Interview with Artist/Illustrator Mae Waite


Mae-WaiteArtist Mae Waite is a mas­ter of col­or and tex­ture. She loves to exper­i­ment with a vari­ety of tech­niques and sur­faces. Work­ing in ink, oils, acrylics, and water­col­ors, Maeʻs work is a bold expres­sion of the world around her. “I cre­ate for myself and for you,” she writes. We are so pleased to fea­ture our talk sto­ry with artist Mae Waite.

For those who haven’t met you yet, please tell us a lit­tle about yourself. 

My name is Mae Waite, and I’m an illustrator/painter. I’ve been paint­ing since I was three years old. I received my BA in art with a con­cen­tra­tion in stu­dio art from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaii at Mānoa. I’ve been a free­lance painter since grad­u­at­ing in 2018. I’m also a part-time arti­san at Louis Vuit­ton, so it’s safe to say I’m always painting.

Where did you grow up? What high school did you grad from?

This ques­tion always makes me pause because I’ve moved around so much. My father was in the Navy so I had the won­der­ful expe­ri­ence of liv­ing in mul­ti­ple states such as Cal­i­for­nia, Wash­ing­ton, DC, and Hawaii. I attend­ed Rad­ford for my fresh­man and sopho­more year before mov­ing to Kent, Wash­ing­ton, and fin­ish­ing my high school edu­ca­tion at Kent­wood High School.

Go Roy­al Lions! Why did you become an artist/illustrator? Did you always know you could cre­ate art?

I’ve always had a fas­ci­na­tion with art and cre­at­ing. I love the thought of trans­form­ing a vision or an idea into some­thing tan­gi­ble. It real­ly feels mag­i­cal. Becom­ing an illus­tra­tor was more serendip­i­tous. I nev­er thought that illus­trat­ing books would ful­fill me as much as it did until Kaylin [author of Alo­ha Every­thing] found me.

What do you enjoy most about illus­trat­ing? What are some of your great­est challenges?

There are so many things about illus­trat­ing that I love. I love look­ing at a project and gaug­ing its poten­tial. It’s like being pre­sent­ed with a bunch of small puz­zles and it’s up to me to find the best solu­tions that fit the concepts/theme. I guess that’s one of the biggest chal­lenges as well. I’m also a bit of a per­fec­tion­ist and want to put my best effort in my paintings.

Illus­tra­tion @ Mae Waite from Alo­ha Every­thing by Kaylin Melia George (Mythi­fy, 2023)

Can you share a bit of your upcom­ing debut pic­ture book, Alo­ha Every­thing, illus­trat­ed by you and writ­ten by Kaylin Melia George? Is this your first pic­ture book?

I don’t want to spoil any­thing but in a nut­shell, it fol­lows a girl named Ano who learns about her Native Hawai­ian her­itage through hula and her adven­tures. And yes, tech­ni­cal­ly Alo­ha Every­thing is my first children’s pic­ture book although I was work­ing on it along side anoth­er book called Alo­ha Christ­mas by Bur­ton Richardson.

What was the process like to mak­ing those beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tions in Alo­ha Every­thing?

The cre­ative process was awe­some. My col­lab­o­ra­tion with Kaylin was a very spe­cial expe­ri­ence that made the project so much fun. We first start­ed the cre­ative process by dis­cussing the mood boards that Kaylin cre­at­ed. She did a real­ly great job set­ting the visu­al pace of the book. Once we were on the same page, I began the con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing phase which main­ly con­sist­ed of cre­at­ing sim­ple com­po­si­tions that high­light­ed the text best. We gen­er­al­ly refer to these as thumb­nail sketch­es. The book is split into three dif­fer­ent sequences: Main, Rest, and I Spy. Ear­ly in this stage we didn’t have a style estab­lished yet but what we knew that it was impor­tant for us to have con­sis­ten­cy for all three sequences. We want­ed to make sure that the I Spy and rest pages were dis­tin­guish­able from the main pages. The next step was cre­at­ing char­ac­ter designs for Ano who was the pro­tag­o­nist. We cre­at­ed a hand­ful of ver­sions. We also cre­at­ed char­ac­ter designs for a cou­ple of rec­og­niz­able names such as Laka, who we end­ed tak­ing out in the final, and Pele.

