Illustrating Challenging Topics

When I began studying art in college, I had the intention of becoming either a studio painter or an illustrator. About halfway through my education, however, I was surprised to find myself in love with graphic design, especially branding and logo design. I finished out my schooling with that as my focus and launched my career doing just that for several years.

Illustrating at desk

It wasn’t until ten years and two kids later that the opportunity to dive back into illustration came to me. While the chance to illustrate children’s books was thrilling, the topics I had been tasked to bring to life were nothing short of daunting. My first book, God Made ALL of Me, is about teaching children that their bodies—every part—are a gift from God and deserve to be protected. In addition to illustrating a book on sexual abuse prevention, I’ve illustrated topics for children ranging from racism to special needs and tackled imagery like the crucifixion, death, and heaven.

My goal as an illustrator dealing with such important subjects has and continues to be to find ways for children to engage in the book in a way that draws them in. I think my background in logo design has helped me break down larger concepts into bite-sized pictures that are relevant to young children. 

Getting kids to see themselves as a part of the story was especially important to me when illustrating The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible. When I think back to the picture Bibles that I had as a child, what I remember most are endless pages of people in robes standing around talking. At the time, it was hard for me to relate to a culture that was so different from the one I lived in. Now as an illustrator, I want to take every opportunity to introduce objects or scenes from Bible stories in ways that kids can identify with. For example, I took time to focus on the vegetables in the stew that Jacob made for Esau and the tools that Noah used to build the ark. 

illustrations from The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible

I also wanted to incorporate concepts and learning tools that parents could use to interact with their kids. That’s why I used patterns, counting, color names, opposites, and preposition concepts like “over,” “across,” and “under.” When my two children were little, books that used those concepts were some of our favorites to read together, and they were the ones we reached for over and over at bedtime.

Over the past six years, I’ve had the privilege to illustrate nearly a dozen books. I don’t think I would ever have imagined that God would choose to use my love for art and design to share the gospel. Every time I hear from a parent that their son or daughter asks to read their “blue Bible” every night, I am overcome with joy and gratitude that I get to be a part of their gospel journey. And for every book that gets sold that might help a parent teach their child how to protect their body or a child with special needs to see themselves as unique and beautifully created by God, I praise Jesus for the gift of tackling the challenging topics. 

child reading The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible

Photography by Effie Gurmeza @effiegurmeza.


The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible cover

The Beginner’s Gospel Story BIble

In The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible, author Jared Kennedy traces God’s perfect promises through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories, retold in simple and compelling ways with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. 

About the author

Trish Mahoney

Trish Mahoney is a graphic designer and illustrator in Salem, OR where she runs The Mahoney Studio with her husband, Patrick, also a designer and illustrator. They have two children—both budding artists too. Trish illustrated The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible and is also the illustrator for the God Made Me series.

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Trish Mahoney

Trish Mahoney is a graphic designer and illustrator in Salem, OR where she runs The Mahoney Studio with her husband, Patrick, also a designer and illustrator. They have two children—both budding artists too. Trish illustrated The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible and is also the illustrator for the God Made Me series.

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