Mc• Dee (muhk-dee), Katie, 1981-present, n. 1. Freelance illustrator working from her hometown Carlsbad, CA. 2. Childhood tomboy who traded rope swings and building forts for lunchtime ultimate frisbee and cleaning house. 3. Pop culture and science fiction junkie. 4. Late night boba enthusiast.
When did you first decide to become an illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
My parents might say I had decided my future when I was 3 years old. 2 questions were posed to me...
1. "Katie, what do you want to be when you grow up?" My answer, "An artist." (Okay it was actually a 'Disney artist', but I was 3 and that was the only kind of artist I knew about)
2. "Katie, who do you want to marry when you grow up?" My answer, "MacGyver." (Sooo not related to this interview but I think it's hilarious)
So, I was 3 when I first decided to become an illustrator. But the pivotal moment when all the planets aligned, the clouds parted and an anvil dropped out of the sky to hit me with the realization that I was going to be an illustrator came in college.
I had spent 2 years at various community colleges switching majors. I bounced from elementary school teacher, to music teacher, to choral music teacher, to general art major until one day I walked into a CSULB Illustration 100 class hoping it might be more interesting than ceramics. There have been a few happy accidents in my life that completely changed my life's course, and that day in that class was one of them. I walked out with a new-found passion for illustration and have never changed 'majors' since.
Who or what inspires you?
The color orange. That's all I need. Oh, and some other stuff, like: Bill Peet, Mercer Mayer, Dr. Seuss, Mary Blair, Norman Rockwell, Maurice Sendak, Shell Silverstien, Chuck Jones, Peter Deseve, Disney, Saturday morning cartoons, newspaper comics, animated movies, countless children's books, artists' websites/blogs, humor, my friends and goofy kids like my neiphlings.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
My time in college as an art major was invaluable and every childhood drawing and high school art class helped shaped me. But I really feel that most of my training has come from working. As a graphic artist at a glassware company I learned the Adobe programs on-the-job far better than any class could ever teach me. A summer drawing caricatures at Legoland made me more aware of capturing age and likeness, working quickly and even selling art. And making the leap into freelancing has undoubtedly trained me the most. Each project I take on is another opportunity to stretch myself, to learn something new and create something to be proud of. When I look at the work I was producing 3 years ago compared to now, the difference is amazing. I can't wait to see what I'll be producing 3 years from now :)
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
Fresh... hmm what is fresh? What's fresh one minute is stale the next. I don't know if anyone could call what I do 'fresh'. Maybe they do. I just try to create work that makes me smile and hope others enjoy it too.
What are some of your current projects?
I have a couple projects in the works. An educational children's book and some learning activities for grades Kindergarten thru 3rd. I'm also working on a few personal projects right now. My interests vary, so I'm working on gallery pieces, a picture book idea and an iPhone app.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
All of them! Though, I do have a few favorites. I've designed/illustrated a few game boards for Lakeshore Learning Materials that I still look at and think, "Heh, cool. I did that?" Caricaturizing (that's not even a word) Indiana Jones and Star Wars characters for Topps' sketch trading cards was a blast. And I had the pleasure of designing some mini games for a video game that is set to be released Sept 22nd. 'Spyborgs' by Bionic Games/Capcom for the Wii. It was new and challenging to create assets to be animated. I can't wait to see how the game turned out.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I haven't tried silk screening or printmaking yet. I would LOVE to try my hand at either of those techniques. Hmmm, maybe I'll register for a class...
Any advice to the novice illustrator?
In this day and age there are a LOT of artists out there. And truthfully, a lot of them are better than you and me. Being a new fish in a big pond can be really intimidating and overwhelming. Just remember that it's OK. Breathe. Instead of hyperventilating, let all that amazing artwork motivate you into improving your craft and learning new things.
Remember who you are, what you love, and that YOU DO have something to offer.
What makes an illustration successful?
I had a teacher in college that told us to make art that is so delicious to the eye that the viewer will want to lick it. LOL. I love that. And I'm not just talking bright and colorful illustration/design. We're talking anything that makes you want another helping every time you look at it.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
The 3 'tions, yo! Inspiration, destination and starvation. Lemmee explain...
Inspiration: Every day there is at least one thing that inspires me to want to create. Whether it's a random blog/twitter post, a funny looking person sitting at a bus stop or even my friends' saying silly stuff.
Destination: I've got goals. Who doesn't? Goals or even dreams–there shouldn't be a difference in my book. The world is your oyster and you can make those dreams a reality, baby.
Starvation: If I don't work, I don't eat. I like to eat. Food is good.
Keeping from burnout can be as simple as getting out of the house. Believe it or not, playing ultimate frisbee a few times a week really helps. I get out in the sunshine, move my work induced atrophied limbs around and tap into my inner puppy who just wants to catch that shiny floating disc. It's so great. I get to play with really inspiring people, too. A bunch of video game artist/designer types who have kind of become my own version of coworkers. We talk shop, and vent frustrations and it has really helped me not feel so isolated as a freelancer.
Also, breaks. Taking a day or two off from the grind every couple weeks is essential. Not only to keep from burn-out, but also to help you remember that your home is home, not just work.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."
really, really rich person.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I still enjoy Lost (as confusing as it is), I'm getting into Dollhouse (Joss Whedon, how I love thee) and I'm in season 3 of Supernatural, which is pretty fun. Netflix rocks!
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