Below are a collection of interviews that I have done for various people and publications over the past few years. Feel free to email me if you would like to conduct an interview! It would be lovely if you read through some of these past interviews to avoid asking the same questions, but I will most likely answer them either way.
Best wishes,
-JAW Cooper

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Student Interview

  • How did you first get into the Illustration Industry?
I freelanced while I was still in college and showed in galleries which helped me to promote myself and I think my first steady gig out of college was a monthly "visual column" for LA Weekly.
  • Does age matter you think in becoming successful in the business of Illustration?
Not at all but inexperience or more importantly the perception of inexperience can- so I usually keep my age private unless specifically asked. I actually keep most personal information private so that the work can speak for itself without being colored by prejudice based on age or gender... people are often surprised to find out that I am a woman.
  • Was creating art something you naturally picked up and wanted to do? Please explain why or why not (and if not how did art become an interest to you?)
I drew a lot from an early age (~6yrs old) but resisted the idea of a career in art because it seemed impractical and self serving. I had my first art class Junior year of high school and by Senior year I decided to pursue it as a career.
  • When you are creating, do you have a type of audience that you image admiring your work?
Not particularly- I'm always surprised by who is drawn to it. I assume my audience is pretty liberal and open minded since there is a fair amount of nudity and violence but even there I am often surprised.
  • Who was your biggest inspiration (as far as creating art) when you were younger? Who is it now? Why?
My mother was always very good at drawing and painting and did some scientific illustration on the side of her main job as an entomologist and I am certain that I would not have been drawn to art were it not for her. Now there are too many to count: Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen, Chéret, etc.
  • What companies/organizations have you done illustrations for ? Who has been your favorite to work with? Why? 
Many print motion companies, magazines, book covers, etc. My favorite of my "day jobs" has been freelancing for a Print/Motion/AD company in Sherman Oaks doing concepting and sketch art for movie and TV poster campaigns.
  • Who would you like to do work for?
Myself- and I do!
  • What mediums are your favorites to use and which ones would you like to be better with?
My favorites are gouache, graphite, and brush-pen and I would like to improve in oils.
  • What excites you the most when you are working?
The overall concept of the series.
  • What frustrates you the most when you are working?
Deadlines! I have a bad habit of procrastinating on gallery work and then sacrificing my health to get 20 paintings done in a month.
  • What is the biggest challenge you run into with your career as an artist?
Focus and direction. It's so tempting to do everything but sometimes better to do a few things very well- saying "no" is a cultivated skill.
  • Do you have any goals when you’re about to start a new piece? If so what are they?
To support the overall concept and to push myself technically.
  • What would you really like to do that you haven’t done yet( art wise)?
Large sculptures/instillations.
  • If you could create a collaborative piece with any artist, who would it be and what would you create?
I would collaborate with JC Leyendecker to create an epic peanut butter banana sandwich because.... yum. Peanut butter. To be honest I don't particularly love colabs with my fine art. My commercial art its 100% a team effort which is fun but I am also less invested in the product.
  • Where do you get your ideas for creating?
I make lots of word lists and the ideas just spring forth. (See attached)
  • Describe your “worst” drawing/painting
Oh gee, I don't know. Worst EVER? Probably some shitty drawing of a dog I did in kindergarten.
  • Describe your best drawing/painting
Oh gee, I don't know. I don't have a favorite at all. I like my drawings far more than my paintings as far as sentimental value but everything is just a stepping stone to the next.
  • How important is an “ artist style” and how would you say an artist finds it, or develops it?
Super important for gallery work. You are selling yourself wether you like it or not so there better be a definable look or you have nothing to sell. For commercial work it is sometimes very important (for editorial work for example) and sometimes not as important as the narrative or creative thinking behind the piece (for AD agency pitches for example).
  • Overall how would you describe your style as an artist?  What do you want to communicate to people?
Images from the mythology/folktales of an alternate reality.
  • Lastly, what advice would you give a young college student who wants to be a successful illustrator?
Work hard and consistently and find a way to get it seen to build a following and promote yourself. It's very competitive out there so hold your work to the level of your heroes. If it falls short identify why and then work on those skills.

Student Interview


1.) How did you begin your career as an artist?


