Tuesday, August 07, 2007

INTERVIEW WITH MRS.B!


Biography:




My new website is online again, my biography is on there, with pictures and whatnot! : ) It's very long! ; )





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Tell us a bit about yourself
Well, I collect Halloween decor, I love the look of vintage decorations, and I've been able to pick up reproductions over the years... I sew, so each year that ties in with Halloween costumes, usually starting about this time! I also bake cakes! Cupcakes are my favorite, and I use recipes from a booked called The Whimsical Bakehouse. I decorate with chocolate, I love making little creatures. This year, my younger son turned three, and I created little sea creatures, it was so hot here, even with the air conditioning, that some of them broke. But, they still tasted delish! Last year, for my older son's fourth birthday, it was a space theme, and this year, I created little bug cupcakes....I also love playing with my children: we read, cook, paint.... I wish I could do more of it! I keep telling myself that when they're a little older, it will be easier to have a work/life balance, until then, I will be burning a lot of midnight oil! ; )

How were you introduced into illustrating?

I know it's super trite, but I really have been drawing since I was two. In grade school I entered the Young Authors competitions every year, and in third grade, I was one of the winners! In junior high I designed our 1984 year book, and I won the journalism award from my class that year. In high school I took a break and tried some French classes and took a lot of storytelling and writing, but got back into art in college. I went to a community college and majored in Fashion Merchandising and "Commercial" Art. It's so funny to call it that, but the school had to differ it from the fine arts major, which is really funny, as if one degree made money but the other one was much "finer"....Actually I kept changing my major, so I went to a two year college for four years and never got a degree. I was just too interested in what I was interested in, I just took all the classes I liked...I wish I'd taken some culinary ones while I was at it! ; )

What sort of places have you worked for?

I worked in children's retail while I was in college, I created a lot of the displays and such, then later got an "8-5" at Kmart Headquarters in their Advertising dept as a Roto Coordinator, which is a fancy term for "Page Merchandiser" which is a fancy term for "Gopher". I'd get a layout for the ad, and I'd have to go to the buying offices and get the merchandise all coordinated for it and take it to the photo studio. I worked on the same floor as Childrenswear, and got a lot of advice from the director and designers on putting together a portfolio. When I did put it together, I'd created some prints and wanted some feedback, the director bought two prints on the spot and created a position in her dept for me. I was the first person to have the asst. designer position. I'd worked there for about six years, quit and freelanced for three, then came to Chicago to interview with Sears. A month later they made me an offer. I worked there for three years, was made a Senior CAD Designer, was downsized, and I've been freelancing again for the last five and a half years. Sears gave me an excellent education. I was able to go to NY to print studios, attend the print shows, see the color forecasting for the upcoming season, and enjoy some pretty fancy dinners! I also learned a lot about different personalities and most of all, about being flexible!

How would you describe your style?

I hope people think it's cheerful, full of silliness....even when I've created something kind of scary! I'm inspired by Lane Smith, Tim Biskup and the wildly wonderful Jim Flora. There are a lot of illustrators whose work I love, but between these three, they really got me thinking that it was okay to create some wacky illustrations and that other people might like them!


Tell us about the book you illustrated recently for Klutz. (the one with the edible stickers? sounds fun!!)
How did you end up getting such a cool illustration job like that?


Did you go to them or did they come to you?



If you went to them how did you promote yourself?




I LOVE this question! I wish the stickers were edible, that would be fun!! Actually, a friend of mine that I used to work with used to use that term "yummy" when she really liked something, and I just got used to using it, they really are cute stickers! They approached me with their project after seeing my work on Picture Book. PB puts out an annual, but I signed up for the web presence only.




Do you promote your work often? How do you promote yourself? What has been the most effective way so far?




I do send out postcards, I go through Overnightprints.com, they're inexpensive and good quality. Business cards too, and I think having a website is an absolute necessity, and simple, not a lot of flash or music, just your stuff out there, well put together, to show folks you take your work seriously, even if your work isn't serious looking! I also have a page on childrensillustrators.com. I have received a lot of traffic to my site from there as well. I think you have to be careful when promotion gets too expensive. You have to weigh it against what you really think you'll make for the year....I've bought pages in annuals, and you could buy software or a laptop for that price. But if you get a lot of really high paying jobs, then buying a page is worth it.




You have such a terrific fun style! Tell us your process when making an illustration.




Thanks so much! I actually get in the mood by going reference hopping or shopping, either going through what I have or getting new. I find some great places are fabric stores, hardware stores (paint chips for colorways), and of course any place where I can find marvy stickers and papers! Then I work up some sketches or doodles, that could go on for a couple of hours to a couple of days...I work digitally, so I delete everything I don't like, right away. I have a horrible habit of hanging onto an idea, like I can't break out of it to follow something else, so I delete the rejects immediately, so they're out of my brain! Then I'll go to final with shadows, highlights, and textures.




Whats the best thing about your job? The worst?




