How did you get started in illustration?
Well, I’ve been drawing practically my whole life. I’ve wanted to be an “artist” since early elementary school. This dream was later refined as “illustrator” in high school. I ended up going to college for art. When I graduated, about 5 years ago, I just dove right in, freelancing, taking whatever work I could get… As you can imagine, in the 5 years since, I’ve better honed in on the types of work and assignments that bring me the most joy.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
My favorite medium is digital: Photoshop and my XL Wacom Intuos, which I’ve been doing for 13 years now. As I love painting bright colors and vibrant light sources, it’s the perfect medium for me, because it is quite literally painting with the colors of light! My process starts with thumbnail sketches (in Photoshop), the best is selected to make into a rough and then tight sketch, the sketch is colored (this is where I try out a number of light and color schemes) and then comes painting time -where I go in and individually paint each element- painting comprises the largest amount of time and work!
Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
They tend to be split between snatches of ideas that come to me (so, story first), bits of visual that I come up with in my sketchbook, or the two being so linked that it is hard to draw the line where one ends and the other begins. I love how each tends to call forth and inspire the other.
Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job? How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I illustrate full-time, but currently more for the general fantasy and sci-fi market (though I have been doing more and more YA fantasy covers lately). I therefore have the double-edged sword of having to draw from my creative well for a living and also as my hobby. I continually struggle with and re-examine the balances between the art I am doing for pay and the art that arises purely from within me. Currently, as I am focusing more on writing as my personal art time, I try to spend at least a few hours writing every morning before I start my freelance work day.Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio and include some photos?
I live in Virginia, not too far from Washington D.C. My studio used to be our dining room, but was reclaimed to house my giant custom computer desk and a drafting table. It has eastern facing windows, which is one of my requirements for lighting –given that I am a morning person. It also has a “blue wall” decorated with Miyazaki characters!
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
Even though I went to school for art, I feel that 95% of my learning took place outside the classroom. I started digitally painting personal pieces when my family first bought a computer, mid high school, this continued and grew as a hobby throughout college. Through the later part of college I took numerous Independent Studies in Illustration.
Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
Though I’ve done a ton of book covers, most are for individual clients, small presses, or overseas, so it’s hard to direct anyone to them. I do have a portfolio of my current work at: www.LDiehl.com and a blog: ldiehl.blogspot.comTell us about your current project.
My current project involves seeing if I can translate and expand a picture book plot I’ve had for years into a MG/YA chapter-book like format, while still keeping it well illustrated. I’m also contemplating more direct ways of sharing my stories with the world; I find the trend toward e-books/e-graphic novels especially fascinating as a digital artist.Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
Chris Van Allsburg is very high on the list. When I first discovered Polar Express, in elementary school, I knew I wanted to do what he does: make magic with words and pictures! I also really enjoy the whimsical fantasy illustrations of Mary GrandPre' and the colorful realism of the Brothers Hildebrandt. Author-wise I love the works that bridge the gap between children’s and fantasy: the late British author Diana Wynne Jones comes to mind.
If you could be any children’s book character, who would you be and why?
I’d be the boy from The Snowman. Because he gets to take a magical flight to the North Pole to see Santa and dance with snowmen!
What inspires you?
Nature. Sunshine. Snowstorms. Long walks. Other artists’ art. I love reading fantasy and children’s books, watching movies, playing video games.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist. I actually can’t remember ever wanting to be anything else…
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Relax with a good book, movie, or video game. Have adventures with my husband Chris: whether to the grocery store or a nearby park.What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
If I weren’t an artist I’d be a writer or maybe a photographer or some other creative but distinctly different discipline. Or perhaps a lumberjack…
Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
Create only the type of art that you are most passionate about. Keep doing that until your portfolio is brimming with that type of art. Never stop. Never try to mold yourself to a trend, instead remain true to the art that comes naturally to you: do this enough and ways will open for you to do more of it.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
It really helps to think about what unique art/writing gifts you alone can give the world… and then do everything in your power to give them.