It's always hard to know how far back to go- I was drawing a lot since the age of 6 but didn't intend on becoming a professional until Senior Year of High-school when I contemplated going to an art college instead of pursuing a degree in zoology. I ended up going to Otis College Of Art And Design and started working freelance while in school, maybe around Sophmore year. I did designs and illustrations for products, souvenirs, stock illustration sites, etc. Out of school I focused a lot (maybe too much) on gallery work and continued to do freelance illustration (mostly editorial.) I got a regular gig with LA Weekly doing a monthly "visual column" which could be anything I wanted providing it related to Los Angeles in some way. I basically just scraped by for a while and was pretty frustrated and miserable until I discovered the wonderful world of freelance in-house art/illustration for print/motion/entertainment/advertising agencies. Now I only have to work 5-10 days at month at Print/motion companies doing some sketch art, compositing, art directing, but mostly my favorite part of the whole process: initial concepting for TV and Movie campaigns/posters. The rest of my time I spend camping and working on personal projects.


2.) How would you describe your creative process? Where do you find your inspiration?


Word lists are a big part of my creative process- I'll attach an example. From that I distill a single concept and build the work from there. I do a lot of image pulling as well and fashion photography and old ephemera are always great sources of inspiration.


3.) I've seen you work in several mediums, from your awesome little sculpture bugs to your brush pen sketches at the NHM! What is your favorite medium, and how do you choose the right material for each creative idea?


My favorite medium is waterproof india ink and gouache on stonehenge paper. I have been increasingly interested in mixed media and often fix "mistakes" by adding layers of precisely cut paper to make it look intentional.


4.) Do you need to work another job to balance income, or do you live completely off your work? If so, how did you get to a place of stability?


I live completely off of my creative skill set and talent, but not completely off of my personal work (thank god.) I've tried it that way- and my personal work became so inbred and stagnant. If I became a millionaire tomorrow I would still work 5-10 days a month at print/motion studios because that helps expand my visual and conceptual repertoire which then strengthens my personal work.


5.) Is there anything or anyone in particular that has had a major influence in helping you develop your skills over the years?


My mum is a freshwater biologist and scientific illustrator and there is no doubt that she has been my biggest influence and I would never have started drawing in the first place if I hadn't had her example to follow. Both my parents were incredibly supportive of me which I am incredibly grateful for- many are not so lucky!


6.) What are some of your professional goals as an artist?


I have a number of small goals (release a book next year for example) but they are all toward a singular goal of growing my "brand," increasing my exposure, and using that exposure to get bigger personal jobs and more solo shows.


7.) What are the most important elements to the business side of art?


I try to update my social media regularly, reply to fans questions, stay involved and accessible, and then in terms of clients I am very clear when discussing expectations and always meet deadlines.


8.) What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to begin their art career in LA?


Seek a balance. That doesn't necessarily making a living doing EXACTLY the thing they want to do (gallery work, self published comics, whatever) right away- and you shouldn't want to. That said it's so important to have a job that is tangentially related to what you want to do. Tangential is great because it pushes you out of your comfort zone, forces you to work and think in ways you would otherwise not be exposed to, but is still challenging creatively and technically so your skills are always strengthening. You number one priority should be to meet your financial obligations (pay your bills) and then you next goal is to be able to accomplish that with as much free time left over as possible.


9.) In your opinion, what is the difference between illustration and fine art, and do you identify yourself with one over the other?


I make illustrative fine art. Fine art is an object. Illustration is intended for duplication or for a purpose other than being hung on a wall. One piece of art can be both. It's all just context.


10.) What role does social media have in your career, and how do you handle things such as copyright issues and gallery commissioned pieces?


Social media has been such a powerful tool for me to get my work seen and build a fan base and a following, and on a personal level it keeps me motivated to stay prolific because I know people ARE watching! People and occasionally companies rip my work off but at this point I usually just shrug it off unless they are making money off of the plagiarized pieces- then I send a cease and desist and they usually concede. I really dislike accepting commissions. The way I see it- if you want one of my pieces buy one of my existing pieces! My print/motion work more than pays my bills and that's where I execute other people's visions, so when it comes to my personal work I'd rather just do what I want to do. There are exceptions of course- if someone want a very large or expensive piece (I tend to work small/medium) or if the idea they have tickles my fancy.

Student Interview



1. How did you decide what you wanted to major in?

I originally planned on becoming a concept artist and considered going into digital media but was ultimately more interested in learning the traditional skills of drawing and painting and had no desire to learn motion graphics or coding or any of the more technical computer stuff covered in the digital major so I chose to go into Communication Arts with an emphasis in Illustration and take my electives in the concept art program. A happy compromise.


