7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #680: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Hanna Cha

h1 March 1st, 2020 by jules

It’s the first Sunday of the month (happy March!), which means it’s time to feature a student or debut illustrator here at 7-Imp. Today, I welcome Hanna Cha, whose debut picture book — Tiny Feet Between the Mountains (Simon & Schuster) — was released last Fall. (Pictured above is the book’s title page illustration.)

This is the story of a small but bold Korean girl, who faces down the spirit tiger, the “great protector of the mountains and forest.” The massive, mythical creature has chased the sun and accidentally swallowed it, and only Soe-In has the courage and the smarts to help him and her community. The Kirkus review calls it a “bold and mythic female underdog tale with the look and feel of an ancient Korean fable.”

I’m turning the site over to Hanna now, who will talk more about the book, her background, and why she chose children’s book illustration. I thank her for visiting.

* * *

Hanna: Hi, all! I am Hanna Cha. Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, I have been living snugly in Boston. My debut children’s book, Tiny Feet Between the Mountains, was published by Simon & Schuster in November of 2019, and since then I have been thrown into the beautiful flurry called the publishing world.


(Click cover to enlarge)


Being shy and introverted, I felt out the world through reading, writing, drawing, and absorbing. For me, art and writing is my way of slowly digesting the bright flurry of concepts and flashes of experience that the world throws at me. Through it, I explore my identity, my crisis, and my emotions. It allows me to filter, empathize, and understand. All I hope is that at the end of my process I can give others solace, comfort, and warmth through my work.


— From Being A Number, a 2018 short comic about my time rowing during high school,
a time of self-doubt and teenager uncertainty


When I went to college, I was a nomad trying out every nook and corner of illustrations. But then during my junior year, after several classes in relation to picture books and children’s media with Kelly Murphy and Judy Goodwin Sturges, it just clicked. I fell in love with picture books. They are just incredible. They are simple, raw, and poetic. They are one of the few first steps that expand a child’s world. What the words cannot convey, the picture will show. And what the pictures cannot convey, the words will say.

There, I created Tiny Feet Between the Mountains [some illustrations are pictured immediately below], a story that gave tribute to my love of Korean mythology and my roots. It was also created in the hope of inspiring kids with a similar upbringing as mine and to show the American audience what traditional Korea looked like.


“‘How can someone so tiny keep up?’ the villagers would whisper to each other.
But still, Soe-In refused to give up.”

(Click image, which is sans text, to enlarge)


“Suddenly the villagers’ voices ran out. ‘You can’t even carry my pot! How can you bring back the sun?’ ‘You will be lost in those woods!’ Soe-In was startled by the outbursts,
but then she calmly folded up her sleeves and tightened her braid.”

(Click image, which is sans text, to enlarge)


” … the spirit tiger!”
(Click spread, which is sans text, to enlarge)


“Losing her footing, Soe-In began to fall, fall, fall ….”


“When she was finished, Soe-In introduced the villagers to the spirit tiger. Celebration and cheering erupted as the spirit tiger kissed Soe-In on the head. He bestowed a blessing on her and the village before returning to the mountains and forest.”
(Click image, which is sans text, to enlarge)


I fell in love with ink drawing after I learned Minhwa (traditional Korean art and calligraphy.) I have been doing the majority of my pieces with calligraphy brushes ever since. There is something about their mark-making and how they hold ink and water that just feels right for me.


— From Korean Stories Told in Alphabets, 2018
(Click image to enlarge)



(Click image to enlarge)

When it comes to my work, I emphasize imperfections, textures, and colors.

As much as I enjoy watercolors and traditionally building color, I’ve recently been enjoying the process of collaging multiple ink drawings and textures and digitally re-coloring on top of them. This allows me to be more bold and experimental with my colors. I also found this method caters to my spontaneity and allows me to work as slow or as fast as I want on the small details.

For characters, I often will repeatedly draw them in a quick fashion until I get them just right. I often find myself skipping the sketching and just going for the final for a character, repeatedly inking and drawing variations of them until I just get it where I like. Soe-In, one of the main characters in Tiny Feet Between the Mountains, is an example of where I repeatedly drew her until I got it right:



There is something that the raw energy and unpredicted brush stroke can add to a character. I find this repetitive process meditative, and it relieves the tension I have to get it right the first time.

But at the same time, there is a joy to slowing down and layering down a scenic scene in one swoop. I tend to emphasize weight and layering to my backgrounds. I am a firm believer that the scene needs to be as real as the character. Sometimes, when it comes to edits, I will stick tracing paper on top and quickly ink the piece, scan it, and then collage it into the final ink file. Here is an example:


(Click image to enlarge)


I often will draw the scene first and then leave a space for the character. I will then draw the character on a separate paper multiple times until I get it right:


(Click image to enlarge)


Below is a comic (Reminiscing) about one of the first documented Korean Americans who worked at an Alaskan fishery, a silent comic paying tribute to the Asian American presence in early America.





