Illustration Friday — A portfolio-building tool!

By Diana Zipeto

Participating in the Illustration Friday website challenge has been instrumental in helping me build my children’s illustration portfolio. Each Friday, the site posts a new one-word theme (recent ones have been SPARK, VOICE, TWISTED). Participants have one week to interpret the theme in their style and medium, then post the image to the Illustration Friday site. The site is open to all skill levels and genres of illustration, including children’s book imagery.

Here is a screenshot of the site:

For me, the major benefits of participating in Illustration Friday have been:
1. Concepting

The weekly themes give a great jumping off point, something new to think about and develop ideas around. When my own themes and ideas kind of go round and round in my head, it can be refreshing to have an outside theme come in (URBAN! GHOST! ROBOT!) and shake things up.  Also, coming up with multiple concepts for Illustration Friday has helped me transition from work that was kind of vague, personal and a little weird into work that is more clear, lively and appropriate for the children’s market.

The theme for this image was VOICE:


2. Deadline
Having a clear, fast deadline has been important to me in developing work and a work habit. Illustration Friday’s one week time frame has allowed me (well, forced me) to get past obstacles in confidence (I can’t draw fireworks! Moving water? Ack!) simply because I have to in order to finish the piece in time. I’ve learned to make adjustments and solve problems that without a deadline might have hung me up indefinitely.

3. Camaraderie/Networking/Site traffic
Illustrator and illustration career consultant Holli Conger is a great advocate of using Illustration Friday to get your work out there.  As an illustrator, you post your work on the Illustration Friday site, but Holli also encourages illustrators to comment on other people’s work. This has the unexpected side effect of allowing you to connect with many other illustrators and to develop some lasting, supportive relationships. I recently got to meet one illustrator in person at the NYC SCBWI winter conference, which was great! Commenting on other people’s work also helps articulate things about my own work. Holli advises that posting work can result in a good amount of traffic to your site blog.

Here are some comments on a post from fellow Illustration Friday illustrators:


4. Output
Having a piece completed (almost) every week has helped me to quickly build up a body of work, try new ideas/feedback right away, and keep on a schedule. I take breaks at times when I have other deadlines, but love getting back into it.

Here is a sample of images all developed using Illustration Friday themes.


I can’t be grateful enough to Illustration Friday’s founder, illustrator Penelope Dullaghan, and the rest of the creative team who built the site from a tiny personal blog 10 years ago to a humungous site with hundreds of weekly participants. If you are looking for some inspiration, head over to Illustration Friday and check it out!

Diana Zipeto is an illustrator and designer living in an energizing artist community in Lowell, MA. You can see her work at She has most recently illustrated books in the Olive and Max series published by Schoolwide, Inc.

Related post:
Why are picture books 32 pages? By Joyce Audy Zarins


  1. Great post, Diana! I agree – I’ve found Illustration Friday to have tremendous benefit on so many levels! I originally started participating simply to keep myself drawing, but the camaraderie & friendships I’ve developed have been an unexpected and wonderful bonus!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s