To achieve the over­all looks of our char­ac­ters, I ref­er­enced sources such as The Mer­rie Monarch Fes­ti­val and archives from UHM’s data­base that held images of dif­fer­ent instru­ments, tra­di­tion­al attires, and tools. I also looked at dif­fer­ent mod­ern­ized Native Hawai­ian looks that inspired the fun and whim­sy ele­ment that chil­dren would enjoy.

After the long and tedious job of gath­er­ing ref­er­ences, I start­ed cre­at­ing drafts of the pages based off the thumb­nail sketch­es. Then, I cre­at­ed col­or swatch­es fol­lowed by dig­i­tal ren­der­ings to fur­ther explain my visions. After that, we took it to the big paper. I cut 300 lb Arch­es water­col­or paper to the prop­er dimen­sions and dove into paint­ing. We didn’t paint the pages in chrono­log­i­cal order which was nice.

Do you have a favorite illus­tra­tion? Which one and why?

Hon­est­ly, I hold every illus­tra­tion close to my heart. It’s as if all the pages of art­work have a mind of their own and they’re try­ing to come out of the paper. If I had to choose one, page eight clicked to me from the begin­ning. Ano has her arms stretched wide as if she is over­see­ing and embrac­ing the land.

I love that one, too! What was your favorite part of work­ing on the book?

The book reveal was the most reward­ing. I teared up a bit. When you work day in and day out on some­thing you don’t get to take it all in until it’s in your hands.

What was the most challenging?

The biggest chal­lenge for me was ensur­ing con­sis­ten­cy with all the illus­tra­tions. There would be times where my mind would go wild and I would want to imple­ment new things (I secret­ly did any­way) but I had to dial it back.

How long did it take to com­plete the illustrations?

It real­ly depend­ed on the com­plex­i­ty of the design. Some, such as page three which has a ton of sea crea­tures fol­low­ing the mighty honu, took me what seemed to be a bil­lion years—it actu­al­ly took maybe two weeks while the last page took me about a week.

What tech­niques and resources did you use to illus­trate the book?

After doing a few mate­r­i­al swatch­es and mini paint­ing sam­ples we set­tled on acrylic and gouache on paper. I real­ly loved how ver­sa­tile and opaque the paints could be while being able to bleed like water­col­or. It was impor­tant for me to be able to have access to a wide range of textures.

Waterbed @ Mae Waite

Do you have any expe­ri­ences as a woman of col­or artist that you might share with our readers?

After grad­u­at­ing col­lege, my pro­fes­sion­al art career took off in Hawaiʻi, which is known for its big melt­ing pot cul­ture. Because of that, I can’t say that I’ve ever been judged dif­fer­ent­ly for my eth­nic­i­ty or gen­der. Most peo­ple regard my art and are impressed because I’m young.

What would you like to see change in the indus­try regard­ing the accep­tance of BIPOC creators?

What’s real­ly great about the art indus­try is that skills, work acu­men and visions are high­ly val­ued. I would like to see indi­vid­u­als flour­ish­ing from their own merit.

What beliefs is your work challenging?

I don’t think my cur­rent work chal­lenges so much as evokes. I love illus­trat­ing because it brings out the child­hood nos­tal­gia that I miss in my adult­hood. It’s impor­tant to cre­ate images that tell all kinds of sto­ries: sto­ries meant for a wide audi­ence and sto­ries that are hard to tell with words.

What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your artis­tic career and what you’d like to see out in the world?

I would love to work towards becom­ing a con­cept artist/creator for ani­ma­tions. I am cur­rent­ly work­ing on a large body of works that belong to a sin­gle narrative. 

What advice can you give an aspir­ing artist/illustrator?

Be your­self and remem­ber to be curious.

City @ Mae Waite

Can you share a bit about what you’re work­ing on next?

I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing on a series that fol­lows a char­ac­ter through many fig­men­tal scenes. I would like each illus­tra­tion to be one piece of a grander narrative.

