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My name is Candice Hartsough McDonald. I've been a freelance illustrator officially since 2007 when I quit my full time job to focus on my work. Since then I've been working for magazines, book publishers, businesses large and small, and taking private portrait commissions. I sell originals and prints of my illustrations in my Etsy shop, as well as a small handful of handmade consignment shops. I've also spent the last 6 years traveling across the midwest to Indie craft shows (such as the Renegade Craft Fair and the Handmade Arcade 

When did you first decide to become an illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

I've pretty much always known I wanted to be an illustrator. Both of my parents are artists, so I was already exposed to the arts and the fact one can make a living in that field. But I don't think my desire really hit me till we started doing Young Author Conferences in grade school (, and when I first read the book "How A Book is Made" by Aliki ( I couldn't get over the fact that *real* people wrote stories and drew pictures and put them into books. It seemed like an amazing fantasy to me. I spent hours as a kid tracing drawings from my favorite picture books, and making up my own stories. Of course there was the one year during high school after a particularly moving speech by a physical therapist during Career Day that I was convinced I would go into that field. But then I realized that was crazy and got back to my scribbling.

Who do you look up to? Who are your heroes in the industry?

 I pretty much look up to anyone who is able to find their passion and turn it into a business for themselves. I am surrounded by a lot of amazing men and women making their dreams come true. But if I have to limit it to "my industry" I will first say Chris Sickels ( He is my "Local Hero" who I met going to the Illustrator's Lunch here in Indianapolis. He told me that his technique originally scared off artist reps and the like, but he knew he had something amazing he just had to follow through with. He kept trying and trying to find someone to believe in him, and eventually he did. Now he can remain true to his personal vision and continue to do what he loves. I also really look up to Sarah McIntyre ( and Viviane Schwarz ( both out of London. And Oliver Jeffers ( Oh my! There are so many more, I could go on forever!

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

I went to the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. When I attended they didn't have a drawing or illustration major, but I decided to go there despite knowing I wanted to be an illustrator. For me it came down to finances. I knew I wanted to go away to art school, but I also knew I didn't want to be $100,000 in debt when I was finished. I sadly walked away from the offer at the Art Institute in Chicago because of that decision, but Herron and Indianapolis ended up being a really great fit for me. I had some fantastic drawing teachers, and took as much illustration and lithography as I could. When I graduated I felt like I was kind of in limbo, and wasn't sure how to advance my career, but I just kept working on my own projects, advertising myself any way I could, following up with local contacts, and sending out postcards across the country. How do you keep "fresh" within your industry? Well I keep up with several illustrators via their blogs, occasionally hang out in the children's book section at Barnes and Noble, check out sometimes, and always make sure to buy the illustration annual from Communication Arts. I'm not sure I'm entirely up to speed on my "industry," and tend to keep my nose to the grindstone with my own style. I hate being too influenced by what is popular and would prefer to find inspiration in my own places.

What are some of your current projects?

Right now I'm working on fine tuning a way to combine both traditional and digital media. I am not very computer savvy, but I love the idea of being able to manipulate my traditional work after I've finished it, instead of going back to the literal drawing board. I used to do a lot of collage work in traditional materials, so I'm basically approaching my digital work in the same way: creating all the elements for my drawings separately, and assembling them in photoshop. I love being able to swap images out that aren't working, or to take my favorite elements and arrange them into a pattern, etc. I am also forever and always working on private commissions and family portraits.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

 I suppose I'm the most proud of the book I worked on, Oliver at the Window ( since it fulfilled my life-long dream to be a children's book illustrator for a "real" company (Boyds Mills). However since I made the artwork so long ago (I started the sketches 7 years ago, an eternity!) I sometimes feel physically pained by some of the work I did. I would have handled some of the drawings completely different if I was working on it today. But overall, I'm still proud of it.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

Besides continuing to explore a digital approach to my work, I would like to more realistically attack writing and illustrating my own books. I feel I am bombarded by "good ideas" for books, but rarely force myself to sit down and make them into actual stories. Some day!

Any advice to the novice illustrator? 

To just keep working! It can be easy to let your art slip away, especially when you are just starting out. Maybe you are working a day job to support your "art habit," and by the end of a long day in retail all you really want to do is collapse in front of the tv. But continue to push yourself. Make your own goals and stick to them, to make sure you have something to work towards. Maybe decide you'll send out 4 promotional postcards this year, and write the dates on your calendar so you don't forget. Sign yourself up for a small gallery show, or hang work in a coffee shop. Find out if your city, or one nearby, has some kind of illustration or design meet-up group, and surround yourself with other people working in your field.

What makes an illustration successful?

I am always drawn to simple compositions, and certain color palettes. Lately I'm really interested in mid-century modern children's illustration, so anything that reminds me of that is like gold in my eyes. Also, with illustration, an image needs to compliment the text it may accompany. You don't necessarily want to be too literal in your interpretation, and it's always fun to add your own twists that aren't evident in the text at all.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

I make sure to have several projects going at the same time, so I always have something fresh to return to. It's hard to not get burnt out on a project with a tight turn-around time, though. Those are always the projects I dread the most, and procrastinate on the longest, but at a certain point all you can do is trudge on and get it over with. But then I reward myself with a few hours of painting one of my own projects I'm excited about and am happy again.

Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."


And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

I don't really watch a lot of tv beyond Netflix movies, but I am anticipating the return of American Horror Story.
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