HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8Illustration Inspiration: Renée Graef, Illustrator of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry
Illustration Inspiration_ Renee Graef, Illustrator of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry

Illustration Inspiration: Renée Graef, Illustrator of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry

The Children’s Book Review | March 14

Renée Graef has illustrated over seventy books for children, including the Kirsten series in the American Girl collection and many of the My First Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Milwaukee.

Latest published book …

Thérèse Makes a Tapestry

Inspired by …

The artisan community of Gobelins Tapestry Factory in Paris during the reign of King Louis XIV in the 1670’s. The process of making a tapestry involved the many artists who painted the artwork, spun the yarn, created the “cartoons”, dyed the yarn, pulled the metal thread and wove the tapestry. I am so inspired by all of the artists involved in this creative collaboration. Also, I love all things French and all things historical so this was the perfect book for me!


Art medium used …

Acrylic and oil paint.

Artistic process …

After the thumbnail sketches are done, I look for models for the characters and schedule a photoshoot. Then I sketch out more detailed drawings. The illustration starts with sepia tone acrylics to establish the values (on Cresent illustration board). I add the rest of the colors starting with the “given” colors (blue for sky, greens for trees and such). Most of the painting is done in the acrylic phase. To seal the acrylic, three layers of Liquin are applied. All of the hard work is done at this point. The oil paint is used to hone in on the details and create a more painterly look.



Favorite place to create & illustrate …

My studio. I love listening to podcasts and stories. There is so much information on the internet. It is delightful to create and learn all at the same time.

Most used art supply or tool …

Pencil. Then eraser. Pencil. Eraser. The back and forth process of creating and editing.

Illustrator idols …

Where do I start? Maurice Sendik is number one. N.C. Wyeth, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Hilary Knight, Garth Williams and Winsor McCay would be the start of a long list of illustrators.

All-time favorite children’s book you didn’t illustrate…

Sailor Dog, by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Garth Williams. I loved how Scuppers the Sailor Dog had his grand adventure in a safe and cozy sort-of-way. It is funny how life works out. I illustrated many of the “My First Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder because I had a style that was similar to Garth Williams.

A literary character to create art with …

Alice from Alice in Wonderland. It was my favorite book early in my career. Although I identified with the Mad Hatter because I owned 240 hats at one point in my life. That’s a little crazy. I’m down to about 80 hats now. That’s much more sane.

Currently working on …

This is the first time in four years that I am caught up with book deadlines so it is nice to work on my website and newsletter. I am waiting to hear about a couple of book projects.

Connect with Renée Graef …

The Getty Museum has a series of interviews about inspiration. My interview is at:

www.reneegraef.comFacebook | Twitter | Instagram

Therese Makes a Tapestry coverThérèse Makes a Tapestry

Written by Alexandra S.D. Hinrichs

Illustrated by Renée Graef

Publisher’s Synopsis: Step back in time to seventeenth-century Paris with Thérèse, a talented young girl who lives and works at the Gobelins Manufactory, where Europe’s greatest artisans make tapestries and luxury objects for King Louis XIV. Even though girls are not trained on the great looms there, Thérèse practices on a small one at home and dreams of becoming a royal weaver someday.

This charming story follows Thérèse as she carries out an ambitious plan with the help of family, friends, and the artisans of the Gobelins. The intricate craft of tapestry weaving is illuminated, and surprises await Thérèse, her parents and brothers, and even the king himself. Children’s book author Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs here breathes vivid life into a delightful tale full of fun twists and an appealing cast of characters.

Original paintings by award-winning artist Renée Graef playfully illustrate the book, as well as the many steps involved in the creation of the famous Gobelins tapestries, from dyeing wool and making silver thread, to painting and copying the elaborate designs, to the delicate art of weaving.

Thérèse’s fictional adventures are inspired by real people, the actual Gobelins Manufactory, and a beautiful tapestry that hangs today in the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Ages 6-9 | Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1606064733

Available Here: 

Thérèse Makes a Tapestry 2


Discover more picture book illustration inspiration and books like “Thérèse Makes a Tapestry,” written by Alexandra S.D. Hinrichs and illustrated by Renée Graef, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our Illustration Inspiration series and articles tagged with , and 

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.


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