That sounds real­ly inter­est­ing. What’s your online pres­ence like? Are you on social media? What do your fol­low­ers say about your work?

I use Insta­gram @maewaitestudio as my plat­form of choice. My audi­ence accu­mu­lat­ed over the past five years or so con­sists of peo­ple from many dif­fer­ent back­grounds because my art also cov­ers many dif­fer­ent styles and visions. The feed­back I receive on social media is large­ly sup­port­ive and moti­vates me to work on my next piece to showcase.

And a few fun ques­tions, if you’d like to answer. Is there a fun fact youʻd like to share about your­self with young readers?

Iʻm pret­ty open about this, but I’m adopt­ed from Kun­ming, China.

What kinds of books do you enjoy read­ing? Any favorites?

I love fan­ta­sy and sci-fi nov­els. I think my favorite at the moment is Dune by Frank Her­bert or the Grace of Kings series by Ken Liu. These books took me longer to read because there’s so much to unpack and learn from.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My par­ents. They pro­mote me bet­ter than any plat­form. I will peri­od­i­cal­ly get texts from my dad say­ing that he needs a new order of my busi­ness cards.

Yay, dad! What advice would you give your younger self?

Stop over­think­ing everything!

Wise advice, for sure. Thank you so much for talk­ing sto­ry with us, Mae! We wish you all the best!

To learn more about Mae Waite and to see more of her work, vis­it her web­site at  To pre-order her book, vis­it the Kick­starter web­site, Alo­ha Every­thing: A Hawai­ian Fairy Tale.

Images cour­tesy of Mae Waite; book cov­er cour­tesy of Kaylin Melia George.

Interview with Native Hawaiian Author Kaylin Melia George

Kaylin Melia George
Kaylin Melia George
Kaylin Melia George

Native Hawai­ian author Kaylin Melia George has always been a sto­ry­teller. She began her career as a screen­writer and is now a children’s author. Her debut pic­ture book, Alo­ha Every­thing, is the ful­fill­ment of a life­long dream: to share the rich sto­ries she grew up hear­ing at her mother’s side. We are pleased to talk sto­ry with Kaylin today.

For those who haven’t met you yet, please tell us a lit­tle about yourself. 

Alo­ha, I’m Kaylin Melia George; and I’m the author of Alo­ha Every­thing!

Grow­ing up, I called many places home. My fam­i­ly moved around fre­quent­ly, and I attend­ed many dif­fer­ent schools from the Pacif­ic North­west, to the South, to the Mid­west, to the South­west, and the West Coast. I also lived in Tokyo for a peri­od. But as much as I moved around, my con­nec­tion to my fam­i­ly – and my family’s sto­ries – has always been one of the few con­stants in my life.

I’ll always remem­ber falling asleep to my mother’s beau­ti­ful bed­time sto­ries. She would tell me of Hawai­ian leg­ends and his­to­ries passed down to her from gen­er­a­tions before. She would also share her own expe­ri­ences grow­ing up on Molokaʻi – how she adven­tured on the islands, how she per­formed hula, and how her and her cousins would get in and out of mis­chief togeth­er. The plant­i­ng of these ear­ly seeds inspired me to ded­i­cate my life to sto­ry­telling. It’s become an impor­tant part of who I am and the sto­ries I tell.

Why did you become an author? Have you always want­ed to be an author? 

When I was a lit­tle girl, my dream was to become an author. How­ev­er, I real­ized from a pret­ty young age that my family’s sto­ries weren’t present on the book­shelves of my schools or libraries. As I grew up, I learned that is because Pacif­ic Islander is one of the least rep­re­sent­ed groups in children’s lit­er­a­ture. But, I still dreamed of writ­ing! I end­ed up start­ing in screen­writ­ing – work­ing for many years as an award-win­ning direc­tor and screen­writer of com­mer­cials, films, and doc­u­men­taries. I even­tu­al­ly found my way back to my child­hood dream with my debut children’s book, Alo­ha Every­thing! I’m deeply grate­ful for all the peo­ple who made this book pos­si­ble and all the peo­ple who have become a part of the Alo­ha Every­thing ʻohana. I wrote this book with the hope of shar­ing and pre­serv­ing my family’s sto­ries, and I believe it will be the first of many to come.

