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I'm a California girl who just moved to Denver for the most brutal winter Colorado has seen in decades! The bright spot is that in leaving our long-time home of Los Angeles, I was able to depart from TV animation (where I worked for 7 years) to pursue freelance illustration full time. I paint in acrylic, gouche, and occasionally in Photoshop.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I worked for many years in animation production, with my art on the backburner. Then in 2004, I took a trip to Tokyo as part of a group art show. My husband and I traveled around with the illustrator team Kozyndan and through them met pcp (Heisuke Kitazawa & Rikako Yamada). They had been drawing & writing their own children's picture books in Japan, and their work was extremely inspiring. We became fast friends and Rikako soon asked me to collaborate on a book with her. The project started as an emailed story she wrote, and ended 1 year later with a fully self-published children's book, The Unordinary Elephant, illustrated by me!
Check it out on Amazon.com
The process was invigorating and inspired me to pursue illustration more seriously.
Who or what inspires you?
I collect kids books, so of course I love Maurice Sendak. I also love Craig Thompson for his cute style and melancholy tone, and William Morris for design and color. I'm not really sure how much shows up in my work, but I'm a huge sci-fi/fantasy geek - I'm obsessed with George R R Martin and Neal Stephenson. I'm also very excited by the current art blogging culture - I love the intimacy of all those talented artist blogs out there.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
As a kid, animation had always been my biggest dream, but rather than going to art school, I chose film school. USC taught me a lot about entertainment, and that is how I ended up working in TV animation, at Fox Kids and Nickelodeon. Though I did not go to art school, I consider all of the inspiration, advice, and mentoring I received from the artists I worked with at Nick to be my training. I am very lucky to have been nurtured in that environment.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I try to force myself to stretch and see where else my style can take me, so new mediums definitely help break me out of creative ruts. I also keep a giant folder labeled "inspiration" and any time I see something cool in a magazine, book, or online, I stick it in there to help keep ideas flowing.
What are some of your current projects?
I have been doing a lot of commissioned paintings lately. I'm also working on a new preschool comic book series, which I'm really excited about. I'm hoping the idea is breaking new ground for the comic book format by targeting much younger kids - they will be educational and follow my character WonderToast and his band of food-based friends. I hope to have the first issue ready in time for ComicCon in San Diego this July!
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I'd have to go back to my children's book, The Unordinary Elephant - it taught me so much! I not only illustrated the book, but handled every aspect of self-publishing. There are definitely some things I might have designed differently now that I look back, but the experience was invaluable. We've really had a great response, selling in Asia, Europe, Australia, and all over the US. I'm also rather pleased with my new website, www.wondertoast.com, which I designed and programmed after torturing myself on GoLive!
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I'm just getting started with comics, so that will be a fun new format to work in. I'm really hoping to get involved with publishers to illustrate more children's books! Plus, I'm interested in working with parenting and pre-school magazines for editorial work.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Don't be afraid to get feedback from people you admire.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
A great response. Blogging has become an indispensable way to get feedback throughout the creative process. I've found it to be very helpful in figuring out what works and what doesn't.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I read all the time, I love to visit museums (not just fine art museums, but natural history and science museums too). I'm also really inspired by gallery hopping and wandering around outside, especially in gardens. I think it is also really helpful to get together with other artists for feedback, networking, and support.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."
TV Animation Producer...or at least I was quickly on my way to becoming one before leaving LA. That path is challenging and exciting, but illustrating is rewarding in a whole different way. Haha, you were probably looking for a fantasy answer though - so Marine Biologist!
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I am addicted to Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica. Both shows are not afraid to do something different, reinventing themselves as time goes on. Creatively speaking, I really admire a willingness to adapt rather than stagnate in the same formula.
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