Illustrator Interview with Mark Nino Balita!

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

Welcome back to Qamber Kids! Today we are excited to introduce the newest artist to the #IllustratorTeam, Mark Nino Balita. Mark loves to draw cute, funny cartoon images about people and animals. He prefers to draw something positive and lively. Mark's art style is sketchy and very loose. It actually makes him smile when people say “Oh, this one looks like it was drawn by a kid”. He believes that is the best way to approach artworks for children. Mark always want children to be inspired and confident. He hopes that when they see his works, they can say, “I can do that, too!"

We hope you enjoy reading about Mark's artistic journey as much as we have getting to know him. Happy reading!

QK: Mark, first off, we wanted to welcome you officially to Qamber Kids! We're so excited to share your work with our extended literary family and appreciate you taking the time to share with us today. To begin, can you tell us about your journey into illustrating and what led you to pursue your passion?

MB: Thank you! I am really excited to be a part of your team. My passion for drawing started when I was a kid. I just kept on drawing even though I was not the best at it. I can still remember that time when the entire class was busy reviewing for the exam, yet there I was, still doodling on my notebook. My friends and classmates eventually found what they were passionate about as we grow up, but I guess illustration is what stuck with me until now.

QK: Illustration can be as tough a market to break into as the books we help bring to life. As you developed your career, what helped you most?

MB: Criticism is what helped me the most. Again I was not really good at drawing. I did not go to art school. I am basically self-taught. During the early years of my illustration career, a lot of people discouraged me to pursue art, primarily because I was not good enough, and secondly because it was a belief that there really is no money in art. But I kept on persisting because I really have no other option in my mind. My girlfriend, who is my wife now, was my biggest supporter. She believed in me even during the times when I doubted myself. Also, another factor that helped me the most is the comics convention in the Philippines, called Komikon. I was also a comic book creator, and I got the best pieces of advice to pursue an art career from fellow comic artists. Some of them are also children’s book illustrators. They introduced me to children’s book illustration.

QK: We see you favor a mix of traditional and digital mediums in your artwork. Can you describe your technique?

MB: I love to draw with dip pens and ink, and sometimes with multi-liner pens. I love lots of loose lines on my drawing. I usually do the illustrations on paper then scan the image and then do the colors digitally. However now, when the deadline is tight, I do all the illustrations digitally, using the app called Procreate on the Ipad. I still prefer drawing traditionally though. Nothing beats drawing on an actual paper.

QK: Is there a medium you love but don't get a chance to use often in your work?

MB: I love watercolor illustrations, but I am not really good at it. I still do it from time to time. I guess black and white illustrations with lots of lines is what I am really good at.

QK: How long does it take you to complete a project, typically and how do you decide when it is done?

MB: It usually takes me two to three months to finish a 32-page children’s book. It depends on how the preliminary sketches go. If there is a lot of back and forth with the revisions on the sketches, it takes longer. Usually, a book is finished when both the author and I are happy with the illustrations.

QK: Any projects from your portfolio you are especially proud of and would like to share?

MB: I am especially proud of the book, “The Changing of the Guard” by Karen Appleton. That book was what really made me believe that I can do children’s book illustrations. I was really doubting my ability, but that book made me confident about what I can do. I love doing the illustrations in that book, and the author is really one of the nicest people I have met in my career. She encouraged me during the project and even after. We are still good friends now.

QK: While working on so many fantastic projects, have you been inspired to write a picture book of your own?

MB: I have written several stories and have pitched several books with publishers. I am still developing my writing skills, and hopefully, I would be a published author and illustrator soon.

QK: Are there any new projects you're working on that you'd like to share with us?

MB: Most of my projects are for self-published authors, so I am afraid I cannot share them yet. However, I am currently working on a gag comic strip that I am planning to pitch in a national newspaper here in the Philippines. I used to have a serialised comic strip with them but was not able to continue the strip when I got busy illustrating children’s books. I plan to be serialised again with the same newspaper, but this time with a new comic strip. I am also editing and polishing a children’s book story that I have written and have begun illustrating. It is all about a girl and her pet cat who hates her.

QK: Are there any professional goals that you have not yet reached? What do you see for your future?

MB: I want to get published as a children’s book author and illustrator. That is my ultimate goal. And maybe have my book sold at Barnes and Noble. :) I just want to have a book that I can call my own, that my daughters would be very proud to show to their classmates and friends.

QK: Do you have any advice or insight for illustrators who are trying to break in?

MB: My life motto now may not be the most practical but it works for me. It is what Travis Barker, the drummer of a band called Blink 182, said on a podcast. If you have a dream, there should not be a plan B. Because if there is, you would not do your best. You will play it safe. Once you encounter obstacles and hardships, you will fall back and go to your other options. If you want something in life, you have to give it your all. When I pursue art as a career, I have no other options in mind. Luckily it worked for me. Hopefully, it works for you too. :)

QK: Mark, thank you so much for sharing!

MB: Thank you as well. It has been an honor. I really look forward to creating illustrations with you!


To see more of Mark’s work you can view his portfolio or follow his artistic adventures on Facebook. If you enjoyed getting to know a bit about Mark and his work and want to show some love for our #IllustratorTeam, please share or comment below.


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