Rachael ColeWhere do you work? What is your title?
I’m the art director at Schwartz & Wade Books, a children’s picture book imprint within Random House Children’s Books. We publish picture, middle grade, and young adult books.How do you work with illustrators?
After helping to find the right illustrator for a project along with the editor and publishers, I work with Illustrators from their hire through publication. I synthesize and contribute the feedback of everyone at our imprint at sketch and final art phases, and carefully articulate comments to the illustrator. I ensure that illustrators have what that they need to move forward. I design their jackets and interiors, and color correct their artwork.How many illustrators do you work with a year?
Around thirty—all at various stages of the process.What do you usually look for in the work of illustrators you hire?
I look for strong narrative voice, the ability to draw children and/or animals in a way that resonates and engages the reader, and stylistic consistency. Most importantly, I look for work that is the perfect tone for the manuscript at hand—an illustrator who will not just faithfully illustrate the text, but expand on it and make it come alive with their own touch.What it the theme of your curated feature?
Artists that I’m working with right now, or worked with recentlyWhy did you choose these illustrators?
These illustrators have strong stylistic voices, express viewpoints that I find interesting and delightful, and understand how to appeal to young readers’ without being overly saccharine.Do you have any advice for illustrators who are interested in working with you or in your field?
Make work that you enjoy. If you want to make kid’s books, work on developing kids or animals that are accessible and appealing, and true to your voice. Create worlds for them to inhabit. Get to know other Illustrators—and build a community for yourself. Have a strong online presence through your website and Instagram. It’s easier than ever to discover new Illustrators, but the work has to be plentiful and strong to distinguish yourself.You are also an illustrator and children’s book author yourself and a WWD member. How do you navigate between the roles of being a freelancer and art director? What are the benefits? What are the challenges?
The benefits are numerous, and I am lucky. My worlds are constantly cross pollinating and I have an amazing community of supportive women (and men!) around me. For example, while I was working with Julia Rothman and Leah Goren on our LADIES DRAWING NIGHT book, I met Andrea Pippins, who ended up publishing I LOVE MY HAIR and BECOMING ME with Schwartz & Wade Books. Being an illustrator helps me empathize with how incredibly hard it is to work on a big project like a picture book, and understand what is—and what is not possible—on a formal level.
The challenges are primarily time based. Logistically speaking, I group activities. I wrote both of my children’s books (CITY MOON, illustrated by Blanca Gomez, and BABY, I WILL READ TO YOU, illustrated by Melissa Crowton) on my phone in small moments of free time. I thumbnail ideas for drawings while I watch Netflix in the evening. I often combine drawing with socializing with my friends. For a time, I tried to hone in on one discipline, but realized I didn’t want to quit art direction, illustrating OR writing. That freed my creative energy. Sometimes it takes me much longer than I’d like to finish personal projects or change gears, but I chip away, and try to be kind to myself when I need a break.