October 12, 2021

Let's Talk Illustrators #194: Rashin Kheiriyeh

The Shape of Home by Rashin Kheiriyeh is the sweet story of bridging differences by finding common ground. I was so pleased to catch up with Rashin and talk to her about her latest loosely-autobiographical book featuring a character with her own name. I hope you enjoy a peek behind the curtain for this personal and relatable story!

About the book:
It's Rashin's first day of school in America! Everything is a different shape than what she's used to: from the foods on her breakfast plate to the letters in the books! And the kids' families are from all over!

The new teacher asks each child to imagine the shape of home on a map. Rashin knows right away what she'll say: Iran looks like a cat! What will the other kids say?

What about the country YOUR family is originally from? Is it shaped like an apple? A boot? A torch?

Open this book to join Rashin in discovering the true things that shape a place called home

Peek underneath the dust jacket:

Let's talk Rashin Kheiriyeh!

LTPB: This seems like a pretty personal story since it’s about you! Why did you decide to share the story of The Shape of Home?

RK: Yes, it is a personal story, and I wanted to share the experience of an immigrant kid’s first day of school in the United States. We have diverse school in the US and first day of school is a big deal for kids specially right now after the pandemic.

Trying anything new can be challenging but if you look around to find something that reminds you of home it makes it easier. It is all about fitting in at school or at home. Rashin is an immigrant kid from Iran and she likes to imagine things into a different shapes. "l am from Iran and my country is shaped like a cat," Rashin said in the classroom.

My wonderful editor Arthur Levine and I have worked on this book since 2019. The initial title was Home Sweet Home but we agreed on the shape of home because it reflected the main idea of my book. My art director Patrick Collins helped me through the art process, and we had so much back and forth to find the best design for the book, so it was real teamwork.

LTPB: How has your illustration technique changed over the course of your career so far? What is your process for approaching each new project with a new creative energy and fresh ideas?

RK: For starters, I check the current picture books on the market to find out how to design my new character that will be different from what is out recently. I really want to make a character that is unique and creative.

At my desk I will draw so many different styles for my lead character. Sometimes I find it after couple of sketches and sometimes it takes more time, and I will choose the right fit among 20-30 sketches. After feeling satisfied with the main character I will sketch the rest of the characters, and environment development comes next. Then I share the sketch samples with my art director to review and pick the best one. The final step before coloring will be the layout and storyboarding. When we find a good placement for the text I can then start making some color samples and choose my color palette.


Usually I paint one spread with 2-3 different art techniques to see which style will be a perfect fit.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? Is this your preferred medium? How does your process change from book to book?

RK: For Saffron Ice Cream and The Shape of Home I used acrylic and oil paint. I also used some collages here and there to give more depth and texture to my artwork. I personally prefer creating my art by hand. Sometimes I do it digitally, but I get my desirable effect and brush strokes when I work with actual art mediums. Sometimes I use watercolor, ink or printmaking. Sometimes I use photography to create my art, like the projects I have done with actual food which I edit on the computer afterwards.

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?

RK: I am working on a book project for Little Brown called the Night before Eid. It’s about a little boy who make the traditional Egyptian cookies Ka’ak for celebrating Ramadan. It's written by Aya Khalil.

A million thanks to Rashin for taking time to chat about this special book! The Shape of Home published from Levine Querido last month!

Special thanks to Rashin and Levine Querido for use of these images!

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