Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
Every day that we had "library day" in elementary school, I went in search of books by Roald Dahl. He was my favorite author at the time and I read everything they had available. Part of what was so attractive for me were the book covers and interior artworks created by Quentin Blake. His artworks always added another layer to the already captivating stories and I wanted to be able to put the same kind of creativity into the world. These library moments are not the only times I remember wanting to become an illustrator as I have always wanted to be an artist and a storyteller, however, they certainly played a big role. I love how you can have a great story made even better by beautiful art. Illustrations have the power to give life to a story, but they can also tell their own additional story to what is printed. Mainly I became an illustrator because I do not always communicate well using words. Communicating stories through paintings, drawings, collages, and other artworks is a language I can speak.
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
This is a tough question for me because I love several different media, so instead of my favorite one I will give you my top five. Number one is acrylic paint on illustration board. It is opaque, so you can work in layers of color, cover mistakes, and create interesting textures. Number two is ink. There is nothing like a crow quill pen and a jar of ink, but if you hand me some microns I won't complain. Number three is marker. This is a new favorite of mine. I spend more and more time in my sketchbook and markers (usually combined with ink) are my favorite quick and easy, go to medium. Number four is watercolor - this one is a friend and an enemy. I really like watercolor. I really hate watercolor. If I forget to practice with watercolor for too long, it takes some time to get back in the swing of things. It is lots of fun if you have the time to play. And number five is collage. This one is a new medium for me, but it is the best way for me to relax. Because it is new, I feel no pressure to be "good." I just cut, rip, paste and feel the art making joy. Secret number six is a combination of all of these. My best mini artworks are mixed media and if I'm mixing medias I'm mixing these top five players.
Do you keep a sketch book?
I keep several sketchbooks at once. If I don't have a sketchbook with me, I will doodle on cardboard, envelopes, meeting agendas, post-it notes, etc. and stick it into a sketchbook later. When I am busy, which is often these days, my sketchbook is my best friend. If I don't have time to create large artworks, I work in one of my sketchbooks. I usually keep two main books - one 9" x 12" and one 5" x 8". I prefer the smaller of the two (sometimes the larger one is intimidating), but it is nice to have options. I use them for planning final illustrations, loosening up, or working out a concept. My sketchbook is my happy place - relax and draw or paint. My instagram is my virtual sketchbook - I post much of my sketchbook artworks there (@risty5 if you are interested).
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
I begin with a detailed sketch with clear details and some shading. If necessary I will label different parts of the drawing. This drawing is sent to the client for approval. Once approved, I move onto the final artwork in whichever medium has been selected. Once I feel it is complete, I submit it for another review and edits can be made after that. My work is done traditionally, however, I often make edits digitally when possible. I am very open to feedback and respond quickly to edits.
How long does it take on average for you to finish a spread, from initial sketch to final colour?
Depending on how complicated the image the whole process takes me about 10 hours. I would estimate I take up to 2 hours on planning and sketching, 6 hours for painting, and 2 additional hours on editing and refining the artwork. Of course this will vary by project.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
LIfe can be difficult and I want my artwork to bring a little light into the darkness. I would like to make people smile or laugh or feel joy.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time I like to run, hang out with my family, teach art classes, read, listen to music and books on tape, and draw.
Which 4 words would you use to describe your illustration portfolio?
Cheerful, whimsical, fun, and energetic.