Emily Bourke

i. I work as a…Children’s Book Illustrator, among a few other artistic practices.

ii. I do this creative work because… in doing so, I’m able to connect to children while also bringing out my inner child. I make and appreciate art that speaks to all ages. Issues that apply to adults often apply to children as well. Taking those issues and conveying them to children in a way that doesn’t speak down to them, but makes them accessible so they can better understand the world around them influences my work and what I contribute to children’s literature.

iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work are… a strong work ethic and drive. I set goals for myself each day to get things done, which means sometimes I can end up working from the moment I wake up to when I go to sleep. Balance is also very important! Managing time so that I can have a full life, pay the bills, create art, eat healthy, is tough. Creativity is like a muscle that you need to work out everyday. If you don’t it will atrophy and it becomes more difficult to get back to working out that muscle. Maintaining a regime of making art has helped me better maintain my workflow so that I don’t slow down or lose that creativity.

iv. The greatest challenges around this work is… the daunting task of becoming a children’s book illustrator! There is a multitude of extremely talented artists who want to illustrate children’s books, and the majority of them are sending out submissions to publishers and agents daily. As a result, one must expect some (if not many) rejection letters. That being said, I try to maintain a positive attitude and focus on the work. I build up my portfolio, all the while trying not to take rejection too hard when it comes. If you don’t put yourself out there, you will never succeed.

v. Creative childhood hobbies...Drawing, drawing, drawing! Unsurprisingly I’ve been painting, doodling, and making art most of my life. In addition to reading, I also watched a lot of animated film and television, anything with an interesting story and/or visuals. I played with modeling clay a lot and created characters and worlds with storylines as well.

vi. Other creators who inspire you... Oh my gosh, so many! Right away, Jill Thompson comes to mind. I think that’s visible in my work. Also Mary Blair, Michael Martchenko, Becky Dreistadt, and of course Hayao Miyazaki.


vii. Training that has helped me succeed in this career... so far has been either formal or informal education. I took an online character design course with Stephen Silver a few years ago. That’s helped me work on making each of character I create unique from each one another. In addition, university gave me a space to hone my technical skills, as well as interact with other like-minded people and have feedback from my awesome instructors. I also worked my way through school as a tattoo artist, which helped me understand the business side of art as well, such as building clientele, working to a client’s specifications, and working on time constraints.

viii. The biggest myth about this type of work… is the same as all artistic work: that you spend the whole day drawing, painting, sculpting, designing, etc. While in fact, at least half your work in the day is spent on growing your business. Social media, client calling or emailing, designing/sending out promos, updating your website, researching grants, and so on take a lot of time away from your art work. But fear not aspiring artists! These things are also creative in their own way, and I find I enjoy them just as much as the art once I get going on them.

ix. Some proud career moments…have actually been quite recent. I was very honoured to receive a grant from my alma mater Vancouver Island University’s Star Committee. With the grant I was able to travel to Los Angeles this summer for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. It was amazing to attend and meet other writers and illustrators, participate in workshops and intensives, as well as hear incredibly inspiring keynote speakers. Truly an unforgettable experience!


x. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you…read children’s books! Specifically, if you want to illustrate children’s books, pick out a few that really stood out to you as a kid. Or, pick out a few that your kids like, or ask your local librarian. Ask yourself what did I like about these books as a kid? What do you like about them now? What is it about recently released books that connect to kids today? Observe the use of space and composition, see how the text is integrated into the page with the artwork, and so on. Also, taking an English course or two is a good idea. I highly value the children’s literature courses I took at university. They helped round out my knowledge of children’s books by encouraging a more in depth analysis of the text and how it interacts with illustrations.

And definitely join the SCBWI! If you’re near a local chapter (such as the one in Vancouver *wink, wink*) you can meet other illustrators and authors in your area and gain knowledge first hand. I know that the benefit of attending meetings has been immeasurable to my personal growth

xi. A professional goal I have for the future…is to make art that reaches kids in a way that guides them, supports them or inspires them. Or even just entertains them! I hope my work and future work will connect with children, bring them joy and aid in their emotional development.

xii. If you want to see my work, go to… or follow me on Instagram Emily Bourke Instagram. Do it, I have lots of cool things to show you guys!

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators


Gabriola Arts Festival


Julia Alvarez's Bad Ginger Cookies

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton