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, July 20, 2010

Christine Mix

This week's wonderful artist is Christine Mix. From her cabin in the Vermont woods, she creates pictures full of magic, fairies and dragons along with playful woodland animals. Chris has shared detailed, interesting information about the way she works and her journey in children's illustration.
How did you get started in illustration?
Ever since I was a child, I loved drawing and painting, cartoons and picture books.   I also knew that someday, I wanted to work with animation and illustration.   When I was in college, I created a character for a play, and it wasn't until after I graduated that I painted my first children's illustration of that character in watercolor and I said, “A ha!”   So, I studied as many children's books and movies as I could, went to SCBWI conferences and workshops and built up my portfolio  of  children's illustrations.  Then I made some trips to NYC to drop off my portfolio to children's art directors and got a very encouraging response – so I continued on...

What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?     
I prefer to work with watercolor/gouache and sometimes pencil and ink for spot illustrations.  I start most all of my illustrations in light pencil first, and then I'll work it into a full b/W for my dummy and/or trace it onto watercolor rag paper with my light board, then I get to paint it.   Sometimes I'll play around with an image in photoshop after I've drawn and painted it.  I love oil paint but it's too toxic and flammable and we have a wood stove in our house.   So on bigger projects, which require oil paint, I'll work out in the garage, except when it's really cold outside. 

Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?    
Yes, I do write and illustrate and I have to say, that they both take turns or work simultaneously.  Sometimes an idea, a sentence or a premise for a story will pop up in my head or my dreams and I'll write it down or at least make a note so I can work it into a story.  Other times, the picture comes first – especially when I'm sketching or painting something that again, pops into my head.   And sometimes, I'll sketch a character and I'll say to myself, “hey, that's Spike!”  or “That's the pirate in my story!”  The creative process is an ever going flow of the imagination, and I believe you just have let it take you where it wants to go... it's the life of the story, and/or the illustration.

Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?    
 I'm totally freelance, even in my day job, which is teaching art camps for kids, subbing at elementary schools and doing library programs.  This allows me the time to focus on promoting, writing and illustrating my stories and art, and finding that dream agent and editor.   I exhibit my art in local art shows, garden and spend time with my family.  Balance is tricky, especially when a loved one or two are ill, but, I'm happy where I'm at.  When times get tough, I take deep breaths and keep on painting, writing and drawing through it all.  I just wish pets knew how to clean dishes and vacuum.  

Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio and include some photos?   I live in Vermont, and I love it.   We moved to Connecticut when I was 12 and then I left to go to college in Florida.  I finally made it back to New England in 1998 and I hope I never have to leave this part of the world.    My studio is small, upstairs in the loft of our little cabin – very cozy.   I have to admit though, sometimes I paint downstairs.  Depending what stage I'm in during the process, I'll either watch a movie, usually a cartoon while painting or listen to a variety of music while drawing and writing.

Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?   
I studied art at Coker College in South Carolina, then moved onto Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fl., where I received a scholarship for painting and my Associates Degree.  I then attended the University of South Florida in Tampa, where I graduated with a B.F.A. in Fine Arts and a B.A. in Mass Communications.   It wasn't long after college when I joined the  SCBWI, (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators,) along with several wonderful critique groups, attended conferences, workshops, for both children's writers and illustrators, which have proved invaluable to learning the craft and business of creating stories and art for children.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
I illustrated my first children's book, Write Out of the Oven!, for grades 5 thru 8, by Josephine M. Waltz, published in January 2005, by Teacher Ideas Press/Greenwood Publishing. Write Out of the Oven! is a collection of letters and recipes from more than 50 well-known and award-winning children's authors and received a nice review from the Parents Choice Foundation.
I sold seven B/W spot illustrations to SCBWI's Bulletin, between 2005 and 2010.  One of my color illustrations, "Twilight Magic," was on the cover of the Journal of the Annual Manchester & the Mountains, Poets and Writers Weekend, published by Shire Press, Manchester, Vt., 2009.
 As a children's author, I have one non-fiction short story,
Standing Up
, which was published, in Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul, Character Building Stories to Read with Kids 5-8, May, 2007.    There's more information and a full portfolio on my website at www.chrismixart.com  I also have a blog, with my newest illustrations, including Illustration Friday posts, works in progress, and articles, at http:chrismixkidsillustrator.blogspot.com  oh, and I have a portfolio in the SCBWI site's Illustrator Gallery – www.scbwi.org

Tell us about your current project.
I've recently finished my first PB dummy, titled Spike and the Wee Sea Folk, and am currently working on a couple of new PB stories and dummies and a possible MG graphic novel of one of my favorite old fairy tale/ trilogies that I read over and over when I was a child.   I also have a MG and/or YA manuscript in the back of my pocket as well.

Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?  
Charles Shulz, Philip Pullman, J.R.R Tolkein, George MacDonald, Brian Jacques, JK. Rowling, Maurice Sendak, Brain Froud, Chris Van Allsburg, Dr. Seuss, Tasha Tudor, Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi – are just a few.

If you could be any children’s book character, who would you be and why?   
I would most likely be Charlie Brown – because I've always been able to identify with him – and like Charlie Brown, I've never been good at flying kites or hitting the ball.   Then again, there are times when I'm a little bit like Lucy and other times, I'm more like Linus.  

What inspires you?  
 Life in general, and the beauty around us.  I also love going to museums, watching plays, and listening to live music. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?   
I wanted to be an animator and/or a rock star.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?   
I like to garden, play my fiddle, cook, read, watch movies and spend time with friends and family when I can.  I also like to take my camera and/or sketch book with me no matter where I go. 

What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
I would most likely be a musician full time, an anthropologist or maybe even a family doctor.  But, honestly, I think I would always come back to painting, and drawing illustrations -because that is where my heart is.  I don't know what I would do if I couldn't paint or write- that would be very sad.

Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?  
Remember the 3 P's.... Professionalism, Perseverance and Patience, Patience, Patience....   

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?   
Cartoons, graphic novels and animation are growing industries, despite the economic downfall these days.  So, follow your heart, be yourself and never give up.  Oh, and if you're serious in writing and illustrating books for children, I highly recommend joining SCBWI and attending conferences, critique groups and workshops whenever you can – and there are some great networking opportunities on-line as well.


  1. Interesting interview.
    I am reading a lot of interviews of illustrators-authors here: what about an online album critiq group????

  2. Sounds like a good idea - how would an album critiq group work as compared to a regular on-line critiq group such as VSS? Is there one already set up? Thanks!