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Alumni Spotlight Ellia Ana Hill

The MIAD alumni community is doing extraordinary things, and we want to shine a light on our alumni and their work. Through our Alumni Spotlight series we will feature the great work of the MIAD, MSA, and Layton alumni community.

This month’s Alumni Spotlight features Ellia Ana Hill (Domena) ‘03 (Illustration/Writing). Author Illustrator Ellia HIll

MIAD: Thank you for joining us, Ellia, tell us about yourself!
Ellia Ana Hill: I’m a Milwaukee native Puerto Rican. I met and married another MIAD graduate (Ramel Hill ’02, Illustration) and we’ve been married for 19 years. We have six kids which although it’s an unexpectedly large family, it’s been our greatest collaborative achievement. Most graduate from college and work on a career first, but since I’ve always planned to work on children’s books and freelance (which can take awhile), I figured we might as well do both at the same time- Ha! It’s not the most conventional route, but it works! My life is filled with family, art, culture, and a lack of sleep.

MIAD:  Congratulations on making your children’s book debut as both author and illustrator! (The No Boy, available September 27, by Lil’ Libros) Tell us about this bilingual children’s board book and the inspiration behind it!
Ellia: Thank you! It’s so exciting and a dream come true! The book is actually based off one of my kids, who said no, even when he meant yes. There was a season that I was (well, still am) knee deep in toddlers, tears, and limited communication. I began to do digital illustrations journaling my daily adventures. They were well received online and by my family. This really sparked my idea to create a board book about a boy who just said no all the time. My original plan was to crowdfund it to get it printed in book form once it was fully illustrated, but thankfully Lil’ Libros contacted me about a project and in the process, approved this manuscript.

So yeah, this book is basically a visual journal. It’s incredibly humbling to be able to share this story with others who are in the same boat. And the fact that it’s bilingual means it can reach my community too.

MIAD: What mediums did you use in creating the art?
Ellia: Paper. It’s always been paper. I’ll add tidbits of mixed media here and there but paper has always been the medium of choice!

MIAD: Paper is so distinctive! For illustrations for The No Boy, did you start out by drawing sketches?
Ellia: Yes. I began with rough thumbnails in order to lay out story. I then made a paper bag booklet, which is where you take paper bags and sew them together to make a mini book. It’s small, quick, and it creates pockets on the sides; which is a perfect space for Post-It notes, reference photos, and paper snippets for color options. Because The No Boy is square format, making the paper bag booklet helped to get an idea on how it will look and be held. It also provided a way to test the story on my kids. Tighter sketches were made and approved. From there, I use those tight sketches as a template for cutting the paper. The sketching and cutting is quite easy however, picking out the perfect color papers takes a bit. I’m particular with the thickness and warmth of colors and I need to make sure they scan well, without any wrinkles or blemishes.

MIAD: How did your time and education at MIAD help you get to where you are now? 
Ellia: My focus at MIAD was illustration and writing. My goal has always been to do children books (even before college) and I took classes devoted to this field. I learned the basics as well as understood this wasn’t an easy or fast road- which it hasn’t been. It was my 3rd year at MIAD that professor Christiane Grauert introduced me to paper as a medium and I’ve never looked back. I’m eternally grateful to her. And it was professor Barbara McLaughlin who pushed me to write and remain passionate about telling my story, especially about my culture. So, having people believe in me and teach me the skills that were needed, has helped to shape me into the artist I am.  

MIAD: You’ve done work for Hasbro, Netflix, Disney, and more — tell us a bit about that work and how you got involved!
I’ve been participating in gallery shows for over a decade, including a couple local solo shows. Doing this helped make it more accessible to be a part of distinct group gallery shows. You gotta get your art, style, and name out there. Hero Complex Gallery in California is the one who had all these amazing shows. For the Hasbro exhibit, it was for the launch of Netflix’s animated Voltron series. I was able to binge the show before it was released and create a piece based off of it. It was super fun! This was the same for Disney’s Through the Looking Glass show. We got to see much of the promo work before the movie was released. Almost every piece I’ve created for those gallery shows has sold while it was exhibited.

The Dwight Schrutte dominoes are my own creations of fan art. I’m a huge geek of The Office and did a few special orders for specific clients. I did a few others including Golden Girls, Dexter (the serial killer), and some DC characters.

MIAD: What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the field of children’s books (and other illustration projects)?
Ellia: I’m a huge believer of participating in gallery shows.
It’s a great way to showcase your work and get to know other artists. It also gives you a chance to work on art in between long term projects. But specifically about books? Anyone going into illustrating children’s books MUST have a passion for it. Buy children’s books, new and old! Find out what is out there on the market. Study them, and the rhythm and flow of story telling. Follow artists who inspire you in the field. Sometimes it takes a bit to accomplish your dreams, so meanwhile, you have to remain inspired and active in the art world. Lastly, if you have a story that you are passionate about, I guarantee you that there are others who want and need to hear that story.

MIAD:  What other projects are you working on now or are excited about in the future?
Ellia: I am under contract for a few more books! And I have a couple manuscripts on the table to complete and submit. Additionally, I will be participating in the local Latino Arts 2023 Spring Season Exhibit. Unfortunately, I can’t give many details yet about the above projects, but stay tuned!

MIAD: Thank you so much for your time, Ellia! How can people stay connected with your work?
Ellia: Thank you!  Instagram @greenbeanbaby is the best way to connect with me and my work!

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