Back to News

Visual Development Grad: From Passion to Pro in Children’s Books

Michelle Laurentia Agatha, a graduate of Academy of Art University’s School of Visual Development, fondly recalls being read to by her parents. Children’s books allowed her to expand her visual imagination while also serving as a source of entertainment.

Today she’s applying that experience for a global nonprofit organization as a professional illustrator of books for young people.

Hansel and Gretel, illustration by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

During her time at Academy of Art, Agatha enrolled in classes taught by School of Illustration instructor Julie Downing, where she learned the disciplines of involved in creating children’s books. That led to her falling “in love” with developing art for them, she says.

Village Mouse and Town Mouse, illustration by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

Internship Leads to Employment

After graduating from the Academy with a BFA in 2019, Agatha began interning at a nonprofit called Room to Read, an organization recommended to her by Downing. Room to Read works with underdeveloped countries to publish children’s books in local languages and to provide support for girls’ education. “I’m working in the literacy [section], where we help illustrators and authors in nine major country offices around the world,” she reports.

Environment painting by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

“We help illustrators and authors in those countries who are not as privileged, so they can produce their own books.”

For a Laotian textbook, Agatha created illustrations in the book as well as the cover. She has also contributed illustrations for other children’s textbooks. In addition to illustrating, she has contributed editing of the English translations of the books.

Character study, Romeo and Juliet, by Michelle Laurentia Agatha
Character study, Romeo and Juliet, by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

Reviving Children’s Classics

Another project Agatha worked on was creating an illustration workshop for Room to Read’s office in San Francisco. “The people from each department were grouped into teams, and each of the teams created its own version of classic fairytales such as Cinderella, Rapunzel and others,” she explains. Next, “we helped each team create quick character designs and half-sized book dummies. We chose the best three books and illustrated them.”

Michelle Laurentia Agatha

Three months into her internship, Agatha was offered a fellowship with the nonprofit, and Downing couldn’t be prouder of her. “They liked her so well, they created a job for her,” says Downing. “They’ve never had a fellowship before. Now they do, so she can be paid and work full-time there.

Expression sheet, illustration by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

“Just the fact that she could enter this very busy, somewhat chaotic work environment and get right in there and start working…. She’s quite amazing that way, and she’s using a lot of her illustration skills as well.”

Illustration by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

Learned Skills: The Basis of Professionalism

She credits the Academy for preparing her for this opportunity and future illustration-related endeavors. “I learned a lot about the importance of language, composition, visual hierarchy, colors, and basically, about the base of creating good design and good illustration,” says Agatha. “I bring [those skills] here as an employee to try to make the design as good as possible and help others.”

Original article by Caroline Andrade of Academy Art U News,

Images courtesy of Michelle Laurentia Agatha

Academy of Art University Search Search Search Previous Next Previous Next Next Next Chat Quote Facebook Google Plus Instagram Pinterest Twitter YouTube LinkedIn TikTok WeHeartIt Download App Close