|"Making the World a Happier Place, One Smile at a Time"|
How old were you when you started to draw?
Really small! I have a few drawings I did when I was three!
What did you draw when you were a kid?
When I was young, I drew anything and everything. I loved to draw clothes. After I learned to sew, I designed and made my own clothes. One of my favorite things was to create little fantasy worlds. I did aliens, people, animals, fairies, monsters, mermaids, bugs-the list just goes on! Some of the characters you see in my collection, especially Caitlin's Garden, actually began when I was in high school!
What other things did you like to do as a kid?
Being outside! We lived across the street from our elementary school. There was a creek and marsh behind the school. I'd spend hours catching polliwogs, building forts, playing with bugs, having mud fights, riding bikes, and swimming in my grandparents' pool. My family also spent summers in Lake Tahoe, California.
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
It's always been a part of me. I remember reading a book in third grade and looking at the illustrations. I though how great it would be to be able to draw like that. I wondered if I'd ever get as good as those drawings.
When did you start to paint?
When I was in eighth grade, I got my first easel, four tubes of acrylic paint, and a paintbrush. I'd throw it on the back of my bike and take off for the day when I was in high school. I really didn't know what not to do, so some of my first efforts were awful. But, I learned about seeing and color mixing by having only those four tubes of paint!
When did you become an artist?
I like to think that I've always been an artist. "Being" an artist is as much about attitude and how you perceive yourself as it is about developing your skills as an artist. If you believe you are an artist, and work towards that goal, you are an artist.
What is your inspiration? Why do you draw what you draw?
It's really hard for me to pin down the one thing that inspires me. I'm attracted to different play of the elements of art: Color, the play of light and shadow, contrast of light and dark, movement, mood. Also, things with a sense of history and timelessness appeal to me. A lot of the fun things I draw just come up because I like to laugh. I don't try to copy or improve on what I see. I try to capture my emotional reaction to what I'm seeing.
What do you like to draw the most?
I like to draw my world, my life. I enjoy drawing people, and have sketchbooks filled with drawings of my family. I also love drawing animals. I always have my sketchbook with me. I take it on bike rides, trail runs, skiing, hiking, walking, and just driving to town. That way, I can always do a quick sketch of a landscape, or an interesting group of people. I also like to draw interiors. Still-lifes that just "happen" are fun.
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from my day-to-day life. Something may strike me as funny or absurd, and I'll make a note of it in the back of my mind, or in my sketchbook. I might draw out the idea right away. Sometimes I need to let it float around before it "gels". Some ideas I've let float for years until I worked on them. I've gone back to old sketchbooks years later for ideas.
Is there anything you can't draw?
I think if you take any subject and draw from the big shapes down, you can draw anything. It's a matter off looking and drawing what you see, not what you know. Also, familiarity with a subject makes it easier to draw. If you really like hot rods, chances are you'll draw them well.
How do you come up with new characters for your collection?
They just seem to happen. I keep my eyes open to possibilities all the time. Sometimes, I'll get the idea for a new character because of a person I'm talking to, or what I'm doing at the time. A lot of ideas need time to float around in the back of my mind. Then, the characters come to me when I'm not thinking about them. That usually happens at inopportune times, like during the middle of the night, or when I'm on my bike. Another good reason to always have a sketchbook at hand!
When you illustrate a book, how do you come up with all the characters?
I brainstorm with the writer and publisher after reading the book a few times. It's really fun because we all have different ideas. Part of my job is to incorporate all those ideas and come up with suitable characters for the story. The characters have to capture the essence of the story, satisfy the writer's and publisher's needs, and appeal to both parents and children. The illustrations also have to be fun!
What is your favorite media?
That's a tough question to answer. I enjoy working in many different media. It's fun to discover and learn new media. This adds to the sense of play and spontaneity in my work. If I find myself struggling with one project in one media unsuccessfully, I can always switch to another media and try something else. Different types of work require different media, so I like to be proficient in many rather than just one.