2. What did school prepare you for, and what did it not prepare you for?

School helped me refine my technical skills and gave me access to a network of contacts that became very useful once I graduated (be nice to your teachers and fellow students!) but it did not really prepare me for ACTUALLY making money.

I think the most important lesson I learned after graduating is that the first priority has to be fulfilling your financial obligations and your second priority has to be seeking the balance of commercial/personal work that is right for you. It is so tempting to just skip straight to the "fun" stuff but your personal work will actually suffer greatly as will every other aspect of your life including your self-worth and therefore your ability to negotiate for the compensation you deserve if you don't have your finances in order. On the other hand working all day every day on someone else's vision might make you rich but may also burn you out and take the joy out of the job- which will make your commercial work suffer. Balance.

Straight out of school I tried to live on gallery work and editorial illustration alone and I was pretty miserable living month-to-month. Once I found illustration for advertising/print/motion studios - doing everything from concept art to storyboarding to sketch art for client pitches and initial concept for ad campaigns - my life changed completely. I could support myself on 5-10 days a month of "work-work" which was itself varied, challenging, and creative, and then I was free to spend the rest of my time pursuing my own projects such as my gallery work. My personal work improved greatly without the burden of finacial expectation, and the more my personal work improved the more it infused my commercial work with something that was distinctly my own- making me more valuable in both areas.


3. Where do you find inspiration for your work, and where do you do most of your research?

I have an extensive library of images I have found online which spark me, I travel and camp very frequently (I'm footloose and fancy free), and I think that my work in advertising exposes me to influences and images that I would not have otherwise been motivated to explore- which keeps my work from stagnating or becoming "inbred." I also read a lot and am very inspired by science/nature writing and documentaries. I think if you just follow your curiosity and stay prolific (so there is a high turn-around rate on your ideas) you stay "inspired."


4. How do you promote yourself?

I use social media quite a bit- my blog was my main platform right out of school, then Facebook, now Instagram is how I reach the majority of my audience. Showing in galleries is pretty great promotion, and then of course as a freelancer I have access to a local freelance network and that's how I get the bulk of my commercial advertising-sketch-art work.


5. How do you make ends meet as an artist?

Easily these days as a freelance illustrator for advertising/print/motion companies. I also sell gallery work and license designs for use on products or for prints.


6. What are your present or long term goals as an artist?

I am always looking to expand my client base for the advertising work- and for the gallery work I want to continue to push toward bigger and bigger shows and ever increasing sales. Lately I have been very interested in getting into publishing work and selling books- something like how Ashley Wood and Kim Jung Ji and James Jean put out books frequently. I suspect that this would be more of a personal satisfaction/promotional tool than a money making tool but it interests me all the same.


7. What were breakthrough exhibitions, publications or jobs for you?

Hmm- well my first job freelancing at a print/motion studio two years after graduating led to all my other jobs in that field. In gallery work I had my first mini-solo show at La Luz de Jesus while in college, and my first solo show there a month after graduating and those really helped me jump-start that side of my career.


8. What part do other people play in your practice?

The commercial work is all about working toward other people's visions and working with a team to serve a client, the gallery work is all me working alone- so the two sides are very different and honestly I wouldn't have it any other way. Both are stimulating and challenging in different ways and I love the balance they create!


9. How/Where do you get critical feedback now that you are out of school?

Well I get feedback from clients and my boss/coworkers at the print/motion studios, and I am generally my own critic (impacted also by how well work sells) for the gallery stuff.


10. How do you professionally approach people you don't know, like a gallery or employer?

I think it is SO important to be as professional as possible at all times ESPECIALLY on first contact and through emails. I think it helps if you have a mutual friend or acquaintance that can be your "in" since so many positions are filled through suggestions of current employees and freelancers. Honestly I rarely if ever contact galleries or clients- I've been fortunate enough to have them generally find me. I will say that each gallery and employer has their own desired and often specific instructions for making contact or submitting a resume or body of work and you should pay very close attention to that.

On a side note I get a lot of emails from students and even fellow illustrators contacting me for advise/interviews and I can not believe how unprofessional and downright rude they can be. Frequently they go something like: "Hey- I have this assignment due tomorrow and I need you to answer these questions and send them back ASAP- thanks bro." I encourage students to be as courteous and professional as possible; first impressions are incredibly important. Please let the teacher know so he/she can urge students to be polite like you Sara!

Student Interview


*First of all, how are you doing?


