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Rafael López's artwork
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Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator Rafael López finds inspiration in communicating concepts with an emotional twist: his work is a fusion of strong graphic style and magical symbolism. While growing up in Mexico City, he was immersed by his architect parents in the rich cultural heritage and native color of street life. Influenced by Mexican muralists, dichos (sayings) and myths, Rafael developed a bold, vital drawing style, rooted in these traditions. He trained as an illustrator at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and he finds inspiration in communicating concepts with an emotional twist.

In addition to illustrating several acclaimed children's books, Rafael's work has appeared in all the major art and design magazines in the United States. He is the creator of two stamps for the United States Postal Service: "The Latino Dance," which was part of the Smithsonian "Trendsetters" exhibit; and the "Equality" stamp, which promotes and celebrates equality in education.

Rafael also envisioned and led the Urban Art Trail Project that transformed San Diego's blighted East Village with colorful murals, sculptures and art installations - a model of urban renewal that was implemented in cities around the nation.

A regular speaker at conferences and book fairs, Rafael divides his time between his studio in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and a loft in downtown San Diego, where he works and lives with his wife Candice and five year old son, Santiago.



Do you have a favorite painting technique?

I use acrylics and paint on textured  wood panels to accomplish most of my textures.

Is the process of illustrating children's poetry different from illustrating stories?

Yes. Poetry invites a more conceptual approach to the illustration versus a more descriptive solution.

Can you tell us a little bit about illustrating Yum! Mmm! Que Rico! America's Sproutings by Pat Mora?

The experience of working on Yum! Mmm! Que Rico! was different than with previous books.

The short nature of the Haiku poems allowed me more opportunities to explore different visual solutions. It was a little intimidating but I really enjoyed the challenge.

Do you have new children's book projects coming out in 2008?

 I just finished my fourth children’s book, which should be out by Luna Rising at the end of the year.

I'm currently in the process of finishing a fifth one and, in addition, my wife and I are working on a book together, an inspiring story written by her. I have some initial sketches in the works. Working on books can be challenging, both financially and time wise. It requires an initial vision, tons of enthusiasm, lot's of patience and willingness to work as a team and to compromise. And, of course, the discipline to carry that enthusiasm all the way to the finish line. But the results can be incredibly fulfilling: knowing that  many kids will be able to enjoy the pictures and stories. What a fun way to help kids learn!


Posted March 2008

Rafael López
Rafael López's photo


Illustrated by Rafael López:

written by Pat Mora,
Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children's Day/
Book Day

(HarperCollins/Rayo, 2008)

written by Pat Mora,
Yumm! Mmm! Que Rico!: America's Sprouting
(Lee & Low, 2007)

written by Pam Muñoz Ryan,
Our California
(Charlesbridge, 2006/2007)

written by Monica Brown,
My name is Celia/ Me Llamo Celia:
The Life of Celia Cruz

(Luna Rising, 2004)
Americas Award winner
Pura Belpre Honor Book


For more information, visit his website
or contact him at his studio:

Rafael Lopez  Studio
843 10th. Avenue Suite C
San Diego CA 92101



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