I love the simplicity of graphite (pencil). It's affordable for everyone, who doesn't have an old number 2 lying in a drawer somewhere? Graphite can be used for simple sketches, or highly rendered pieces. Pen and ink appeals to me because of its portability and adaptability. When the line's drawn, the line's drawn. Add water and a brush for wash effects. Watercolor is expressive, colorful, and can be as sloppy or as neat as I want it to be. I love the feel of buttery oil paint as the brush slides across the canvas. The luminosity of the colors is amazing. Acrylic paints are great for their instant gratification. They dry quickly, can be used for watercolor or oil color like effects. I love acrylics for murals and plein air painting. I also like to work in colored pencils, markers, conte crayon, and pastels. As with all the other media I enjoy, they're portable, and so versatile!
With school, homework, sports, and band practice, I'm really busy. How can I find time to draw?
If you keep a sketchbook readily at hand, odd moments here and there become opportunities for a quick sketch. I also draw when I have a current idea or thought that I might forget, so I draw what I visualize in my head onto the paper. I draw anywhere and everywhere. I draw in the car in parking lots. I draw while waiting to meet friends for coffee (and during coffee!) Having just a few moments to capture what appeals to you increases your drawing speed and eventually your accuracy. A little bit is better than nothing.
I don't have time to waste "practicing". Why should I try to draw every day?
Drawing daily isn't a waste of time. Think of it as continuing education. Working on your drawing and painting skills consistently helps you draw accurately. It increases your eye-hand coordination. It helps you solve problems like shading, foreshortening, and perspective. There's always room to grow as an artist. Without growth, your work can stagnate. As the saying goes practice makes perfect. Professionals in every walk of life work hard to improve and add to their skills. Why shouldn't you?
How can I develop my own style as an artist?
Don't worry about creating your own style. Just enjoy drawing, learning, and reading about other artists whose work you admire. Connect with other artists. While I don't have a degree in art, I've taken lots of classes from a variety of instructor with different approaches and techniques. I learned something valuable from each class. The more exposure you have to other artists and their working methods, the broader base you have to pick and chose techniques that work for you. By absorbing those techniques, and combining them with others you use, and practicing, you'll develop your style.
I want to be an artist. Why should I go to school? Why should I care about math, science, English, or computers?
Just because you want to be an artist doesn't mean you don't need an education! As a well rounded, educated person you bring more to your artwork. Most artists have to do their own promotion and marketing, so good language skills are essential. Communicating professionally on the phone and in promotional and marketing materials set how prospective gallery owners, clients and buyers perceive you. Language and communication skills will help you in a lot of ways: understanding contracts; negioating rights: following submission guidelines: and writing proposals: to name a few. Good business skills never fail you. You can use them to get a job while you are starting out. They'll come in handy in your studio to help you promote yourself. You'll use math for financial matters like balancing a checkbook, budgeting, keeping inventory, doing estimates, invoicing, and tax returns. Computers and technology are vital for any artist in today's marketplace. Using email, the Internet, and graphic programs will become even more important to artist in the future. Being an artist who also thinks like a businessperson will definitely set you apart in your field.
How did you get started professionally?
I can trace that back to when I was a kid. In elementary school, money was tight, and we were encouraged to make gifts and greeting cards. In high school, I started doing signs for my brothers and sister's service club functions. I started designing and making my own clothes in junior high. When I entered the work force, I'd do small spot illustrations for newspaper ads. Once I began studying painting seriously, I did costume and bridal party design and construction. Donating art or murals to charitable causes I believed in gave me a way to give back to my community. I also wrote and illustrated my own children's books at night. My family relocated to a small town and I found a job working for a small educational publisher. This let me learn about publishing from the ground up. The experience was invaluable to me. I created small characters for some of their publications, this led to the first book I illustrated. This job gave the opportunity to begin working with computers, and opened the door for me to continue to learn about them. I continued on with my illustration and painting, freelancing at night after work and family time. I started doing portraiture, focusing on children and pets. I continue donating artwork to charitable causes and institutions that I believe in. In 1990, I took the jump into becoming a full-time artist, and haven't looked back.
How can I get experience?
