Where We Come From: An Illustrator’s Perspective

Where We Come From is a visually striking exploration of family, history, and identity from four authors who collaborated to create a single, poetic text. The richly layered illustrations from illustrator Dion MBD connect past and present in this accessible picture book.

Today Dion MBD joins us to talk about his art, his biggest influences, and hopes for the future. Read on to see some of the process photos and sketches from the book as well as photos from the Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) International Airport “Stars of the North” storytelling exhibit!

How would you describe your art?

I think a lot of people see artmaking as an emotional craft. I agree with that, but not completely. The “seed” for my art always begins from how I feel toward a certain subject matter, but the process of crafting it is always meticulously planned. My art is more of an orchestrated collection of information with the goal of leading myself and my viewers to feel a certain way.

What is your biggest influence?

I would say my living conditions and my mental states. A lot of my inspirations are drawn from where I live, the people around me, or the things I am going through in my own life. I think that is the easiest way to be honest and unique in my craft.

Do you have a dream project?

Personally, I would love to be able to have enough passive income that I can just do art like writing diaries. I want to be able to just illustrate my days, my life experiences, or just my random thoughts without any financial considerations attached to the act.

What kinds of projects are your favorite?

So far, I love when I collaborate on projects that are mindfully selected for me. For example, the book Where We Come From. When I received the manuscript for that book, I thought I was the one who wrote the words because they sound exactly how I would sound if I were to write a book. Another memorable one was a cover for the novel When We Were Them by Laura Taylor Namey. The story was very evocative yet also meticulously written.

Is there something you wish you could change from your career right now?

I wish I could stop working for a whole year and rediscover myself and strengthen my technical skills. As a young illustrator, I was very eager to find work, but now I wish I would have taken it slower and focused more on my craft and personal development.

Sketches from Where We Come From

Dion MBD has generously shared some sketches and process photos from creating the illustrations for Where We Come From. Take a look!

Visit the “Stars of the North” storytelling exhibit

Art from Where We Come From is now featured in the Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) International Airport “Stars of the North” storytelling exhibit! This display will be available for viewing in Terminal 1: Concourse C until October 31st. If you can’t visit, no worries! Take a look at some of these photos!

Praise for Where We Come From

“[The authors] individually and collectively tell the story of how this country has developed and how many unique parts are reflected in people today. . . . Children and adults will find much to study and contemplate in this unique and ambitious work.”—Booklist

“[A] quilt of many details that gives the reader less a feeling of understanding one person but more a sense of the rich tapestry that is America.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This collaboration of American voices offers an unusual and honest look at the complexity of identity.” —Shelf Awareness

Connect with the illustrator

Dion MBD is an Indonesian illustrator who is deeply intrigued by the humans psyche and the natural world. Dion works for worldwide clients from his studio in Bandung where he lives with his two cats, Pixel and Vector.

Lerner interviews authors and illustrators every month. Take a look at some more interviews here.

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