I love the diversity. That sounds totally corny, but it's true. I like the unexpectedness of my job, and each assignment I get challenges me to think differently. All illustration is problem solving, and each gig is a different puzzle, and we have to solve each one in a unique way. That, and I've been able to stay home with my children. The worst part about my job: Time, or rather, lack of it. Time management is vital. Dividing it between my children and my job has been one of the hardest things I've had to work with...My schedule is extremely tight, between what each of my kids do (classes, doctors, holidays, etc), day to day (hubby, dinner), my work, AND downtime (I have to get to watch SOME tv!), I don't have a lot of wiggle room. I actually need to schedule my decompression time, it's so important! My husband does what he can so that I can get time to myself, it's usually on the weekends!




Describe your work setting?




I work wherever I can grab a minute, so at my desk in the morning, or on the couch at 11:15 pm with my laptop (sometimes I'm outside with it too), I don't have only one place where I work!




Programs or medium you use?




I use Adobe Illustrator® I use to use gouache and pencil, it was more forgiving than acrylic, but I had difficulty getting the look that I wanted. I have also used pen and ink...




What is your favorite illustration you have made? why is it your favorite?




I hadn't really thought about it, I like a lot of the banners I've done for my blog, I try to change them for the seasons. I also like the piece I did for IF's "Red", a little girl in the snow.




Do any of your illustrations have stories behind them? If so could you please explain a few?




Not really, that would make them really interesting though!




What do you do when you are not illustrating or working?




Spending time with my husband and children, going for a walk on my own, or, seeing as I'm a results oriented person, baking! Food is awesome, simple as that, and it gives me a chance to do something with my older son that he enjoys as well..




Favorite color?




I have two: Red and Blue. I love nostalgia, and red and blue are total Americana, 1940's toy packaging, Good Humor Bomb pops, super heroes, blue jeans and red sneakers, a cardinal casting a shadow on snow...a deep red maple tree against a clear blue october sky...They're two thirds of the primary colors, and I find them comforting, or exhilarating, depends on the hue! : )




What has been your favorite illustration job? Why?




I love working with Klutz. They have given me a lot of freedom within the parameters of their needs. Fisher Price has been great too, even though they're work for hire, they're paying me to brain storm on paper. ...I think the best job is one where you're allowed to do what you're hired to do: Create something fun!




How do you get over creative blocks?




I walk away....go to the bookstore, play with my kids, cook something, take a drive, sit outside...the deadline will always be there, whether I'm sitting in front of my screen or not. When I leave, there's always the possibility I will come up with something great, if I stay there, staring at a screen, I KNOW I won't come up with anything. Going online is dangerous, as it's such a time grabber, so I try not to get inspired that way, although I have a few sites I like to visit for that! As I've said, I have to schedule my decompression time, time where it's just for me, to watch a dumb movie, or just sit outside. I know a lot of illustrators have sketchbooks, but it's not always realistic for someone in my position (and there are a lot of us). Many times when I get an idea, it gets stifled because of some kind of commitment I have to keep. That's bad, stifle enough ideas and they come fewer and farther between, so I make lists, lots of them. That way, my brain is always freed up. I make to do lists daily, drawing lists, wish lists, word lists (IMPORTANT, as one word can totally spur a whole new idea, even a made up word!), grocery, whatever. But I try to keep my brain OPEN...




Give us some tips!




Be FLEXIBLE! I hear a lot about "don't let the client do this or that". You do have to stand your ground with what you will and won't do (no copyright infringement, etc.), and have contracts etc...I have turned down a lot of work that I didn't feel good about. However, that doesn't mean that you need to get rigid or nasty. If you're creative, you should be able to come up with something that works for everyone. Most clients will negotiate, if you give them a reason to.
Do your best. You'll have good days and bad days, so your best won't be the same every day (this was something I'd heard via email from a teenager, and it's so true). Do the best you can for that day. Be professional, even when your client isn't. Keep excuses to a minimum. Be as discreet as humanly possible. Really. I think in this time of everything being on the internet, it's more important than ever. Not posting something you're in the middle of working on that could potentially be a huge money maker will bode well for you. Companies don't want their business broadcast everywhere, until they say it.
Do NOT do work for anyone who won't let you put them on your client list. Be sure that you have in writing that you can use the piece for self promotion even if it is work for hire (most reasonable companies only want WFH so that it's exclusive to them to produce, they're pretty flexible if you need it just for self promotion)...I ran into this recently, and the irony is, the company wouldn't have hired me if I didn't have a client list for them to reference. This company had expressed interest in working with me again in the future, but I asked them to remove me from their artist pool. It's counter productive for me to create something and then not get recognition for it. I don't like WFH, but I have created it, but, it's been an assignment, it's no different than if you're a staff artist. But I really pick and choose my clients when they want it. I stick with the really big companies for those, money is the motivator, as they have the larger budgets, and should pay a lot more for all rights. If it weren't for the assignment, I might not have come up with the piece anyway...But I will not sell existing works outright, as those are mine, my own motivation, came out of my head totally...
Always meet your deadlines...This business is way too competitive, the days of the "flakey artist type" are long over! ; ) And never believe that lowering your price will get you more work. Why would you want more of THAT work anyway? Go with what you're worth, realistically...
What is the most important thing you have learned in your career?
Don't be lured by a large figure when it comes to money, and be wary of long term assignments. I took an assignment that lasted several months, and because I didn't have it in the contract that I would be paid at the end of each week or month, I had to wait until the end. By that time, I was in debt that amount, so when I got the check, I paid my credit card and had hardly anything left over!! It was like I worked for free. That wasn't the case of course, but not having a steady amount of money coming in caused a hardship, and I wasn't expecting that...The bottom line looked like a lot, but over a quarter, it wasn't much, and the client had monopolized my time, so I couldn't take on new work from other clients. I should have been a lot more assertive, I am now. Try to work for several people at a time if you can. And balance your workload accordingly, with realistic deadlines. I do a little work for each client each day. I don't spend one whole day on one client.