What do you enjoy most about writ­ing, espe­cial­ly for kids? What are some of your great­est challenges? 

There’s a huge respon­si­bil­i­ty that comes with the cre­ation of a book like Alo­ha Every­thing – a respon­si­bil­i­ty to the accu­ra­cy and the tonal­i­ty of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Hawaiʻi-based sto­ries. That’s a chal­lenge. I do not pre­tend that the book could, on its own, rep­re­sent even a sliv­er of the full breath of beau­ty, depth, and vibran­cy of what Hawai­ian cul­ture, his­to­ry, and life tru­ly is in full. But, I know that Alo­ha Every­thing has an impact. There’s noth­ing more breath­tak­ing than see­ing kei­ki fall in love with the sto­ry and become inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about Hawaiʻi and Hawai­ian cul­ture. And because Pacif­ic Islander sto­ries are so rarely rep­re­sent­ed in children’s lit­er­a­ture, meet­ing kei­ki who feel per­son­al­ly con­nect­ed with the book – who feel that they are see­ing their home rep­re­sent­ed – those are incred­i­bly spe­cial moments.

Illus­tra­tion @ Mae Waite from Alo­ha Every­thing by Kaylin Melia George (Mythi­fy, 2023)

Can you share a bit of your upcom­ing debut pic­ture book, Alo­ha Every­thing? With­out giv­ing too much away, what is it about? 

Alo­ha Every­thing is a jour­ney of adven­ture and learn­ing. With­in its pages, you’ll encounter mighty canoes crash­ing over ocean waves, roy­al hawks soar­ing high above the clouds, and, most impor­tant­ly, you’ll meet a coura­geous young girl who learns, grows, and comes to love her island home with all her heart. In the book, knowl­edge sur­round­ing Hawai­ian his­to­ry, ecol­o­gy, and cul­ture is care­ful­ly woven into a beau­ti­ful rhyming scheme that will lull lit­tle ones into bril­liant dreams of vibrant adventure.

What char­ac­ter­is­tics do you love best about the pro­tag­o­nist? Is she mod­eled after some­one specific? 

From the begin­ning, my mother’s sto­ries about grow­ing up on Molokaʻi were a huge inspi­ra­tion for the sto­ry. So, when we were design­ing our pro­tag­o­nist, it felt only nat­ur­al that the char­ac­ter be par­tial­ly mod­eled on my moth­er her­self. Mae Waite (the incred­i­ble illus­tra­tor of Alo­ha Every­thing) and I ref­er­enced old pho­tographs of my mom grow­ing up on the islands. We were look­ing to cap­ture land­scapes, flo­ra, and ani­mals to ref­er­ence in the book. But, even more impor­tant­ly, we were look­ing to cap­ture the spir­it of a lit­tle girl who deeply loves her island home.

I remem­ber one pho­to­graph in par­tic­u­lar that was heav­i­ly ref­er­enced. It’s my mom as a lit­tle girl, and some­one was clear­ly try­ing to catch her with the cam­era, but she shows up a lit­tle blur­ry because she just wouldn’t stay still for the pho­to! Even with the blur­ri­ness of the pho­to­graph, the one thing that’s absolute­ly clear is the image of a child who is full of ener­gy and adven­ture and excit­ed to be out­side and tak­ing in the joy of the islands. That’s a feel­ing that we try to recre­ate in every illus­tra­tion of Ano, the pro­tag­o­nist of Alo­ha Every­thing.

What was your favorite part of writ­ing your book? 

