How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
As a child, I was always drawing and creating books and little stories to illustrate. As I got older, I continued to study art and take it more seriously. Drawing and painting was the only thing I liked to do other than read, and when it came time to decide on a career path, it was an easy choice. Being an artist and illustrator was always my dream.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
Yes, I graduated with a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I had such a wonderful experience at art school, it was so great to finally be around like-minded peers who were all driven and dedicated to learning their craft.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
I loved picture books as a child, and I remember shelves and shelves of books in my bedroom. Some of my favorites that stand out include Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, I loved looking at all the humor and detail and character Richard Scarry packed in to his spreads, and how huge and immersive the books were! The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg was another favorite, I loved the imaginative and interactive qualities of the book. I also had a huge collection of Little Golden Books from the 70s and 80s. I remember practicing drawing by copying characters from some of the books, I loved the flat color and approachable style.
What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?
One of my first major commissions was shortly after I signed with my first agent. I illustrated a greeting card for Papyrus that showcased my hand lettering. The greeting card was loosely based off of a personal piece in my portfolio – a poster I created to sell at craft markets. It is always so fun when a client sees personal work that fits with their vision for a project!
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I love working both traditionally and digitally, and I am always trying to find ways to bridge the two as often as I can. I usually start out with hand-drawn sketches, that are then digitally finalized and colored. I frequently bring in hand-drawn textures to my digital work when I am finishing a piece to add depth and a more tactile feel.
Do you keep a sketch book?
I love keeping a sketch book. I have always kept one, and I have boxes and boxes of old sketchbooks in storage. I love flipping through old ones if I’m ever stuck on ideas. More recently, I tend to keep two at a time – one that is more messy, full of rough color studies, ideas, writing, to-do lists, and doodles. Then I have a more formal sketchbook with better quality paper for gouache paintings. It feels great get away from the screen and just explore and paint for fun.
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
I always start off with very loose and very rough thumbnail illustrations in my sketchbook. I usually write myself a ton of notes – sometimes writing it out helps me think out the idea just as much as drawing. Once I have settled on a composition, I make a cleaner sketch for the client. Sometimes at this stage further revisions are made before I begin on final color in Illustrator or Photoshop.
Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.
I currently work out of an extra room in my house. I have a long built-in desk for my computer that runs along a wall with big windows – it is a favorite spot for my two cats that spend most of their day lounging there. I have a second desk in the same room that houses all of my art supplies, it is where I do my painting and sketching. I love going to this little corner to focus and concentrate on new ideas. I have a magnetic board above the desk that I fill with ideas, colors, bits of inspiration, and my son’s art.
Which area of children’s publishing excites you the most?
I always worry that I like to do too many things, but I love middle grade and picture books equally! With middle grade, I love creating hand drawn lettering for book covers, and I love bringing details from the story to life with black and white illustrations. I equally love telling a story with picture books, having the opportunity to play with the intersection of words and pictures, and the exciting feeling of creating a fully immersive bright and colorful world.