How often do you make illustrations?



How long does it take you to complete one?



What illustration took you the longest to complete?






I used to be able to create at least one a week. I have had so much work recently though, art for my book has been non existent for the past several months! I sometimes create for Illustration Friday, but I can't keep up every week, so I keep all the emails so I can go back and create something with old themes. I also would post on Three Thumbs Up, but haven't been able to do that in ages either! There are so many other sites I want to contribute to, as well as Monday Artday, it's finding the time to do it! I do need to be more organized and diligent with my bookmarks and checking online regularly. Most illustrations take me a few days. My illustration for Von Glitschka's book "Crumble, Crackle, Burn" took me the longest I think. It was over a couple days, but I was constantly working, many hours over those days!




What illustration do you get the most comments or recognitions for?




This one, I don't know why. It's cute, and simple, and I get tons of compliments on it, lots of folks want to buy it outright, but I will only sell usage to it.




Has illustrating always been easy for you?




No, not at all. But that's been because I was so preoccupied with people around me with fancy art degrees. I don't have a degree, although I spent many years in college. I just took what interested me. I didn't push myself as hard as I could have in the beginning of my career because I figured it wouldn't have made a difference. I used to work with a guy who had been freelancing in illustration for a while. I asked him how he'd gotten into that, and he explained various promotional ideas and companies who might buy my work, but he also told me that in order to do the best job, you have to push the envelope. Not to stay safe, be willing to ruin your piece, that's the only way to know how far you can go. So that's what I did. I developed a tough skin though, you have to. Some people like my work, some people don't think it's anything special. And that's okay, they don't have to buy it! ; ) I did learn that it's best not to compare one's work with another creative.




Did it take a long time to develop your style?




I think a style is always developing. As you get older, and your priorities and life changes, that's reflected in how you approach an illustration challenge. You have a more mature mind. We don't make decisions the same way at 30 as we did at 20, so we might also interpret an assignment differently. I definitely don't illustrate the same way I did when I left college, nor when I worked staff job at Kmart, nor at Sears...But I think that even though the style evolves, you can still see glimpses of "me" in what I do.




Where do you get your inspiration?




I just keep my eyes open. You can draw from anything, anytime, anywhere. I watch my kids and they're just so nutty! I'll look at their seasonal books and just get a feel for something, or a certain smell, like a smoke in cool air; it transports you somewhere else...I could go to Panera, and someone could have a certain look, or wearing certain pants, or speak a certain way, and an idea will just pop into my head, or something will strike me as funny and I'll have to jot it down. I get inspiration from pictoral references too, but, those images are already there, I can imagine my own way of executing it, but it is already drawn. Some of my best ideas have come out of some fluke action that I've seen, or the way a dialog has transpired...I eavesdrop a little, I know...But I promise never to use what I know against that person (I don't usually know them anyway)! ; )




What do you think of Monday Artday?




I like it a lot! When I have time late at night I like to check a lot of bookmarked sites just to see what people are up to, although I don't get to peek at artsy websites as much as I'd like. Maybe once every couple of months, I should really do something about that! I would love to participate a lot more. But, I have some great things on the horizon that will be coming out soon, you'll have to wait and see!



Thanks Mrs.B you are the best!!!


Please visit her sites to know she is appreciated for such a wonderful interview!!

6 comments:

Alina Chau said...

Wonderful!!

mrs. b. said...

Thanks so much Alina, and thank you Bearuh, for asking me to contribute, I appreciate it! I had so much fun answering your questions, people don't know a lot of these things about me! : ) I did forget to mention, that I also have been a member of the SCBWI for about ten years, very worthwhile org, and sixty bucks a year well spent! Thanks again you guys!

John Coulter said...

Great interview. I love hearing about your history!

http://johncoulter.blogspot.com/

ValGalArt said...

I love your art Andi!!!

Rrramone said...

Andi is my hero. She's going to send me a cupcake one day.

mdb123_3000 said...

nice interview, and i love the illustrations, they have a great fun feel to them...i saw you said you get your postcards printed with overnight prints, i'm surprised you've had positive experiences with them (the last time i dealt with their customer service it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth - i'll leave it at that)...i'd suggest PrintsMadeEasy as an alternative if you're interested, just a thought :)