May 10, 2022

Let's Talk Illustrators #213: Rahele Jomepour Bell

Angry Me, written by Sandra V. Feder and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, helps kids examine ways of communicating strong feelings. I was super lucky to catch Rahele to talk to her about about her illustration processes for the book (and its forthcoming companion Peaceful Me!) and gain some insight into how she visually developed the main character's full range of emotions. Enjoy our chat!

About the book:
"I get angry," says a little girl, looking fiercely in the mirror. Sometimes she gets angry when someone is mean and tries to take her toy away, when it feels unfair that there's not enough time to go swimming, when she's tired and just wants to go home, or when the kids at school leave her out, hurting her feelings.

When she's angry, she tries to remember to use her words –– even though that doesn't always work. Sometimes she can't find the right words, or the words don't come out the way she intends. But sometimes words do help, and when her anger melts away a new feeling can blossom.

Let's talk Rahele Jomepour Bell!

LTPB: How did you become the illustrator of Angry Me? What were the first images that popped into your mind when you saw Sandra V Feder’s text?

RJB: First my wonderful agent Christy at The Cat Agency, forwarded the email from Groundwood Books with the manuscript of Angry Me attached. She said Rahele look at the manuscript and see if you like it. This is that first exciting time of creating pictures for a book. I remember when I first time read the story, I could see the pictures in my mind right away as I have a little daughter who I could see her in a lot of pages of the Angry Me story. And second when I saw the offer is from one my favorite published, who I already knew a lot of my artist friends are so happy working with them, I told Christy yes please, I want to do this book.

LTPB: Can you talk a little bit about the visual evolution of Angry Me? As you got to know the main character and her expressions of anger, how did your illustrations evolve?

RJB: It was very important for me to find the right pose of anger in children and show it in my main character. I was teaching art to kids at the time I was sketching Angry Me book, I tried to capture different feelings in my students, and also my own daughter was very inspiring to me.

In addition of the character design, it was important what colors I use for her, what scenes I am placing her in, all these helped me to express her feelings. These are some of my very first character designs for Angry Me:

LTPB: What were you most excited to illustrate, and what were some of the more challenging moments?

RJB: I was so excited because I knew I am having yet another opportunity to make a book which is going to help children about how to handle their very important emotions, to talk, to know they and their message is important to others. The most challenging moment for me was how to do this and adding another deep layer to text through my illustration that can talk clearly to kids, and I am happy with the result.

My very first sketches.

A revised sketch from one the Angry Me spreads.

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?

RJB: The decision of which medium I use in every book is different. It comes from the story, and its concept, the message it is holding. For the art in Angry Me, I tried different textures, I wanted to have textures but not rough and bold textures, I wanted to use a medium which could flow. This way I could show the change of emotion. First I tried noise texture but then I tried water color but again it did not give me what I wanted, I tried gouache paint, and I found it very strong for both textural and fluent. Later I did transfer my gouache textures to my computer and used them to make my own digital gouache brushes for the finals of the book.

I tried the noise texture but I was happier more with the gouache texture.

I tried different brushes I made digitally.

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

RJB: I am working on the second book with Groundwood Books also written by Sandra V. Feder named Peaceful Me in continue of Angry Me. Both book representing children and how they deal with their emotions in different situations. Here is a spot illustration from Peaceful Me.

LTPB: If you got the chance to write your own picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?

RJB: It is too much to ask for me but at least I can dream about it. Květa Pacovská, I love the world Květa makes, I deeply belong my inner child to her unique artwork.

A million thanks to Rahele for taking time to answer questions for me! Angry Me published last week from Groundwood Books!

Special thanks to Rahele and Groundwood for use of these images!

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  1. This book (these books, really!) look so good! Congrats and looking forward to reading.

  2. This book is so beautiful!!! I love the story and the illustrations! A perfect pairing of writer and illustrator- so sincere and gorgeous! Thank you for sharing this lovely interview with us!