We always dreamed that the sto­ry would be not only an exhil­a­rat­ing adven­ture but also an oppor­tu­ni­ty for learn­ing. That’s why, while the book was still in ear­ly stages of devel­op­ment, we con­sis­tent­ly con­sult­ed with teach­ers, par­ents, and, of course, with kids them­selves. We brought the book into over a dozen class­rooms and to non­prof­it read­ings to see stu­dents of every age expe­ri­ence the book, and that was def­i­nite­ly one of my most favorite parts of the process. See­ing kei­ki as young as preschool age and as old as fifth grade all deeply engaged and learn­ing and inter­act­ing with the book in dif­fer­ent ways has tru­ly been such a remark­able gift. I met stu­dents who were so joy­ful to see Hawai­ian words they rec­og­nized includ­ed in a book for them. I met oth­er stu­dents that were so excit­ed to learn Hawai­ian words for the first time. Those expe­ri­ences, and see­ing the gen­uine excite­ment in stu­dents’ eyes, are some­thing I’ll cher­ish forever.

I must also say that as much as I hope that Alo­ha Every­thing will be an awe­some learn­ing expe­ri­ence for kids every­where, cer­tain­ly no one has learned more from cre­at­ing this book than I did. And that is most def­i­nite­ly my oth­er favorite part of writ­ing the book.

Grow­ing up away from the islands, I always learned about my Native Hawai­ian her­itage from my mother’s sto­ries. But through the cre­ation of this book, I found an oppor­tu­ni­ty to seek out new learn­ings in a whole new way. I was hav­ing new con­ver­sa­tions with my fam­i­ly about our his­to­ries and our her­itage. I was inter­view­ing inspi­ra­tional and influ­en­tial kumu. I was spend­ing years in read­ing and research. And I was hav­ing the most incred­i­ble inter­ac­tions with mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty who have been so kind as to share with me their per­son­al sto­ries and their man­aʻo. It has been tru­ly trans­for­ma­tive for me; I was con­stant­ly learn­ing new things about myself that I had nev­er known. And I am so grate­ful for that jour­ney and every­one who has made it possible.

Illus­tra­tion @ Mae Waite from Alo­ha Every­thing by Kaylin Melia George (Mythi­fy, 2023)

Can you tell us about the writ­ing style of Alo­ha Every­thing?

Alo­ha Every­thing is a poet­ry book pri­mar­i­ly writ­ten in anapes­tic meter with a sim­ple rhyme scheme. It’s a mul­ti­lin­gual book, some­times called a “lan­guage-mix­ing” book, as it’s writ­ten in Eng­lish but fea­tures twen­ty-five Hawai­ian words to learn. I decid­ed to write the book in this style for a few dif­fer­ent rea­sons but espe­cial­ly because rhyming and poet­ry have been shown to have a pos­i­tive effect on mem­o­ry and learn­ing, and I hope that the rhyth­mic nature of the text makes it eas­i­er for some stu­dents to learn the Hawai­ian words includ­ed in the text.

We’ll post an inter­view with Mae com­ing up in a cou­ple of weeks, but what can you say about the medi­um for the book’s illustrations? 

Mae worked with mixed phys­i­cal medi­ums for the cre­ation of the illus­tra­tions. She used acrylic, gouache, and gold leaf. Each illus­tra­tion start­ed as a sketch, and she went through, usu­al­ly, a dozen or more iter­a­tions until we knew that it was as good as it could be. Then paint­ing would begin. Each extra­or­di­nary paint­ing was cre­at­ed metic­u­lous­ly over the course of weeks, and we put so much love into each and every piece, which is what makes them all so spectacular.

Do you have any expe­ri­ences as a Native Hawai­ian writer that you might share with our readers? 

When I was young, I very rarely ever saw fam­i­lies like my own rep­re­sent­ed in the pages of a book. That impact­ed my idea of what kind of peo­ple could build careers in this indus­try. I had such a love for sto­ry­telling, but I was afraid that no one want­ed to hear my stories.

How­ev­er, I am no longer afraid. When Alo­ha Every­thing launched on Kick­starter, I found a com­mu­ni­ty who gave us so much sup­port, push­ing us into the top 50 most suc­cess­ful children’s books to ever launch on the plat­form – out of 12,000 books! I believe that all the sup­port Alo­ha Every­thing found goes to show that not only are these sto­ries need­ed, but also that they’re desired and beloved by readers.

As long as read­ers con­tin­ue to sup­port sto­ries that are impor­tant to them, I feel very hope­ful about what book­shelves will look like for future generations.

