Author Interview: Illustrator, and soon to be author, Farida Zaman


Toronto based illustrator Farida Zaman’s career has a greater reach than the 16 children’s books she has illustrated. Originally from Bangladesh, Farida was educated in the UK, receiving her undergraduate degree in illustration and design and a master’s degree from Chelsea School of Art. Her work has appeared in magazines, galleries, on posters, book covers, gift products, and even food packaging. Her art has been exhibited at private shows and galleries in New York City and Toronto. Fun and dynamic workshops are a specialty and she has given artistic and craft related presentations to wide-ranging age groups in both public and private schools. Farida has also lectured at art institutions and colleges in the United States and Canada. But it’s her whimsical style that makes her the perfect illustrator for children’s books. Now she is stepping into a new role, as author and illustrator with her new book, I Want To Be…. A Gutsy Girl’s ABC. We are so pleased that she is discussing her latest project with our readers.

Hi Farida. What an extensive career as an artist! When did you begin illustrating children’s books and how did the opportunity present itself?

I started my career as an illustrator and designer in 1987 in London and later moved to Toronto, Canada, where I continued to build my client base in North America. I was approached by several children’s book publishers and successfully landed my first Illustrated picture book deal. At the start of my career in England, I illustrated educational books for Oxford University Press and also illustrated book jackets for adult novels, magazine editorial illustrations, poster art, and stationery design.

During the recession, it was challenging getting work as an illustrator. The variety of print companies, including publishing houses, were cutting back on developing new projects as well as digital media taking over the more painterly styles, which is typically how I work.

In order to stay relevant, I tried developing a digital style and received commissions based on my new look, but I knew it wasn’t me. I soon learned the importance of staying true to yourself and luckily enough a decade later the handcrafted painterly look started making a comeback. Today I use my computer skills to scan and enhance my art.

What art medias do you work with?

I work in watercolor, gouache, inks and acrylic paints. My illustration style covers many areas of the print market: children’s literature (of course), editorial, stationery, art licensing, poster design, food packaging, annual reports as well as wall art. So, I remain very busy juggling many balls in the air, which keeps this exciting for me!

Your work is very multicultural. What influences have led you to focus on our world as a whole?

My heritage, being from South Asia. I travel a lot and am drawn to different cultures and enjoy the diverse history, literature, art, textiles, architecture, and food. I always walk away with tons of inspiration from it, making a point to record it photographically and in my sketchbook too.

Why do you feel it is important to present a worldview in children’s literature?

Diversity is so important and a huge tool in child development, especially for children to feel ‘oneness’ and acceptance towards each other. It also becomes a window to a child’s mind, who learns so much from cultural diversity.

What is a misconception that you think people have about children’s book illustrators?

The average person may not know the amount of work that goes into illustrating a picture book. The job of the pictures is to definitely enhance the story but very often creates a story within a story, giving it another dimension.

Tell us about your new book and what made you decide to dive into writing.

At this stage, I am very interested in developing picture book stories for children that I write and illustrate myself. I am currently working on a few manuscripts that I hope to have published as picture books, with my illustrations. The first one that has been selected by a publisher is a story inspired by the #metoo movement that had formed over the last few years. I pitched it to a publisher, and they loved it. Because it was well-received, I felt validated in the work. I think it is important for parents of female toddlers to inspire them to have drive and aspirations. Thus, the book is I Want To Be… A Gutsy Girl’s ABC, published by Second Story Press Canada. It is a board book with 26 fun and whimsical professions to which little girls can aspire towards. It’s an entertaining and imaginative book that comes out in spring 2020.

Will you share a tip or two with budding illustrators?

  1. Never give up.
  2. Look for inspiration outside of your own work. It’s really important not to be intimated by
    others’ work, so don’t compare yourself but believe in your work.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
The Girl Who Never Gives Up

Farida works out of her bright and beautiful home studio, which is full of paint palettes, easels, inspiring books, and big green plants, overlooking her lovingly planted garden. It is here where she creates all her work, often kept company by her small white dog, Pippa. She is a member of the Society of Illustrators in New York, SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and CAPIC (Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communication). She is currently the Illustrators’ representative on the executive committee of the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP). Farida is married with a daughter and son, both in college in Canada.

Check out Farida’s books here.
For all the latest on Farida, you can follow her at


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