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Illustrator Spotlight - Polina Gortman

A new book series is underway, and, with that, comes...a new illustrator! I'm very excited to announce that I've officially hired an illustrator for One Little Squiggle (read the book description here). Her name is Polina Gortman, and she is a very talented artist and the perfect person to bring this book to life! Here's more information about Polina's background and her artistic style:

Children's Book Illustrator Polina Gortman
Polina Gortman

Polina Gortman, a picture book and early reader book illustrator, is based just east of Seattle, Washington. Her art, described as sweet, heart-warming, and painterly, often features nature, children, and animals, inspired by her childhood in Siberia.

Polina's journey began far from the Pacific Northwest, on the banks of the Yenisey River in Siberia. Raised by her grandmother, she spent her formative years exploring the taiga, feeding burdock leaves to cows, and spinning imaginative tales about toys lost in the vegetable garden. Her love for illustrations began early, as she would spend hours absorbed in kids' magazines and storybooks.

In 2007, Polina graduated from Siberian Federal University with a degree in Intercultural Communication and Japanese-to-Russian translation. She worked as a teacher and translator before moving to the United States in 2012, where she rediscovered her passion for art. In 2014, she decided to pursue a career in illustration. Joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in 2017, Polina enrolled in a Picture Book Illustration class with Dana Sullivan, which helped her find her voice as a picture book maker. Through SCBWI, she met her critique group, The Broad Strokes, and began her journey into the world of children's book illustration.

Polina’s work has been showcased in exhibitions, including the "Drawn to Books" group exhibition by the SCBWI Western Washington chapter at Seattle City Hall in 2017. Her illustrated book "Randall and Randall," written by Nadine Poper, received a Blue Star from Kirkus Reviews in 2019. She has collaborated with clients such as Cricket Media for Ask Magazine and Schiffer Publishing. Most recently she has illustrated a picture book by Katherine Pryor titled "Spring is for Strawberries," a lyrical celebration of produce seasonality through the lens of a farmer’s market.

Polina’s style blends watercolor, ink, and colored pencil, though she is increasingly exploring digital watercolor. After experiencing Seattle's winters, she developed a love for bright, warm colors, which now permeate her illustrations. Passionate about creating kind stories with big hearts, Polina is especially interested in illustrating stories for children with disabilities and advocating for environmental issues, animals, and science through her art.

When not in her studio, Polina enjoys playing board games, reading picture books at her neighborhood library, exploring the evergreen trails of the Pacific Northwest, and inventing new safe recipes to accommodate multiple food allergies for her friends and family.

After spending January, February, and March scouring hundreds of illustration portfolios online, I finally reached out to The Train Rolls On Illustrator Christina Wald for an artist recommendation. Christina's been in the illustration business for a long time, so she's built a solid network of artist friends and colleagues. Plus, I trust her. I knew that I could count on her to connect me with some good people. So, in early April, I emailed Christina a description of One Little Squiggle and the artistic style I was looking for and asked if she knew any illustrators that would be a good fit for the project. Once again, she didn't disappoint. She sent me a list of talented artists, and Polina Gortman was at the top of that list.

At the time, I had never heard of Polina, but I diligently examined the portfolios for each of the artists that Christina had recommended. Right away, there were several things about Polina's portfolio that excited me. Here are a few of my favorite examples of her artwork:

First off, I loved that Polina's portfolio featured a variety of female characters. I had imagined the main character of One Little Squiggle to be a young girl (about 6-8 years old), and Polina showcased several characters that fit the bill. Moreover, many of her characters had a casual, curious style that felt fitting for this book. This, along with Polina's soft (yet colorful) palette and her ability to perfectly capture a cat's personality (since One Little Squiggle also features a cat), rocketed her toward the top of my illustrator candidate list. When I later read Polina's bio and saw that she was interested in illustrating stories about girls going on adventures, I knew I had to contact her about illustrating One Little Squiggle.

Funny enough...Polina contacted me first! After Christina gave her a heads-up about the book and made sure she was willing to take on a new self-publishing project, Polina actually reached out to let me know that she was both interested and available. After talking to Polina, I was even more excited...and relieved. Not only was she interested in illustrating the book, but she was open to entertaining all of my unorthodox ideas for creating it. In the end, she seemed just as excited about the story as I was, and she was ready to take on the challenge of illustrating it- what a dream come true! Thanks to Christina, I had connected with a new illustrator, and everything was falling into place.

Needless to say, I'm super excited to work with Polina on this project, and I feel so fortunate to have her on my team! I'm confident that she is the perfect illustrator to bring this book to life! For more information about Polina or to check out more of her fabulous artwork, visit her website at or contact her at For more information about One Little Squiggle, follow the publishing journey here.

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