Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Featured Illustrator

PAL Illustrator of the month for December 2018

Ed Koehler

We are pleased to announce that Ed Koehler is the Kansas/Missouri PAL illustrator of the month for December!

Ed is a freelance illustrator specializing in fun, lively art for children’s books, educational materials, and any variety of print and online products. His work has been published around the world and he has received numerous awards from the Evangelical Press Association and Associated Church Press. Ed’s expertise is in Christian publishing but his work extends to general interest, editorial, and cross-generational books and materials. Ed has designed and illustrated projects as varied as multi-media stage sets, environmental graphics for a large church youth center, and smart board Sunday School curriculum.

Thanks to Ed for sharing his thoughts and his lively work with us this month. If you’d like to see more of Ed’s work go to



How did you get started in illustration? What is your background?

Having drawn for as long as I remember, I enrolled in college as a Fine Art student. I was awarded a work study program that put me into a commercial art position at our local planetarium. This led to my preference for storytelling illustration.

What is your preferred medium, method of working? For years I worked in almost everything; gouache, watercolor, acrylic, color pencil, pen and ink. For the past dozen or so years, maybe longer, I’ve  worked mostly in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, sometimes Corel Painter. However I use my digital tablet in a traditional way. I use it to draw and paint, not to colorize scanned images.

How did your style and technique develop?

My earliest desires were to be a syndicated cartoonist. Entering college, however, I felt compelled to be a “serious” artist, and enrolled into a fine art course of study. With the aforementioned planetarium job, I found I really preferred illustration that informed, educated, and told stories. I also returned to my natural bent for fun and whimsical images. I cast off any reservations about doing humorous, kid-friendly art. I no longer concerned myself with developing an image of a serious or important artist; I simply wanted to produce joyful images of the highest quality for clients who had a sense of mission.

Can you describe a typical work day for us?

My days are flexible. My most creative time periods are early afternoon into the evening. I don’t work until midnight anymore, but I’m quite energetic well into the evening.

What do you find the most challenging in your work?

Any awkward moments when non-visual collaborators try to manipulate the images I create. I’m often asked to provide native application files, which means providing the layers in which my illustrations were created. If untrained personnel attempt to alter the art, navigating that can become quite a challenge. I often write into contracts that I am the only one who can make adjustments to the art.


What would you love to try?


Do you have a favorite book(s) from your childhood? How about more recently?

All things Dr. Seuss. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (which I regularly re-read), and the Cowboy Sam series. If I had to pick one children’s book, it would be Green Eggs and Ham.

What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?

My most recently published book, Santa’s Dog, was one of my all time favorites. I worked directly with the author, JoAnn Sky, an award-winning professional, and she was a respectful collaborator. The book weaves a military story with a rescue dog mission.
A dream project would be anything that would let me go to town with high level experimentation with bold graphic images. For self-promotion I embarked on a series of “big round-headed kids”. One of my favorites is one I call Astronomy Girl, which is a kid looking at a star through a telescope. I’ve always enjoyed any project that allows me to concentrated on the interplay of basic shapes.


Any words of advice for folks just starting out in illustration? What do you wish you would have known sooner in your illustration career?

I wish I had known the importance of sticking to a professional rate when I was younger. It’s easy when starting out to accept low rates. While there are always a variance in client budgets, working for too little is unhealthy for you and the client.

As for the art itself, do what you love to do. I advise younger artists to research clients who already have a budget for the kind of work they, the artist, loves to create. Constantly work on improving yourself and show them why you can add value to what they produce. 

What’s next for you? Any upcoming book releases we should be on the lookout for?

I’m in a number of conversations for upcoming books. Some I’ve already signed non-disclosure agreements, so I can’t say much. I am looking forward to some possible sequels to Santa’s Dog.