Solana Beach illustrator brings picture book to life

Solana Beach artist Luciana Navarro Powell. Courtesy photo
Solana Beach artist Luciana Navarro Powell. Courtesy photo

From mechanics and musicians, to potters and police officers, a new book uses a guessing game to teach children about various jobs in the community.

Solana Beach artist Luciana Navarro Powell illustrated “Whose Hands are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book,” which was written by Miranda Paul.

“It was really fun to make,” Powell said.

The rhyming children’s book gives hints and shows hands doing an array of activities, from fixing a car to playing an instrument, before revealing the worker. Published at the start of February, Powell said the book engages children as they figure out the tasks that match different occupations.

“The guessing game is super fun,” Powell said. “Kids love guessing games.”

Powell has worked as an illustrator for more than a decade.

Born and raised in Brazil, Powell came to the United States in 2002, where she settled in Chicago before relocating to San Diego, and eventually Solana Beach in 2007.

As a child, Powell loved to draw. She remembered drawing on stacks of printed sheets her father would bring home from work. Piles of pictures still sit in her parent’s home.

“I was always drawing,” she recalled.

Powell went on to study product design in Brazil. After earning her degree, she worked as a product and graphic designer for a few years, but continued to draw and accepted freelance illustration projects on the side.

At the beginning of her illustrating career, Powell mainly used acrylic paints and watercolor. She eventually picked up digital media, and today, uses a combination of watercolor, photographs and scanned objects.

In addition to illustrating books, Powell has illustrated other children’s products — including puzzles, lunchboxes and backpacks — book apps and murals. After years of telling stories through art, she has started to write as well. Powell released her first books, “My Dad is the Best Playground,” in 2012, followed by “My Mom is the Best Circus” in 2013.

“It’s come full circle,” said Powell, adding how exciting it was to see her first book in a bookstore in Brazil.

Powell signed on to work with Paul in fall 2014.

“Whose Hands are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book” is the first non-fiction picture book she has worked on. And because she said hands, along with feet and horses, are some of the most difficult things to draw, Powell said the project was a challenge.

“This writer is phenomenal, so I was excited about the opportunity to illustrate some of her work,” Powell said. “It was a fun challenge. “I started paying attention to hands and how people do their jobs with their hands.”

Using mixed media, Powell captured countless photographs of her hands, incorporated watercolor and other textures she digitally transformed into illustrations.

“It gives a nice organic feel to it,” she said. “The beauty of mixed media is that you can incorporate different textures and you can make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes lead to beautiful results. It’s easy to experiment.”

Inspired by her surroundings, some of the people pictured in the book were modeled after Powell’s family, friends and others in the community. Her husband and two sons, ages 6 and 8, are pictured in the book, as well as teachers from Solana Vista Elementary School, where her sons go to school. Among other real-life people, other characters resemble her father-in-law, cousins, friends and even a local TV news reporter.

Both Paul and Powell will present their first author-and-illustrator reading of the book at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Mira Mesa Barnes & Noble. The reading will include rhymes that didn’t make it into the book, along with other fun activities. The store is located at 10775 Westview Parkway in San Diego.

“This is going to be our first joint presentation, so we’re very excited,” Powell said.

“Whose Hands are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book” is available online and at local bookstores.

For more about Powell, visit