A bit tired from freelancing all day- but otherwise in great spirits!



*We all begin somewhere, what were some of your favorite things to draw as a kid?


Cats. I would draw LOTS of cats. ha ha Besides that dinosaurs and other non-cat animals.



*What inspired you to begin a career in the illustration/comic book field?


I was determined to become a zoologist growing up but took an art class junior year of high school and worked my ass off and caught the "bug" of seeing tangible improvement for my efforts, so when the time finally came to choose where to go to college I just couldn't resist pursuing art as a career. I suspected that if I continued to work my ass off through art college (and then for the rest of my life) that I could make a sweet living at it and indeed it payed off!



*I've been inspired by your work, so who are some of YOUR inspirations and why?


My mother was always very good at drawing and painting and did some scientific illustration on the side of her main job as an entomologist and I am certain that I would not have been drawn to art were it not for her. Now there are too many to count: Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen, Chéret, etc. I tend to like illustrative and figurative work but am increasingly drawn to more expressive painterly work (not at all like what I have done up to this point.)



*What would you say is the most difficult part about your job?


Anything you have seen from me online I consider personal work (even the editorial stuff) and most of the commercial work I am not allowed to share because of NDC's. The commercial work pays the bills quietly in the background and is very challenging and satisfying, it exposes me to new ideas which keeps my mind active and fresh, and I get to leave that work "in the office." The personal work is fulfilling emotionally and it is satisfying to build a "brand" and watch it grow, but because it is so personal it takes more of a toll on my physically and mentally and I feel like I carry it everywhere with me. Both have upsides and downsides and finding a balance between the two keeps me sane.



*What do you feel is the most rewarding part about your job?


Same answer as previous question. ;)



*May you talk briefly about your journey as an illustrator?


I started drawing in ernest at age 6, decided to abandon zoology and pursue art by attending to an art college at age 17, started freelancing at age 18, started showing in galleries at age 19, graduated at age 21, lived month-to-month allowing myself to be distracted from finding work that could really sustain me by accepting any gallery show invite and commission request that came my way until age 23, began freelancing at print/motion/advertising companies at age 23 and found that I could pay my bills working only 5-10 days a month and have oodles of free time to work on personal projects without the pressure of finances, and now I'm 27 and I feel like I'm living the dream. It's an ongoing process to find balance between commercial work, personal work, and living life.



*May you talk briefly about your process when making your digital or traditional work?


I really only work digitally for my commercial work which you will not have seen. Traditionally- I start by making lists of ideas, colors, things, emotive phrases... etc. Then I synthesize these into one more specific idea or image. Then I sketch until I hit on something that works for me. Then I paint it if necessary.



*What is it that continues to push you to move forward in the art world?


Well- it is how I make my living so there is that. But it is also a compulsion or a never-ending hunger to improve and push.



*If you could, what advice would you give your past self; or any aspiring illustrator on how to survive in the art world?

Get a job you bum. Seriously. If you want to make art your career then don't treat it like a hobby. Your first priority should be to fulfill your financial obligations and once that is accomplished THEN you can start finding a balance that works from you between the art you do for money and the art you do for yourself. So many people seem to have the opinion "If I wanted to get rich I would have become a lawyer- I became an artist to have fun." Well you won't have much "fun" stressing about bills each month and on top of all that there is no way your personal work won't suffer with the added burden of being your only source of income. If you want to be happy, free, and watch your personal work flourish get your finances straight. That said your money-making job should still be art-related so that even while working you are improving.

Student Interview

1)      Why did you choose this field?
I intended to pursue a career in zoology and applied to many colleges, some for zoology and some for art. I got into all of them and than had to decide and chose to pursue art as a career and indulge my passion for science and zoology on the side. I suspected that if I was placed in an environment that really pushed me technically and conceptually that I could be very competitive professionally and make a career out of it- and so I chose to go to a 4-year art college.

2)      Why should I?
I don't know you so I can't say wether you should or should not. I will say this- careers in art are extremely competitive and art colleges are very expensive. If you choose to pursue a career in art and/or attend an art college to make that happen go into it critical of your abilities and potential and work your ass off through college and once graduating to pay off loans quickly and build a client base so that you can fulfill your financial obligations. I think if you want to do art as a career you have to treat it like a career and not a hobby- you should hold yourself to professional standards and expect to make a good living doing what you love.

