Olivia Amoah - An encyclopedia of talent!

March 2024

Professional artist and Children’s Picture Book illustrator, Olivia Amoah, started with a box of crayons and an encyclopedia.

“I loved to learn about animals, so I was obsessed with encyclopedias,” Amoah says with a smile. “My favorite thing to do was getting animal encyclopedias and I was somewhat of a ‘know-it-all’ because of how much I read these books! I had books about birds, sea creatures, land mammals and insects.

I would read all the animals’ descriptions and draw all my favorites.”

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Amoah has now become a sought-after Children’s Picture Book illustrator, currently represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Interestingly, her path to illustration seemed set from the start, when she showed her Grade 1 teacher a Yoshi’s Island paper cut-out she had done. The teacher framed it and put it in the classroom (see photo), and that was the first moment she decided to pursue art.

“My mom always encouraged my interest in drawing,” Amoah says. “And my early memories were drawing Powerpuff girls and Hamtaro characters. My favorite show back then was Pokemon because I loved all the creatures. I still have those crayon and marker drawings from so many years ago!”

Amoah continued drawing throughout her school years.

“On my notes. On my desk. All my projects had drawings. I even hosted an art club in high school (St. Ignatius) for a while. I was really into digital art and character design early-on, but it wasn’t until 11th grade when my sister told me about Sheridan College that I decided I wanted to study animation. So, I made my portfolio in the second semester of grade 12 and got accepted!”

Amoah says that time spent at Sheridan was the most impactful step in her artistic journey, not only because of the course or classes specifically, but by the sheer amount of talent she was surrounded with on a daily basis.

“My classmates taught me more than I could imagine,” she says fondly, “And I am so grateful for it.”

While Amoah was always interested in picture book illustration, at Sheridan she studied animation and she suggests that animation and illustration are ‘sister industries’ because there is so much overlap.

“Many animated shows have been based off of picture books,” she says. “And most, if not all, skills you learn in animation are helpful when illustrating a book. The key difference is that illustration allows for more freedom of expression and exploration of new concepts and styles, because the stakes are much lower to produce a book than an entire TV show or movie.”
Getting representation with Andrea Brown Literary was a huge step forward for Amoah. A mid-sized agency specializing in children’s and adult literature since 1981, they are headquartered in Northern California, with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. They are also consistently the #1 agency for juvenile book sales, with a string of award winners and bestsellers.

“I scoured the internet on resources on how to get into illustration, and the most important aspect I found was to get an agent,” says Amoah. “I researched all the agencies in the United States and picked Andrea Brown because they had a good track record of finding work for artists. So, I started by making a picture book dummy, which is basically a picture book with 3 completed illustrations. I also made a picture book portfolio which showcased my best narrative work. I sent these to 5 agents and got accepted by 3, but I ended up picking Paige Terlip from Andrea Brown Lit because I felt we jived the best over our zoom call.”

Illustrating an author’s words is both challenging and rewarding, and it’s the second half of a creative whole, like how music and lyrics make a song.

“My job is to visually convey what the words cannot,” she says. “I’m able to add secondary stories to the illustrations and expand on the words. The most challenging part for me is taking my rough sketches and keeping the original energy in the final illustrations. The most rewarding part is having the book in my hands and sharing it with others.”
With several projects under her belt, and several more coming down the pipe, I asked Amoah what the future looks like for such a talented and personable artist like her.

“I hope to do more school visits,” she says eagerly. “I love to teach kids about art as a career and encourage them to do what they love. I’ll also continue to build up my online stationery store and keep illustrating books. Eventually, I’d like to start creating my own author/ illustrated books but for now I’m happy to just continue with baby steps and grow as a freelance illustrator.”

For more information on Olivia Amoah, check out her website at www.oliviaamoah.com or visit her stationary shop at www.modoodles.shop.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

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