I am still new to this journey of mine, this honor of making art and work for children. I hope, aside from children’s books, I can explore other ways of illustrating for early readers or doing chapter book illustrations for middle readers.

Here is a quick video of the process of me digitally coloring my piece:



* * * * * * *

TINY FEET BETWEEN THE MOUNTAINS. Copyright © 2019 by Hanna Cha. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Hanna Cha. All other images used by her permission.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Yesterday’s extra day!

2) My daughters are celebrating this weekend with a friend for her birthday. I love their smart, fierce, funny friends.

3) Dinner with an out-of-town friend.

4) I know I already said this as I was watching it, but really, season two of Sex Education, which I’ve finished now, gave me all the feels, as the young people say.

5) This cover!



6) And new music from Caroline Rose.

7) Good, good reading.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #680: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Hanna Cha”

  1. Hello. thank you for sharing the work of Hanna Cha. I really love the tree illutration.
    Jules, hooray for the extra day and dinner with a friend.
    My kicks:
    1. Teaching poetry.
    2. Writing poetry with kids.
    3. Preparing for #AWP2020 in San Antonio this week.
    4. Being on a panel with Sylvia Vardell, Janet Wong, Susan Blackaby, and Xelena Gonzalez.
    5. Opportunities to send out student poetry postcards? Want one? Sign Up.
    6. Walking.
    7. Lengthening days.
    Have a great week.

  2. Really love the brightness and beauty and color of the tree and ladder illustration, and the different looks and textures conveying the emotions of the Spirit Tiger when he is on the cover, on fire and leaving the village.

    Jules – I loved having the extra day too. Yay for your kids and their friends, dinners with friends from out of town, new music and good reading. What a full week.

    Jone – have fun in San Antonio this week! The lengthening days make me so happy. Can you remind us where to sign up for poetry postcards?

    My kicks:
    1) Finished “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” by Anne Helen Petersen.
    2) Days this week that were warm enough and sunny enough to have all the windows wide open to let in the light and warmth.
    3) This article about the free performance of To Kill A Mockingbird in Madison Square Garden for public school kids: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/watching-to-kill-a-mockingbird-with-18000-teenagers-was-one-of-the-most-profound-theater-experiences-of-my-career/2020/02/27/6c084c68-5969-11ea-ab68-101ecfec2532_story.html#comments-wrapper
    4) Always a good day when you can get a case dismissed for a client.
    5) Working on a home project.
    6) Postcards from friends traveling far, far away.
    7) Looking forward to tonight’s watch party for The Outsider. I’m not cooking this week, so excited to see what’s on the menu for dinner.
    7.5) A peaceful Sunday morning with good coffee, a good playlist, and a sleepy, sweet Daisy. Its cold and overcast, so thankful that we are cozy and warm inside.

    Happy March, Imps! Have a wonderful week!

  3. Hi, Jules! You’ve become my Sunday morning treat, but today i held off until i had finished the last of my 7 kicks, which is:
    1. Lynne Kelly’s Song for a Whale – WOW!
    2. an abrupt hiatus at work that made it suddenly possible to start reading books again, so…
    3. started a brand new book club with a bunch of my favorite colleagues!
    4. found a sweater pattern to start for our soon-to-be grandchild;
    5. fabulous evening at new French bistro;
    6. enough time to cook several things in one week;
    7. facetime visit with adorable 6-month-old.

    Happy week to you!

  4. Good morning, Imps! Happy new month! Hope you all enjoyed Leap Day.

    Hello, Hanna! Hello, gorgeous tiger!

    Jules: I love a good leap day.

    Jone: Have fun!

    Rachel: Rock that fourth kick, especially.

    Mary: Sounds like a very cozy week.

    My kicks:
    1) Observing limits
    2) Rest
    3) Opportunities
    4) Snacks
    5) Support
    6) Music
    7) Atmosphere

  5. Jone, that’s an impressive panel! Is it already over or something you’re about to do?

    Rachel: What a good week. Did you hear the Fresh Air interview with Ben Mendelsohn, speaking of The Outsider? It’s wild to hear him speak in his regular accent.

    Hi, Mary! So good to see you here. SONG FOR A WHALE is on my to-be-read list, but I have to wait till June (when I’m done reading for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards). Enjoy your book club, and happy knitting (I assume it’s knitting)!

    LW: I like all these well-balanced kicks of yours this week.

    Have a good week, everyone!

  6. Rachel, The signup is on my Deowriter blog,
    Hi Mary.
    LW, I love number 7: atmosphere.
    Jules, I am leaving tomorrow for Austin and San Antonio.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.