NEW Online Class available, for those of you seeking a behind the scenes look at my illustration process! The Whimsical Sketchbook shares a look into the world of five illustrators, and is hosted by Sketchbook Skool! Learn more and register here!
Hi! I'm glad you're interested in my work and my process! I've comprised a list of the most common questions I receive, and I hope you find the responses helpful.
1. How did you become an Illustrator?
I've been drawing my entire life, but like many, I never considered that it could be an actual career. I took all the art classes I could in high school, and finally made the leap to study art in college. While I loved the idea of being an artist who made narrative work (I didn't really know the term 'illustrator' at that point), I enrolled first in the graphic design program at Kendall College of Art and Design. When I realized all of my designs were actually narrative paintings, I switched programs and fully dove into the world of illustration and graduated with my BFA in illustration in 2010. Upon graduating, I did gallery shows, artist markets, and volunteering events and through those, I was able to meet designers and art directors. At first I was doing every job that came my way - including set building, window displays, and ice sculpture design. Each job has taught me something new and I've worked my way through galleries, editorial jobs, animation jobs, and have landed happily in the publishing world.
In regards to school, I often get asked if college is imperative. Today as so many resources, tutorials, and classes are offered online, I don't think it's technically necessary, but I will say that I wouldn't trade my experience for anything. Going to school means taking a good 4-5 years to completely immerse yourself in an atmosphere where creativity surrounds you. Learning from teachers in person, to me, is much more rewarding than online. So if school is not an option for you - you're in luck! It does not mean you can't be an illustrator. But if you do go to college for Illustration, my thought and hope is that you wouldn't regret it.
2. What's the hardest thing to draw?
Horses for sure. They have such distinct and impossible shapes, and such long legs.
3. How did you get an agent?
After graduation, I applied to many agents and was met with no response. (Looking back, my work was not suited for commercial work, since I was doing a lot of gallery work.) After months of looking, I decided to focus my attention on my portfolio and to make work I wanted to be hired for. I was contacted shortly after by an editorial agency who saw my work online, and was with them for two years. I am now signed on with Nicole at Tugeau2 Illustration Agency which focuses on children’s publishing. We were connected by a mutual artist, but it took me four to five years to prepare my portfolio until it was strong enough to be placed in the publishing world.
4. What does an agent do and does everyone need one?
This depends on the type of agent you have, but I prefer an agent who is also a mentor. My agent handles all negotiations for contracts, including rights, fees, timelines, legalities, etc. She also helps keep jobs balanced so my workflow is manageable. She attends conferences and meets with publishers as well, to promote our work and book proposals. While I'm incredibly happy with my agent relationship, I don't think everyone needs an agent. It really depends on your industry, your working style, and whether or not you feel confident in the areas of business, negotiation, etc.
5. How do you find an illustration style?
I haven't found it or it keeps changing - always a little out of reach. For me, it’s been a slow and steady process with small epiphanies throughout the progression. My advice on style - don’t stress it, steal it, or force it. Just play around with your work and find what you like making. Creating a huge amount of work helps - once you're done, you can step back and see the similarities. Your style will evolve to suit YOU.
6. How do you build the best portfolio?
When building my portfolio to share with clients, I had to narrow down the industry I wanted to be working in. At the time I began illustrating, my focus was on editorial work, so I created faux jobs for myself to test my ability. I found articles, sketched ideas, and took those ideas to final. Once I was done, I had 5-10 pieces of editorial work to share. Similar to other industries, I think creating 5-10 (or more depending on industry) pieces is a good beginning goal, and once you start creating more, you can edit out old pieces and keep updating your site/portfolio. Once you stand back and marvel at your ten pieces, it's likely you'll see a common thread or 'style'.
7. What inspires your work?
Ordinary, everyday events, people, places. These observations shift in perspective, becoming magical bits of potential. It’s rare for me to concoct a story that doesn’t have grounding in real life. Once I filter the piece of inspiration, I start painting and by the time I’m done, usually the story and the character have morphed so much that it doesn’t seem set in real life at all.
8. What does a typical day look like?
I wake early around 5:30 am, put on coffee and start working by 7 am. I head to my studio, The Warren, which I share with 9 other artists. My creative brain is most active in the early hours so I use that time to paint, sketch, draw, or play with materials. I take a lunch break at noon and walk my dog Mori. If I don't have too much drawing to do, I use the afternoons to catch up on emails and business stuff. I end around 5 pm or so and spend my night cooking, working out, reading, and exploring. Finding a consistent work routine has literally done wonders for the amount of work I get done.
9. What materials do you use?
For paint, I use Holbein Acryla Gouache, and sometimes Windsor & Newton Designer's Gouache. Colored pencils are also a favorite of mine, and I use Prismacolor Premier pencils or Faber-Castell Polychromos. The Prismacolors tend to be a tad waxier and softer, where the Faber-Castells have a harder lead. You can also find actual hard-leaded colored pencils (like Verithins) to add variation in your mark making. Aside from those main materials, I also use Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Crayons (so creamy!!), pan pastels, graphite, sometimes cut paper, and more recently I've been doing a lot of preliminary work on Procreate on the IPad. For digital brushes, I just play around with the default set - nothing fancy.
10. What's a typical process for an illustration job?
No two projects are ever really alike, but they can follow the same basic framework: The client will give me basic specs about the potential project, such as size, timelines, rights, artistic direction, budget, etc. I then send a quote which outlines the basic project, and once that quote is signed, the client is responsible for a 30% deposit. After the quote is agreed upon, I send a Letter of Agreement, which is the actual contract. It encompasses details such as rights, timeline, deliverables, legalities, etc. Once that is signed, I begin by providing two to three black and white sketches. Those are emailed to the art director, and they will choose one, usually with a couple of edits. The sketch phase might go through a couple rounds of revisions before the client agrees that the work is ready to go to final. Once the final artwork is created, I scan a hi-res file and polish the project up in photoshop. This might include cropping, cleaning and resizing. The work is then sent to the client, along with an invoice for the project. There may also be communication after the project is completed, concerning edits, or promotion for said project. The best part, of course, is seeing your illustration printed on the final product!
Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines
Children's Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury (one of my faves!)
Illustrating Children's Books by Martin Salisbury
Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon
New York Times Facebook LIVE Event
How to Make Friends With A Ghost - All The Wonders with Matthew Winner
Staying Inspired as an Artist - 88 Cups of Tea with Yin Chang
Navigating Creative Burnout - Dabblers Vs. Doers with Dan Blank
The Infinite and Unanswerable, Interview - Wow X Wow with Tim Maclean
How To Make Friends With A Ghost - Design of the Picture Book with Carter Higgins
Lets Talk Picture Books - Interview with Mel Schuit
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - Interview with Jules Danielson
1. How often do you ship items?
Though I will typically ship items sooner, please allow 5-7 business days for your item to ship. Since I am a one woman business, I only ship items once a week.
2. Are originals framed?
Shipping glass is not easy, therefore all artwork is shipped flat, unframed.
3. Do you ship internationally?
I do ship internationally, though some services such as tracking are not available in certain countries. I will do my best to ensure packages arrive to you safely, including tracking and insurance when available (I've never had any issues with packages not arriving). Please note: For additional requested services for international shipping, including tracking/insurance, please contact me with requests at firstname.lastname@example.org. Buyer is responsible for any and all customs taxes imparted onto the package.
4. Do you refund items?
If you are unhappy with your purchase, I am happy to offer a full refund on return of the item, so long as it is in new condition. Return shipping is the responsibility of the buyer.