You decid­ed to crowd-fund your book. Why did you choose that route to pub­li­ca­tion? What was the jour­ney to get­ting your book pub­lished like? How long did it take to write your book? 

It took about three years to com­plete Alo­ha Every­thing. Mae and I worked on the book with a new and inno­v­a­tive inde­pen­dent pub­lish­er called Mythi­fy. Because Alo­ha Every­thing was a first book for every­one involved, we had no idea what demand for the book would be like. For all we knew, we could have been mak­ing the book for only a hand­ful of peo­ple, and we were okay with that! But that’s the rea­son why we decid­ed to use Kick­starter as a pre-order plat­form; it allowed us to esti­mate demand. And it’s a good thing that we did, because we received so many more orders than we ever could have imag­ined! We nev­er would have print­ed enough books to cov­er demand if we hadn’t used a plat­form like Kick­starter for pre-orders first. Through Kick­starter, we real­ly found a com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple who love and sup­port our sto­ry, and we are so grate­ful for that. Addi­tion­al­ly, I’m so excit­ed to say that there are more won­der­ful things com­ing soon for Alo­ha Every­thing! Mythi­fy and the Alo­ha Every­thing team have now part­nered with a pub­lish­er called Red Comet Press to cre­ate a retail edi­tion of the book. Alo­ha Every­thing will be launch­ing for retail on large plat­forms such as Ama­zon, Barnes & Noble, and Tar­get in Spring of 2024. I am so look­ing for­ward to this part of the jour­ney and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make the book avail­able to more keiki!

Illus­tra­tion @ Mae Waite from Alo­ha Every­thing by Kaylin Melia George (Mythi­fy, 2023)

Can you share a bit about what you’re work­ing on next?

One of the most amaz­ing parts of cre­at­ing Alo­ha Every­thing was meet­ing Mae. She tru­ly is an incred­i­ble col­lab­o­ra­tor and an amaz­ing friend. And while I can’t say too much yet about my future projects, I can say that I absolute­ly look for­ward to work­ing with Mae again soon!

What advice would you give aspir­ing writers? 

Have patience with your­self; you’re learn­ing! Each and every project will always be dif­fer­ent and you’ll always be learn­ing new things. It’s okay to take your time as you grow as a cre­ator. This is some­thing I’ve def­i­nite­ly learned over time

A cou­ple of niele per­son­al ques­tions, please. Who is your biggest supporter?

Ulti­mate­ly, I have to say that my all-time biggest sup­port­er must be my moth­er. All my life, she has encour­aged my writ­ing and my pas­sions. I’m so grate­ful that she trust­ed me to tell her sto­ry and that she shared so much of her kōkua and her alo­ha in the cre­ation of the book

Is there a fun fact youʻd like to share about your­self with young readers?

Because Alo­ha Every­thing is so bright and col­or­ful and vibrant, peo­ple are some­times sur­prised to learn that I’m a huge lover of every­thing spooky! I’m a haunt­ed house lover, a hor­ror movie addict, and a Hal­loween fanat­ic. Maybe one day, Mae and I will bring some­thing both spooky and cute to the children’s lit world!

That’s cool! What’s your online pres­ence? And how can read­ers show their support?

I am avail­able on social media, and I absolute­ly love to connect!
@alohaeverythingbook is on Insta­gram, Tik­Tok, and Face­book. But the quick­est way to con­tact us is via email at!

I’m so grate­ful for all the peo­ple who have been kind enough to reach out and share their sto­ries with us. Receiv­ing those encour­ag­ing mes­sages makes all the chal­lenges of book pub­lish­ing worth it!

If you’ve read Alo­ha Every­thing, please con­sid­er leav­ing us a review on GoodReads or else­where, as it real­ly helps us get the word out. Maha­lo nui loa!

It was so fun meet­ing you, Kaylin! Maha­lo for shar­ing your man­a’o with us! To learn more about Kaylin and to pre-order her book, vis­it her Kick­starter web­site, Alo­ha Every­thing: A Hawai­ian Fairy Tale.

Images cour­tesy of Kaylin Melia George.