VSS Illustrator Interviews

In doing these interviews, we hope to give you a glimpse into our artist members' unique personalities, a new perspective on their wonderful work, and the opportunity to know what inspires them!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rosemarie Gillen

Rosemarie Gillen is here for a featured interview this week. Her colorful artwork is full of childlike fun. Check out her website also at www.rosemariegillen.com.
How did you get started in illustration?
I remember when I was very young I went to a friend’s house and their mom set up watercolor paint with very special paper, watercolor paper which made the whole experience feel like I was a real artist. This made an impression on me.


In the 80’s I remember falling in love with a Van Gogh and I imagined myself painting it. So I went and brought supplies and started painting to satisfy my curiosity and much to my surprise I was able to copy the Great Masters. I continued to fill the walls of my home with reproductions of Great Masters and I enjoyed it as a hobby. Then one day when I saw an ad on Craigslist adversting for artists for children books which led me to children’s illustrating.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
My favorite medium for children’s illustration is Photoshop. I begin by drawing directly on the page using my wacom tablet. I find it is very easy to make changes this way and I am able to achieve much better results.

Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
Yes, I do write and when I am writing children’s stories, the writing comes first then the illustrations. Though I find it much easier to illustrate than to write.
Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
My day time job is a full time mother. I consider that the most important job. But when I am not busy taking care of my son illustrating is my top propriority.

Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio?
I live in the mountains of West Virginia. My studio overlooks a mountain range. My desk is situated in front of a large French door where I can enjoy nature as I work.



Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
I was assigned to illustrate a series of American Sign Language Books for Bright Sky Press last year. And I am currently the Art Director at Stories for Children Magazine. My web site is located at www.rosemariegillen.com


Tell us about your current project.

I am currently reworking my portfolio in preparation for yet another round of submissions to publishers.

Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
I like Dr Suess books. I like his play on words.  The musical way the words bounce and the freedom to express yourself through silly made up words.
What inspires you?
Other illustrators inspire me. Being a part of the magic world that brings life to words.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was one of those people that didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up. I had to struggle to figure it out. I realized I was happiest when I was painting and I always believe you should follow your heart and do what makes you happy.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I play the piano and paint reproductions of Great Masters. And I relive my childhood through my son.  I get my physical activity by playing outside with my son and his friends. We sled down our hill in our back yard in the winter, play basketball, ride bikes, fly kites and have Nerf wars.


What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?

I really don’t want to do anything else. I find in order to be content and focused I have to do something creative every day.

Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
It is all about hard work and attitude, it is not a get rich quick scheme. It is not something that is accomplished quickly.  Be prepared for years of hard work and do everything you can to stay true to yourself. Be unique.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Find other illustrators that are willing to mentor you to help you through the difficult job of learning this business and all that it entails. Never try to go it alone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tatyana Starikova


Tatyana Starikova is our talented featured artist this week. From watercolors to digital paintings she makes it all look easy. It's great to read about her background and I'm excited to see more of her art on the VSS in the future!

How did you get started in illustration?
My illustrating life started when I created illustrations for our high school newspaper. I decided then that my future career would be art related.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
My favorite traditional medium is watercolor. I also enjoy exploring digital painting and illustration using great tools offered by computer programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Painter. I love both mediums equally and find it hard to choose one so I switch between traditional and digital mediums from time to time, depending on my inspiration or project requirements, and have fun combining them as well. I like to keep a digital “doodle” folder on my desktop for quick sketches using my Wacom tablet while I am working on the computer.
Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
I don’t consider myself a writer, but stories always live inside of me. One day I hope to write my own story. I have lots of ideas! Visual definitely comes first.

Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I have a day job as a graphic designer/illustrator at a medical college and do freelance illustration on evenings and weekends. To keep balance in my life, I have to be very disciplined and careful about how I spend my time. It is not easy for me, but illustration is what I can’t live without, and I stick to my schedule the best I can.
Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio and include some photos? 
I am so lucky to live in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley, where the great Hudson River School artists found their inspiration and at the same time close enough to New York City to enjoy its museums, endless attractions and energy.
My studio is on the lower floor of our house. It is divided into two areas: for office and painting. I love my huge closet filled with fun stuff – art and craft supplies.
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and Education in my beloved country Ukraine. I was teaching art to students at the elementary and middle school levels for 5 years in the city where I was born. America gave me a great opportunity to continue my education in Computer Arts and to work with great talented artists and designers at a gift company and at the graphic arts studio at the medical college where I work now.
While art school gave me the foundation for my illustration career, working together with other artists in studios gave me an appreciation of others’ unique visions and talents, and invaluable opportunities to learn quickly and with great intensity from their experience. 
Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
Last year I created illustrations for a story “Celebrating Easter in the Dark” published by Highlights Magazine for Children.
Please see more of my work by visiting my website at www.tatyana-starikova.com
 
Tell us about your current project.
I am working on a picture book “Woolly the Bully” written by my husband Jon Harris. It is a story about how a goat and sheep overcome bullying to become friends.

Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
My favorite illustrators are Mary Blair, Alice and Martin Provensen, Ivan Bilibin and many, many others. I love fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in many things; reading folk tales; a barking puppy (especially when he is “singing” while my daughter is practicing her music – I get the biggest kick out of it!), landscapes in any kind of weather, children playing, animals wandering across the backyard, learning something new.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher. I had a very nice teacher in elementary school and wanted to be just like her.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Spend time with my husband and daughter, play with my dog, read, walk outside, watch movies…and talk to my friend on the phone!
What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
Scientist.

Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
Keep illustrating, both to keep in practice and to build a portfolio. Also, explore other visual artistic media and genres.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Steve Feldman


This week's featured artist is Steve Feldman. Steve is another pretty new addition to the VSS and we are really happy to get to know him! Steve is working on some secret projects but he sent along lots of fun art that he can share. Be sure to check out his website! www.stevefeldman.com

How did you get started in illustration?
Like many illustrators I was always drawing and interested in creating art from a very young age. After I graduated from art school it took about four years for a good volume of work to start coming in. At some point things just started to happen.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
I am in the final stages of transitioning to being a digital illustrator. I begin with a traditional pencil drawing, scan that into the computer and then "paint " with a Wacom Tablet in Photoshop. Sounds easy! but for me the learning process in making this a viable way of working smoothly through every stage of each illustration project has been intense. I do greatly enjoy working this way and the advantages it provides. I also continue to create fine art traditionally with my first loves, acrylics and watercolors.
Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
I have written and illustrated one graphic novel that I completely self produced. Controlling the entire process was very exciting and a great learning exercise. Unfortunately, without any outside input, guidance or thought toward a prospective market the pool of potential interested readers is very small. My next effort in this area will have a somewhat broader appeal.
Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I am a full time freelancer. Maintaining a balance is at times a difficult aspect of freelancing for me. I can go from being completely overwhelmed with work to having nothing in a short period of time. I have quite a few activities I am involved with and many have the flexibility to be rescheduled or called upon last minute if I need a change of pace.
Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio?
I live in the Grande Ronde Valley in rural northeast Oregon. The temperament and pace of life here is a perfect match for me. I use the loft area of my home as my studio. It is about 500 square feet, minus the stairwell and chimney. My decor tends more toward utilitarian than homey, but the views more than make up for it! The north windows actually overlook the historic old Oregon Trail.
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I took most of the art classes at Pasadena City College and then went through Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. It might be too easy for me to discount the value of my formal education, but the learning that occurred after I got into the "real world" far exceeded anything I learned in school.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
My website is www.stevefeldman.com
I have illustrated for widely varied publications and uses in both children's and adult markets.
Tell us about your current project.
Currently I am doing quite a bit of educational illustration. Unfortunately, contractually I won't be able to say anything about it for a number of years!
Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
My first memory of being awed by an illustration is the spread in "Go Dog Go" by P.D. Eastman where three dogs are on a little boat at night. The interplay between the three dogs and the overall mood was absolutely captivating to me. I do enjoy looking at children's market illustrations and see many that I admire. I don't know if I could name favorites

What inspires you?
That is a good question and maybe a little difficult to answer. I have always felt my creativity as an internal spring that flows from somewhere within me. It has always been a constant flow and needed my expression as an outlet. I think I am more internally driven than inspired by external influences.  

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I really don't think I ever considered anything other than an arts related career.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I spend time with my family, my wife, daughter and mother. We live in one house with my mom in her fully self sufficient space on the lower floor. I greatly enjoy many of the outdoor activities available locally, hiking, backcountry skiing and mountain biking and my newest passion, gardening. I am also active in the community, serving in arts, environmental and sustainable agriculture related organizations. 

What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
I think I would pursue something related to sustainable organic farming in its purest form.
Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
Don't neglect the importance of learning the business aspects of being an illustrator. Become knowledgeable about contracts and copyright. Act in a professional manner toward those you deal with and insist that you are treated as a professional.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I think illustration is a great profession. I know many people my age who are burned out on their jobs and longing for the day they can retire and really "start living". After 25 years in the business I am just as excited as ever with each new assignment I get. I am still learning all the time and love the variety of jobs that come my way!