What Inspires Demi, Author and Illustrator of 100+ Children’s Books

Released this winter from the Shen’s Book imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, Confucius: Great Teacher of China is a beautiful picture book confuciusbiography that provides a warm introduction to the philosopher some call “China’s uncrowned king.” Confucius was born in 551 BCE, at a time of great war and famine in China. As he observed the suffering around him, he realized the best way to transform a society was to teach. He believed if rulers were good people—wise, trustworthy, and generous—they could lead by example, he said.  Twenty-five hundred years later, Confucius’s ideas about education, government, right behavior, and compassion continue to inspire millions every day.

Demi is the author and illustrator of more than one hundred books for children. How has she created so many award-winning books? We asked her to share a little bit about her creative process and sources of inspiration:

This is my drawing/painting desk in my studio that looks out over Lake Washington. Every book I do has this much research.demi's studiostudioAbout 30 years ago  I began practicing Buddhism. Since then, and gradually, my real world has become a great and exquisitely beautiful Land of Lights. From the central focused energy of the dazzling lights of  my meditation comes Everything. I do nothing- only remain totally well, focused and aware. Then I can watch the brush dance and the paints sing!

altar with brushes

The only way I have been able to do these books is to let myself be the channel through which these extraordinary people speak, or present themselves. With this understanding I go into deep meditation before doing these books. When I say meditation, I don’t mean to meditate on something. The real meaning of meditation is entering into the state of thoughtless-ness. When the mind is empty, the heart opens. Just like the sky — when all clouds disappear, the sunlight shines through. Similarly, when all thoughts disappear from the mind, reality reveals itself.

So these books are not done by the mind, they flow from the heart. It is not a process of mental construction, rather it is an expression of joy and love from the heart. [this portion taken from an interview done with Paper Tigers in 2014]

demi's studioOne of my favorite places to work is near my altar, [where there is] a great energy center.

tze-si huang

My husband, Tze-si Huang, was an inspiration for me, especially when writing Confucius. Here are some images from the finished book:

interior spread 1
Interior Spread 1
interior spread 2
Interior Spread 2
Learn more about Demi’s books:

Confucius: Great Teacher of China

Life of a Genius: Su Dongpo

The Great Voyages of Zheng He

demi Demi is is the author and illustrator of more than one hundred books for children. Her works have received numerous awards and accolades, among them ALA Notable Children’s Books, The New York Times Best Illustrated Books, Notable Books for a Global Society, American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, the Middle East Book Award, and the Christopher Award, which recognizes individuals whose work makes a positive difference in the world. Demi has traveled extensively and studied art in Mexico, India and China. She holds a special place in her heart for Chinese culture and counts Su Dongpo among her heroes. She lives with her husband in Carnation, Washington.

4 thoughts on “What Inspires Demi, Author and Illustrator of 100+ Children’s Books”

  1. Thank you for sharing Demi’s way of work here. As a first grade teacher, I shared her work with my students for many years. Now as a writer I admire her work even more.

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