple of my dream portfolio characteristics with much more ease, translucence and texture. I have also found that working digitally, I am able to get back to my work easier and to change and fix my work as needed.

Q: Share one tip you would like to give to someone who wants to be both an author and an illustrator for children’s books.
A: You have to be a master craftsperson at both. If you are a writer wanting to illustrate your work, you have to be a very strong illustrator too. If you’re an illustrator, you have to be able to write well, also. They are two separate creative processes that are similar, yet different. Some author/illustrators break into the business through one door. Be open to all possibilities and know that it is a great deal of work and dedication to do both well.


  1. Hi Diane!
    I was surprised to see your interview when I opened the blog this morning! Great job! I wish you the best in completing your art portfolio for the SCBWI conference. I’m happy to be in the online critique group together and hope we can meet you soon!

    Tina Cho

  2. Yes, Diane, it’s a wonderful interview with lots of interesting information! I love the picture of “Stanley Kisses” and was curious what medium you used for it. Is it done digitally also?

    Best wishes on your portfolio. You’re hardworking and talented, so I bet it won’t be long before we’re hearing good news from you.

    Ev (another fellow critique group member)

  3. That Stanley can kiss me anytime…

    Great job, and best wishes-

  4. Thanks ladies for all your all your support. You are the best.


    Yes Ev, it is digital crayon and is very fun stuff to play with.

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