Start small, think big. Donate your time and talent to help build a portfolio and gain valuable experience. Your school may have a fundraising project coming up that you could donate artwork for. Does your school have s student newspaper? Does the yearbook need ads for local business sponsors?
Think about posters for upcoming sports and special events. There are lots of events that need this type of work, and can really appreciate your help. Ask the local coffee shop or library if they'd like to exhibit your work. Remember that your work will be in a public place and must meet the viewing sensibilities of the patrons of the establishment. You may even be able to make some money! There are lots of opportunities for you to share your art and build your name, portfolio, and experience. You just need to look.
Network with other artists. Meet them, learn, and share with them. I have gotten some of my best client from other artists. I also refer work to other artists I know who may be able to create what the client is looking for better that I can. The more you get your name out there, the more people will associate you being an artist.
Be persistent in reaching your goals. Be generous with your art, you attitude, and your time, and it will come back to you in a positive way.
I can't always get out to draw or paint. Should I copy photographs?
Drawing from reference photographs can be helpful. I don't encourage "copying" photographs, just draw from them. A drawing copied from a photograph tends to be stiff and lifeless. Use photos as a point of departure. You can use them to record valuable details. There are a few things to keep in mind, however. Photos tend to flatten the picture plain. Shadows can be flat. Colors may be inaccurate.
When I know I might work from a photo, I make sure I also do a quick reference sketch of the subject. I use this to remind myself what captured my interest in the first place. I make notes on the sketch about color, lighting, and mood. I always use my own photos for reference.
Try to use your own photographs, or royalty-free photos that are in the public domain. You don't want to risk copyright infringement by using someone else's picture without their permission. Besides, that picture or design already exists, so why not dare yourself and come up with your own ideas. Use your imagination!
What kind of camera do you use for you reference shots?
I used to use a 35mm camera. I've pretty much replaced it with my digital. With the amount of pictures I take, developing can get expensive. With my digital, I can download the picture into my computer, edit them if I need to, then print only what I want It saves me a lot of time and money.
Describe your typical workday.
I try to be at my computer by 5:30 AM, seven days a week to check email. I put in two four-hour shifts at my drawing tables or easels. I schedule one eight hour day per week for marketing, running scans, sending samples, prepping files for my web designer to update my site, billing, and paying bills. Some days it doesn't go so smoothly, and I run between my office and my studio to get it all done. I make sure I take regular breaks. My lunch hour is usually spent on my mountain bike or running my dogs. I also make sure I have projects with me to work on when I know I have to spend anytime waiting. When I'm really pushing a large project, like a book, I tend to work ten-hour days, six or seven days per week. I get tunnel vision and have to remind myself to take a break.
While I try to keep a steady work schedule, invariably problems come up. Scheduling conflicts arise, the client needs the art yesterday. I have to keep my sense of perspective and be flexible. There are days when I just can't draw, no matter how hard I try. Then, I just walk away from it for a few hours and come back to it later.
Is it lonely being an artist?
In some way it is. I happen to like my solitude. I need long hours by myself to work. Being an artist is a solitary profession. I need "alone" time to create and work uninterrupted. My studio is part of my home. We live in the middle of the forest outside a small town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. My studio overlooks the trees and my garden. I really enjoy working there. Sometimes, I have to force myself from becoming a hermit.
If I find myself feeling isolated, I can email friends, family, and business associates. I love the internet because I can stay in contact with people all over the world! I go to town once or twice a week to run errands.. I get out everyday, even if it only riding my bike to town to pick up the mail. I find myself talking to my three dogs a lot!
Who are your favorite artists?
There are so many artists whose work I admire. I grew up on the work of Walt Disney, and that definitely had an impact on my work. Norman Rockwell, Mary Engelbriet, all the Wyeths, The great masters I admire include Vermeer, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, add more here. I'm also a big fan of the Impressionists, especially Berthe Morissot and Mary Cassatt. The work of Frida Kahlo, Paul Klee, and Gustav Van Klimt are also some of my favorites. There are also a lot of merging and local artists whose work I really admire.
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