Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Speed Interview with Rahele Jomepour Bell ...

2018 Winner of the SCBWI Summer L.A . Portfolio Showcase and Social Media Mentorship Award

When I heard that my dear friend and fellow Iowa illustrator won the portfolio showcase, it was no surprise. 

In fact, I had sent her a text message before she left for L.A that read…
“I think you could win the showcase.” 
It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving, talented, hardworking, fun, kind, humble person.

Congratulations again Rahele!

Her work has evolved on so many levels. From the serious subjects created for her MFA exhibition that depicted the harsh realities of women in Iran, to the playful, colorful, heartwarming scenes for children books, Rahele’s art captures the human emotion and spirit.

As you can imagine, she is in a flurry of deadlines but she has agreed to a speed interview. 

So… Tick Tock… Let’s get started.

Welcome Rahele to the KidLitartists blog. Congratulations for winning two amazing awards!
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. 

Q: Over the years your fine art has shifted from serious dark subjects to what you are doing now in creating children’s books. 
Can you describe the evolution and how that shift occurred? What was it that attracted you to illustrating children’s books?

A: My focus has been always on picture book illustration since 2001 to present. But after moving from Iran to the United States, I was faced with the fact of having the freedom of speech, and making art without any self-censoring. And it ended up for me to work in different studios with a variety of choices such as textile, painting, printmaking, I decided to take this advantage of telling my own story as a woman in Iran and what I had experienced; Bad and good! 

So basically, I have been doing illustration all these years but not just in the children’s book area, I love exploring the power of narrative and visual storytelling in all versions of the art. 

Q: You seem to explore many techniques and media. What is your favorite technique and process?

A: The story by itself will tell me which media or technique is the best fit for it. Recently, simplicity is my favorite technique or style. 

Any media that helps me to develop the goal of simplicity regarding illustrating a picture book will be my friend for a while. I love collage with cutting papers I have collected or I have made. 

Q: There are many high and low points on any artist’s creative journey. When looking back from where you started out to where you are now, what was the hardest thing for you? What did you do to overcome the obstacles?

A: Reading this question and trying to answer it, gave me goosebumps and teary eyes (AND A BIG SMILE) on my face! When I moved to the United States, it was 7 years ago, my main goal was to be an international children’s book illustrator. I did not know anything about the picture book publishing industry here in the US. 

I did some research and I found SCBWI, I got my student membership, 

and I met SCBWI people here in Iowa. 

That was the start of seeing sparkles in my goal! My first national SCBWI conference in LA was 5 years ago and I remember I had severe headaches after coming back from the workshops and did not even understand half of the speeches as English is my second language! 

There were times that I told myself, I would not find my way in the picture book field. But then the next day in my studio I stood up strongly and told this to myself: 

“ You Don’t Give Up What You Love!”

I did not give up, I worked with all my heart and fell in love with an organization of people who support diversity. I applied for a mentorship through WNDB (We Need Diverse Books) and I got a chance to be a mentee with four wonderful art directors and artists. 

That changed my career life.  I signed with an awesome agent and I went to my third national SCBWI conference in LA and I won Portfolio Grand Prize and Social Media Mentorship with Debbie Ohi and Laurent Lin. 

Yes!!! Do not give up, show your work to the world, send your work to any opportunity you think it is a way of promoting your work such as participating in art fairs, conferences, free contest submission. 

The more you and your work get involved with people, the more friends you find, the more inspiration you get!

Q: Last question. Can you share any news on upcoming books or projects in the near future? 

A:  Right now, I am making illustrations for a picture book written by Maryann Macdonald  (Albert Whitman, April 2019). My agent Christy Tugeau Ewers at the CAT Agency and I are about to sign another book contract with another publisher. (So Excited)!!! I am also working on my PB dummy book with my amazing mentor Pat Cummings from the WNDB mentorship. I hope I can get it done before going to the National SCBWI conference in New York. I am so excited to meet art directors and publishing houses there! HUGE SMILE

Is there anything else that you would like to add or comment on? 

A: Please find any opportunity you can submit your work! First, you might think you won’t be selected but you never know! It is the art world and there are different tastes and they might like your work! 

Before applying for WNDB, I thought, nah, they won’t select me, this is huge!!! But I did, and I did get selected! I learned and still am learning a lot from that opportunity! Do not miss any opportunity! 

Oh! Also join SCBWI, it is the place where every author or illustrator feels at home! 

I would love to share what I know to my pals, so please do not hesitate to contact me and ask your questions.

Thank you friend!  You and your work are an inspiration to all. Wonderful tips and thoughtful answers.

If you would like to learn more about Rahele and her 
art you can find her online at:


Post by Dorothia Rohner
2104 Portfolio Mentee
Author: I Am Goose! (Clarion, 2019)


  1. Congratulations Rahele! What a year!!!

  2. Your Illustration are awesome. I run a slimier blog BeOnTrack. may I use your illustrations with credits? keep up the amazing work. You have earned yourself a regular reader.