3)      What much traveling have you done for you career?
I did just take a trip abroad to draw at Natural History Museums across Europe and spent about one third of last year out on long camping expeditions which I used as inspiration for gallery work, but that's mostly on my free time/personal art time. I make my "living" working for Print/Motion/Advertising companies in Los Angeles as a freelance illustrator and idea machine which doesn't involve much traveling itself but affords me the freedom and financial flexibility to work 5-10 days a month to pay bills and save, which means I can do what I want and travel where I want with my ample free time.

4)      What kind of benefits are there?
Freedom, the ability to be your own boss, the ability to balance commercial and personal work so that both are strengthened, and the ability to have the time to work on personal projects.

5)      What type of people do you deal with?
All kinds. Generally pretty liberal and creative since all my work is art-related, but that covers all manner of personalities.

6)      What kind of/how much education do you need for this field?
I went to Otis College of Art and Design and received a BFA in Communication Arts/Illustration. I think it is certainly much harder to get into this profession without going to an art college and getting all that instruction, guidance, and most importantly... contacts... but going to an art college is not absolutely necessary if you are extremely talented, motivated, and hard working. Once you graduate no one will ever ask where you went to school- all that matters is the quality of your portfolio and contacts that can testify to your professionalism and temperament.

7)      Where did you go to school? Certificate or degree?
I went to Otis College of Art and Design and received a BFA in Communication Arts/Illustration

8)      Did someone influence you? When?
My father is a biologist/ecologist, my mother is a biologist/scientific illustrator and both of them were big influences both in my art career and overall curiosity toward the world.

9)      When did you start in the field?
I started drawing earnestly around age 6, went to art college at 18, started freelancing at 19, started showing in galleries at 20, graduated at 21, and have been freelancing and showing in galleries ever since.

10)   How did you hear about this job?
I put a note up on my blog years ago saying I was looking to get into art for advertising or animation and a follower forwarded my website to their boss, who is now my boss. So... it was a happy accident enabled by hard work and a willingness to self-promote and ask for help.

11)   How does it affect you?
How does the job concepting on Movie/TV posters freelance for AD companies affect me? Well, it pays all my bills while giving me tons of free time to pursue my own work and it exposes me to new concepts and visual aesthetics and challenges me conceptually all of which benefit my personal work.

12)   What would say the pros and cons are?

Of that particular job? Not many cons. Of the life of a freelancer/gallery artist in general? Well freelance work is not always predictable but it's not a problem if you keep your cost of living low. Making art for a living is so personal and to be competitive you have to be very passionate and dedicated which means that it can be hard to separate yourself from your work for better or for worse.

Student Interview



1) First, is in regard to your working method. What interests you the most about working with traditional methods and why do you choose to work this way? Do you ever use other methods such as digital?

I split my time and energy pretty evenly between commercial work and personal work. You will only be familiar with my personal work as I am unable to share my commercial work because of Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA's). My commercial work is mostly for advertising companies (mostly TV/Movie poster and campaign concept and design). I have also done character design, storyboarding, sketch art (for pitching to AD clients)… 90% of that work is digital sketching and painting or … ideation (coming up with the core idea behind the campaign.) Increasingly I am paid more for my mind and taste than my sketching skills though that was initially made me valuable to my clients and continues to help me "sell" my ideas internally. I work freelance and this kind of work compensates highly so I only have to work commercially 3-4 days a month to pay my bills, so I work commercially an average of 10 days a month to live comfortably, save for the future, travel, etc.

That leaves the rest of the month open for me to work on personal projects (mostly gallery work and occasional editorial gigs) which I almost always execute traditionally. Digital media is ideal for commercial work because I can make such quick changes, share it easily, etc, but the visceral joy I get from working traditionally is incomparable. I like that things will go wrong and I have to get creative to "fix" it, I like the happy accidents, and I enjoy the feeling of creating something that is a unique object. You can make prints of a painting but there is still only one painting.


2) Secondly, how do you choose your subjects? Do you take commissions from anyone about anything or do you pick subjects which you have a personal interest in? And what would your interests be?

