Q&A with Illustrator Miki Sato

If you've admired our 2021 festival artwork, you're already familiar with the work of Miki Sato, a freelance illustrator who uses a variety of different papers, fabric, and embroidery to create beautifully layered and textured illustrations. Miki illustrated the children's books Golden Threads and Snow Days. Sunny Days, her second collaboration with author Deborah Kerbel, will be released in June.

You can view more of Miki's work at mikisatoillustration.com.


What inspired you to get into this type of illustration?
Growing up, I always enjoyed trying out different arts and crafts. One of my childhood experiences with the layered art style came from making paper tole art. During high school, I also created illustrations that involved cutting and pasting paper paint samples from the hardware store. But it wasn't until university that I started to properly play around with this style and experimented with mixing in fabrics and embroidery.

Did you always know you wanted to illustrate books or was it a profession you got into by chance?
I had been doing editorial illustrations for some time before I was given the opportunity to do a picture book. It was a surprise, but I was pretty ecstatic! I have experience with drawing comics, so picture books have been a great way to combine those two interests together.

When you create a piece, do you often have a vision in mind and aim to have it look that way, or do you often go back and rework and improvise until the piece is done?
Typically, I have a good idea on how an illustration would look from the beginning. During the initial sketch phase, I think about which materials to use, and how pieces should be cut and puzzled together. There’s a lot of planning involved before starting to work on the final!

How do you determine which kind of fabric or paper you want to use in a project?
I usually picture the real-life counterpart of the thing I’m illustrating. Is it hard or soft? Textured or smooth? I then go into my supply of different papers and fabrics to find the best match. I also like to keep the whole illustration in mind, and try to have a good variety of textures throughout it.

Who are some of your favourite illustrators?
I love looking at illustrators who work in a similar three-dimensional and layered style. It’s very inspiring to see all the different techniques and textures that are so unique to each illustrator. Some illustrators include: Elly MacKay, Ashley Barron, and Soyeon Kim.

Can you tell us about the latest picture book you’ve illustrated?
Sunny Days is the second book in a series about weather. It has lovely, lyrical couplets written by Deborah Kerbel, and it is published by Pajama Press. It’s filled with illustrations of children enjoying early dawn, hot summer afternoons, and colourful sunsets.