NaPiBoWriWee Day Two: Guest Author Blog – Ken Min

Meet 2011 NaPiBoWriWee Guest Artist Ken Min!

Welcome KEN MIN, our guest author/illustrator for 2011 NaPiBoWriWee Day Two!

Ken Min studied illustration at Art Center, College of Design and has worked as a storyboard artist for animation and various commercial houses. He has been recognized for his portfolio work at various SCBWI regional events and was runner up in the portfolio display at the 2008 National Conference in Los Angeles. He recently illustrated the title HOT HOT ROTI for Lee & Low Books. For more information on Ken, please visit his website here:

Ken graciously agreed to provide an autographed copy of HOT HOT ROTI for this year’s prize giveaway. Thank you, Ken!

Keep reading for our Q&A with Ken…


Meet Ken Min at age 4! All together now... Awwwwww! 🙂


— If you weren’t a writer/artist, what would you be?

Probably your assistant- making copies, emptying your trash, picking up your dry cleaning, making coffee, walking the cats…

— Sounds good to me! LOL! 🙂 So… please tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

I could tell you, but it involves a matter of national security and you would most likely have to “disappear” afterwards. So by not telling you, I’m protecting your well being.

— We PROMISE not to tell anyone!

Okay. I can pick up coins off the carpet with my toes.

— What was the most unusual job you ever had?

See above. (This goes with the first answer)

— Hmmm. You’re quite mysterious! 🙂 So… What inspired you to write or illustrate picture books?

I suppose you could say I had one of those moments of epiphany a few years back. I used to work at a bookstore and one day it was my turn to clean up the kid’s section. This was considered a bad assignment because the kid’s area always fell apart, really fast, several times during the day. As I’m working to straighten it up, I came across a copy of George Shrinks by William Joyce. The cover caught my attention and I started flipping through it and thinking how fun it was. At that moment I really took notice of all the books around me. There were titles like The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith), Tuesday (by David Weisner) and many others. Just a lot of really wonderful, engaging new books which were exquisitely illustrated. At the time, I was mostly familiar with the titles from my childhood, so looking at all these new works was rather eye opening. It was really in that moment that I started thinking- I want to illustrate a picture book one day. (PAULA’S NOTE: Ken also discussed this process in detail at another great blog if you would like to see more about this here:

— Given the changing book industry with the advent of e-books and the rollercoaster economy, do you still think picture books have a place for tomorrow’s children? Will people still be reading traditional picture books in the future?

I like to think so. Personally, I like opening up that book and flipping through the pages, but I recognize I’m also from an older generation. People, and especially kids today, are very engaged by their electronic media. Still, I like to think that there are some things people will want to see in a larger frame as well.  Whether it be books, film or tv. For instance, when that big, loud blockbuster film comes out, would anyone prefer seeing it on a small 3″ portable screen or bigger than life at the local theatre? I like to think there is room for all modes of presentation. At least I hope. In regards to picture books, I can envision it on a device like the ipad, because that is of a reasonable size and view-ability. Having said that, I still like the idea of sharing family time reading an actual picture book at bedtime. I suppose we need to see what the future holds for us…

— What is your favorite art medium and why? (oil, watercolor etc.)

I’m really very much about acrylics. One can use it very opaquely and mimic the impasto quality of oil or just a really textured paint surface or thin it down with water and get very translucent or watercolor like effects. It’s also fast drying and one can paint right on top of painted areas without worrying about the colors mixing or blending and turning to mud. What’s funny to me is that I painted primarily in acrylics in school trying to pull a textured look from it, but then after college, I went away from it. Later I dabbled in gouache and watercolor trying to find a “new look”, but never really found true satisfaction there. Then one day I started looking at textures in very different places and things- the floor of a parking garage, the walls of buildings, the grain in wood, etc.- and I began thinking again of my old art tricks. Eventually, I made my way back to acrylics and have been quite happy ever since. It’s like that story- everything old is new again.

— When you write and illustrate your own picture book, do you write the story first or do you come up with a certain image first? I’m curious to hear this process.

When I have a concept in my head, I start to sort out the bits and pieces, trying to find a through line and get an outline going. How does it begin? How does it end? And what are the bits of business in the middle. A lot of this happens in my head and when I feel like I have something interesting, I’ll start to jot down notes. I’ll also “see” specific images, which I’ll also scribble down as thumbnails. So, much of the time, I’m working back and forth once I start conceptualizing- scratch out an image, writing down a line of text- all in longhand on several sheets of paper.

When I have something plotted from beginning to end, I like to set it aside for a few days.

This allows me time to look at it again with fresh eyes and decide if it is worth pursuing or if it is the ravings of a tired mind.

If I still like it, I’ll start to thumbnail it out across a 32 page picture book format and to jot down lines of text as I go.

Once I have something satisfying, I’ll run it by my critique group and get their feedback. I think it’s important to run stuff by other people. Sometimes if we’re too close to things we like, we become blind to possible faults or deficiencies and it helps to have another opinion.

I don’t know if I answered your question properly. For me, it goes back and forth a lot. One time I could type out the story first or I’ll see a series of images flicker in my head. But I guess for me, I like to think that it’s the idea that excites and spurs all the other actions in whichever direction it goes.


Thank you so much Ken for your generosity in answering our questions. For NaPiBoWriWee participants, you might win an autographed copy of Ken’s picture book at this year’s drawing, too! We look forward to your comments on Ken. Until then… Happy Writing! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂



  1. I love that you are in a critique group! It’s not just for us “aspiring” folk! I do believe that we will always needs the feedback and community of other artists/writers, no matter our level of “success.” Thanks for affirming that 🙂 Thank you also for taking the time to share. 🙂

  2. Awww!
    Sorry– couldn’t resist.

    I really enjoyed this interview. Especially the great explanations about process and medium.
    Thanks so much, Ken and Paula.

  3. I’m those mamas herding her tornado, i.e. kids, out of the bookstore kid section feeling oh so guilty and oh so sorry for the clean-up guy….I did try….:)

    I think that bookstore story neat because you DID something about it! Wondering what kind of projects are dreamed for the future?
    Thanks for talking/writing to Paula and sharing it here.

  4. I agree with Dana, I enjoyed reading about the process and the mediums you used. Thanks for spending time with us. I love your illustrations. The coloring reminded me of Eric Carle.

    Oh, and yes, you’re as adorable now as you were as a child. Awww.

    Best to you.

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