Rahele Jomepour Bell – Illustrator Interview

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10450247_10152989684706996_2224583621340497203_oI encountered Rahele’s work through this year’s Tomie de Paola SCBW illustrator competition where the prompt was: to illustrate a moment from a passage from Philip Pullman’s version of “Little Red Riding Hood” from FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM (Viking, 2012). I  admired Rahele’s entry, especially the unusual perspective, and I am glad she shared some of the process of creating it below. I am thrilled to have my first Iranian interviewee on Miss Marple’s Musings.

[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator?  If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

[RJB] Illustrator. I have been an illustrator for almost 18 years, but I can hardly call myself an author because I am in the very early steps of writing picture books.

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?

[RJB] I am from Mashhad, Iran, a large city in the north east of the country.

Mashdad, in the NE of Iran not far from the Turkmenistan border

Mashdad, in the NE of Iran not far from the Turkmenistan border (added by Joanna as I love to learn the specifics of geographical locations)

My affinity for decorative style with emphasis on details has roots in traditional Persian works of painters such as Behzad (15th century C.E). I tend to use the bright colors of Iranian miniatures with their geometric compositions in which the color plays a key role. I like to move the eye of the observer throughout the picture using the dynamic gestures of the figures and replication of different elements. I enjoy merging contemporary concepts with those found throughout traditional Iranian work.

[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[RJB] After finishing my diploma at an art high school in Iran, I was awarded an internship in one of the most famous publications in Iran ‘Beh-Nashr’, resulting in the publication of my first two books in 2001. After that I knew I wanted to be an illustrator. I did my undergraduate in graphic design and my masters in illustration the University of Tehran.

I later enrolled at Iowa State University to pursue my Master of Fine Arts, focusing on painting. I was fortunate to work with a renowned illustrator, Chuck Richards, as my advisor. Professor Richards encouraged me to be in contact with international artists in order to expand my knowledge and understanding of art. At Iowa State University I was able to develop my artistic freedom and expression in ways I had not previously been able.

[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[RJB] I love drawing with a variety of different pencils such mechanical pencil or Conté Crayon, and on different paper such as Moleskine sketchbook or Stonehenge smooth papers.

[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?

[RJB] I have done a lot of biological illustrations for scientists and now it inspires me to bring this knowledge to my art. I grew up with watching cartoons from European countries and a lot of my works borrowed their moods from those animation styles; Like Alfie Atkins series of animated cartoons.

[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?

[RJB] Pencil is my favorite medium. I like its flexibility and organic nature. When I have a story, I do a lot of doodles in a loose style. At first I try to study the characters and find the best one for the story, then I start to work on the composition and slowly I add details to the final drawing. I scan the drawing and textures that I have made, then assemble them and add color in Photoshop.

Here I share my WIP for Little Red Riding Hood:


             Sketch turned to the final drawing.

Little Red Riding Hood, Final artwork, 2016

[JM] Name at least three artists/illustrators who have particularly influenced you?

[RJB] Kaml ud-Dn Behzd, Sultan Muhammad, Feodor Rojankovsky, Fritz Baumgarten, Hans Arnold, Yuri Vasnetsov, Errol Le Cain, kay Nielsen, Maurice Sendak and Renata Liwska.


By Sultan Muhammad. 1515-1522

[JM] What does your workspace look like?

Here is a photo of my little home studio in Ames, Iowa.


[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house? 

[RJB] Yes, I have a lot of work from artists who their style completely different of mine. I love particularly the abstract painting of Barbara Walton. I have it hanging in my studio (home studio).


[JM] Have you attended any conferences or workshops that have been particularly helpful to you?

[RJB] Yes, as a member of SCBWI I have attended conferences in New York and Los Angeles, and soon will be attending the Wild, Wild, Midwest Conference in Chicago. In LA conference, I met Marla Freeze for my portfolio consultant. She gave me very good pieces of advice about my work and after that I started to work hard to find my way to the publishing industry. I learned a lot and I made wonderful friends.

Five Fun Ones to Finish?                                                                                                 [JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?

[RJB] Any place that faces the ocean is my favorite place in the world.

[JM] Cats or dogs?

[RJB] Cats!

[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?

[RJB] Most people from west do not know how familiar I am with the western literature. For example when I say I have read all Agatha Christie novels, when I was 14 years old, it surprises them!

[JM] I am so happy to know that you are already a Miss Marple fan! And I am ion impressed. I believe the only Iranian ones I have read are Persepolis and Journey from the Land of No. What word best sums you up?

[RJB] Comedic!

[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

[RJB] Chocolate and a cup of tea!

I am adding some more examples of Rahele’s work below as well as her social media links:

Website: http://www.rahelestudio.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rahele_studio/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jomepour/

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6 Responses to Rahele Jomepour Bell – Illustrator Interview

  1. Rahele’s work is rich, colorful, and detailed. One could spend hours looking at a single piece! What fun to meet an artist of Iranian origin…I had some friends who were first gen and immigrant Iranians at university but have sadly lost touch. It is such a rich and fascinating culture. Thanks for sharing her beautiful art, Joanna!

  2. Patricia says:

    Such lovely work – colorful & detailed with so many layers. I chuckled when I read how you discovered Rahele’s work initially, Joanna. Pullman’s book is on my nightstand for a rereading.

  3. Yay! I love Rahele’s work and look forward to all her posts – and soon to own one of her books!

  4. Excellent interview ladies. I enjoyed meeting Rahele and being introduced to her exquisite artwork. I really love Rahele’s style, detail and use of vibrant color. The Red Riding Hood (love the big eyes) illustration was especially intriguing. The reflection of the wolf’s head in a puddle/pond was brilliant. I could stare at all of the details for a while, as I am sure kids will do. And, I enjoyed hearing about her journey and look forward to reading one of her books.

  5. Love your work Rahele and it’s detail and rich color.

  6. I loved this entry in the contest. Perhpas I’ll get to meet Rahele in person at the Chicago conference. 🙂

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