How did you establish yourself as an illustrator?
When I look back at my path so far, I’ve probably been unofficially establishing myself as an illustrator for quite some time. I studied American Literature and art in college, where I honed my love of stories. Later, I studied painting at San Francisco Art Institute, where I got my MFA. My graduate school education was important in that it helped me learn about what I did and didn’t want to do with my art and creative drive. It took me a few years after grad school to shake off the conceptual burnout and just make what I wanted to make again.
It wasn’t until I had my first daughter, and spent more time at home, that I had the mental energy or clarity to start drawing a lot again, and when I did I found a new note in my hand that felt very genuine. I pursued illustration classes and lectures, and sought mentorship and really started following my gut. I was nervous about where it was all going, and often had to fight my own self-doubt (still do). After a lot of late nights, discipline and hard work, I established my business and started getting small, low paying illustration jobs and worked for free. One thing led to another, and the more I put my work out there in the world, the more I attracted new work.
It took me a long time to find my way to illustration (see above!). While I’ve loved making art literally as long as I can remember, I’ve also always had a practical streak (must be my stubborn Finnish roots). I also don’t always love working in isolation. Illustration allows for the opportunity to collaborate, communicate, research, creatively synthesize information, tell a story, problem solve, AND best of all, make things with my hands. It’s all of my favorite ways of using my brain and hands layered onto a huge ice cream sundae of creativity.
I tend to lean on the same ten beat up paintbrushes and pencils in my stockpile, even though I’ve collected quite a few over the years. Some favorites are by Isabey, Simmons, and Cotman. They range in size, shape and quality. I mostly paint on Arches Hot Pressed and Cold Pressed 140 lb watercolor blocks, use Holbein watercolors and gouache, and Daler Rowney and Dr. Ph. Martin’s inks. I adore the special paints and inks from Case for Making in San Francisco. I still make all of my art on paper, and use Photoshop for digital editing.
In a surreal, dream-come-true scenario, I’m currently working on one of my dream projects! I have always wanted to write and illustrate my own book, and that is precisely what I’m doing now. My book, WHY WE COOK, is an illustrated exploration of women’s impact on the contemporary culinary landscape, and was published by Workman in March 2021. In the future, I’d love to continue to work on book and editorial projects, and branch out to stationery, textile, ceramics and surface design. For more on what I’m currently up to, follow along here.
One of my favorite parts about getting to do what I love for my job, and being my own boss is the great variety that each day holds. My mind gets engrossed in every aspect of running my own business, and I enjoy the balance. At the end of the day, I always feel the most satisfied and energized by time spent collaborating with clients, or turning up the music, turning off my screen, and painting.
As an artist, I have made and make art that fall into both of these somewhat arbitrary categories. Obviously, some art is framed and installed, and some art is used for commercial purposes- that’s the practical difference. Philosophically, I used to feel pressured to choose just one thing, but I don’t as much anymore. I work in few different ways- painting, drawing, collage, large scale, small scale, detailed, minimal. It all stems from my perspective and my two hands, so for me, it’s all connected. In my artistic process I’m driven by the same interests and ways of seeing no matter what it is that I’m working on.
I love collaborating and would love to hear from you. You can contact me directly about freelance projects, licensing and commissions - please include as much information as possible about your budget and timeline. For book-related inquiries please contact my agent, Kate Woodrow at Present Perfect Department. Kate@presentperfectdepartment.com