Creator Corner: Beautiful You, Beautiful Me illustrator Salini Perera


New year, new Creator Corner posts! As you know, each month we interview the creators of our recent books. This month, we interviewed Beautiful You, Beautiful Me illustrator Salini Perera.

Owlkids Books: When did you know that you wanted to be an illustrator?

Salini Perera: I have always loved art class, and illustrations in books, ever since I was very small. I thought, in an abstract sort of way, that it would be lovely to be the person who got to make the art for the books I read. 

When I was in grade three, writer Michael Kusugak and illustrator Vladyana Krykorka visited our school for a whole week — and it is one of the highlights of my childhood.

But I never thought illustrating was a job option for me until they introduced the character of Shelly on ‘Blossom’. I know it’s a bit weird to be inspired by a fictional character, but she was a black woman, on a predominantly white show, who illustrated children’s books for a living. It was the first time I saw a person of color doing this job — even if she was just a supporting character on a TV show — and it meant the world to me. 

OKB: Which spread did you most enjoy illustrating and why?

SP: I love the illustration of Mama styling Izzy’s hair in the morning. It reminded me so much of my own sister and niece (who I based the character design for Izzy on). Izzy’s hair is so expressive and was so much fun to draw!

OKB: Which spread was the most challenging to illustrate and why?

SP: The underwater scenes were a challenge to get the colors and the lighting just right, but I’m very happy with how they turned out. 

OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

SP: I would like young readers of color to see themselves in this book. Growing up, there were not a lot of books featuring characters that looked like me. And what did exist was not often highlighted in class, or in the library. Unless it says otherwise in the text, I will always centre children of color my books for this reason.

OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

SP: I went to film school before I studied illustration. It had been my dream as a child to make children’s books, but I didn’t think I was a good enough artist. So I thought if I couldn’t make books, I could make movies. It did not work out, for a number of reasons, and I went back to school. Now, ten years later I’m making books as I always wanted to do. It’s never too late, I guess.

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