Interview With Illustrator Karen Romagna + Win One of Her Illustrations!

Today it is my pleasure to bring you a post featuring one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, Karen Romagna.   Karen tells us a bit about how she came to illustration and the projects she’s working on.  Here’s Karen:

When I was in the 7th grade my mom dropped me and my 15 year old sister, Michele, off at the train station in Morristown, New Jersey. We had enough money between us to find our way up to Newport, Rhode Island to visit our older sister in college. I remember wandering through the streets of Newark looking for Penn Station. and then running to catch a Greyhound in Providence that would drive us to Newport. Once we arrived in Newport we met up with our older sister and walked for miles to get to her college dorm. It never dawned on us that this was something we couldn’t do. … or maybe shouldn’t do. We had a fun weekend and made it back home Sunday night. I knew we would.

The same applies to my art. My parents always said “Of course you can!… Just don’t leave a mess.” So I spent years trying new things. Some turned out better than others, but I never thought that I might not be able to do something.

I attempted to learn the dulcimer, piano, banjo and ukulele before realizing the tambourine was more my thing. I went through a pottery making, stained glass, candle making, pickling, canning, bread making, mural painting, faux finishing decade. I even owned a stencil design business for a few years. Through it all the one constant was my love of painting. The other constant was that I ALWAYS left a mess.

In the early 1990’s I studied painting and illustration with Milton Charles, a retired Art Director from Pocket Books. He was an incredible teacher who also made me believe that “Of course I can!”. For years I used the tools and techniques I had learned from Milton to paint children’s portraits and landscapes. At the time my children were young and great subject matter.  Spot #1 Casting Off

Spot #2 Matt Study


Fast forward to current day. I have transitioned from painting children to illustrating for children. I am a traditional painter who really needs to learn more tricks in Photoshop. I switch back and forth from oil paint to watercolor. Both are so much fun.

My Process:   My process is simple. I paint what I love. Once inspiration strikes it is a matter of painting what I see. The hard part is learning how to see! And very often what I am seeing is in my imagination.

In Once Upon a Time study  Spot #3 Study-Once Upon a Time I was sure I had seen a duck and some birds.
By the time I went to the final I decided “Nah”, they had just been passing through in the process of seeing what it is that I really love.
The result is Once Upon a Time       Spot #4 Once Upon A Time


Voyage, A Book!

Voyage, my first picture book debuted in October 2014. It is based on a poem written by Billy Collins, former U.S Poet Laureate. While Billy was in office he wrote the poem about the adventures reading can take you on. It was presented to John Cole to celebrate his 25 years as Director for the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. An editor from Bunker Hill Publishing noticed Voyage hanging in John Cole’s office. Billy agreed to let them publish the poem as a picture book.

Billy likes to choose the illustrators for his books. He chose me! I asked the publisher if he wouldn’t mind telling me exactly which illustration Billy Collins had seen that made him feel that I was the right artist for his book. “Of course!” he said “It’s the one of the boy in a boat.”

My heart melted… that was one of my paintings, not one of my children’s illustrations… somewhere out there Billy found a painting of my younger son, Tim. One of those paintings I had done so long ago. There was something magical about Tim. He would find himself in a great adventure with a piece of rope that he’d found. Tim was a creative spirit and truly believed that he could do anything. He was the perfect character for Voyage.     Spot #5 Voyage Cover



Now What?

I am currently working on a picture book about a lonely frog looking for adventure and love. Spot #6 Flying Frog


Since completing Voyage I have taken on several painting commissions for private clients. I love new challenges to see, if in fact, I still “can”. You know what? My studio is a little messy, but of course I can!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog Darlene!

Karen Romagna’s debut picture book, Voyage, launched at The National Book Festival in Washington, DC on August 30, 2014. Written by former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, Voyage is the tale of a young boy setting off for an adventure on the open sea. Karen used the softness of watercolor in illustrating this wonderful dreamlike tale.

Karen grew up surrounded by art, music, brothers, sisters and parents that always supplied paint, paper, and the freedom to try new things. She lives in rural New Jersey where she and her husband, John, raised two sons, Matt and Tim, in a house filled with music and art… and hopefully a spirit that has allowed her sons to try new things too.

Karen is the Illustrator Coordinator for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  http://www.njscbwi.orgSpot #7  Romagna, Karen Headshot

You can see more of Karen’s work at:

And now for the giveaway:  A limited edition archival print.
Title: Goose Girl     

One lucky winner’s name will be drawn from a hat.  To enter the give-away, leave a comment at the end of this post for one entry.  Share this post on Twitter or Face Book or other social media site and get a second entry.   If you reblog the post, you’ll get a third entry.  You have until Monday, 11-2-2015 to enter.  Winner will be announced on Wednesday, 11-4-2015.  (Sure wish I could enter. What a gorgeous illustration!) Spot #8 Goose Girl



19 thoughts on “Interview With Illustrator Karen Romagna + Win One of Her Illustrations!

  1. This is such a wonderful interview, Darlene! Love the art in Voyage, Karen! But then again – I love all your art! Really nice post!

  2. Hi Karen! Thank you for sharing your story. As I read it, I thought about my own son, who jumps from one great idea to the next. I was thinking this was a problem of focus, but your words make me reflect and realize it is more about exploration! Thank you.

  3. I’m especially drawn to Karen’s use of watercolors in the sky. You feel like you can breathe deeply when seeing her work. Her children and animals are beautifully executed! So glad to know Karen’s work!

  4. Wonderful to hear about Karen’s journey. You would think her cousin would know this story but it is one I hope to share with my aspiring artist son, Eric.

  5. Great interview Karen. Brought me back to that amazing Morristown to Newport adventure I took with you! So proud of you and your amazing work.

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