I have developed a pretty consistent process for concepting for a painting or series over the years. First I carry a very small notepad on me at all times in which I make copious lists - visual elements, colors, phrases, emotive words, etc. I think it really helps to pour out all the idea fragments you have floating around to make room for more, possibly better ideas and once it's all down on paper you can always refer back to it so you don't feel a need to hold onto it. Once it's all written down you can also scan the list and start to pick up on patterns and connections. Each time you scan the list you see something different, like a Rorschach Test, so it can be used repeatedly to create many works in a series. I list the patterns and connections I see often in an emotive or descriptive phrase which easily lends itself to the initial visuals which is the starting point for a sketch. As I add to the sketch I use the phrase or word as a decision-making-tool which streamlines the process of adding or editing elements. This keeps me from being bogged down in indecision and I can focus more on the aesthetic qualities such as flow, composition, etc and trust that my decision-making-tool will keep me on track conceptually. This continues into the painting phase.


For example, the painting I finished yesterday called "Sticks /Stones" had an emotive phrase that went with it "those closest to us know where the chinks in our armor are for better or worse." The image is of a warrior woman being impaled by her own shadow who uses a stone to hammer branches through a tiny chink in her armor. I decided to add in Swallows which are a symbol of trust and loyalty (they mate for life) and as I was working on the piece I saw an opportunity to have the shadow of one of the birds fall across the woman's face so that it appeared as if the shadow was whispering into her ear. I would be surprised if many people catch this detail but I think it is small details like that that add a richness and depth to a concept. I hope that wasn't too rambling of an example! Here is detail shot of that part of the painting:










I used to accept commissions and I felt like… I was sort of obligated to or something… Many artists make their money that way but I've slowly realized that I hate doing it and I no longer accept them except on very rare occasions. I love my commercial work for advertising companies and it's all about working with a team on something outside of yourself, taking direction, etc… but then when I come home and do my personal work I don't want to take direction from anybody.


I was raised by two freshwater ecologists/entomologists (AKA stream-bug scientists) and grew up all over the world because their research and teaching work took us to live in Kenya, Sweden, Ireland, etc and I think those two things have directed my interests more than anything else. I am fascinated by the natural world, science, etc and I am fascinated my different cultures, different ways of perceiving the world and different experiences of reality.




3) Thirdly, who inspires you the most to create artwork?


Hmmm that's a difficult one! I have drawn compulsively since I was very young so I don't remember ever not experiencing the world that way; creating is sort of inextricable to my experience of life at this point. As far as what gets me really excited to create something specific I think that exposing myself to a broad range of visuals (I have extensive image libraries to trigger inspiration… it's been very helpful in my work creating moodboards for commercial purposes too.) I think that living compassionately, being present, traveling and camping, learning and exploring, having beautiful experiences with other people, and creating a community of friends and colleagues around you that challenge and support you is not only invaluable to having something to say with your work, but also the key to being absolutely delighted with life. I also listen to A LOT of Allan Watts recording while I work. ha ha ha

Student Interview





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    How did you establish yourself as an illustrator?

    I freelanced and showed in galleries while I was still in college which helped me to promote myself early on. I think my first steady gig out of college was a monthly "visual column" for LA Weekly but I found my real stride professionally working freelance for Print/Motion/Entertainment companies. I split my time pretty evenly between "commercial work" and "personal work" such as gallery shows so that I stay excited about making art and to make sure I never stop growing and learning which of course makes me more valuable commercially- both sides of my life career each other.

    How did you put together your portfolio and did you select your work based on the markets, subject matter or style?

    - The selections I make for my portfolio are tailored to the type of work/gallery shows I would like to receive. When I do go in to "meet and greet" at a company I have not freelanced for before I will update my portfolio to show work that relates to the type of work that the company does. I do not usually include my commercial work as I have found that most companies are interested in me because of my gallery work even if my work for them will be more commercial.

    Who are your influences?

    Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen and Chéret.

    What were the most difficult aspects of illustration in school, after graduation at the start of your career and now?

    - In school I hardly slept or ate, definitely didn't "party" much, I was very dedicated to getting the most out of my four years and would always try to do more than was asked of me. I'm glad that I committed to my education as it has paid off handsomely but I would never want to go through that again- it's very hard on your body and your mind! The first two years after graduation were the hardest for me. The work I was getting was mostly editorial gigs, commissions, etc- which was just enough to pay my bills so it felt like I was running as fast as I could just to keep up. Once I found work that compensated me much better for my time and skills I was able to cut down to working less and I could a balance between commercial and personal work that keeps me immensely happy and financially stable. These days I work 5-10 days a month which is pliantly to live on comfortably, travel, and save for the future, and it gives me lots of flexibility so that I can also be building my own "brand" through personal projects.

    What do you think of the current trends in illustration and where do you think this field is heading to?

    - Well I increasingly see illustrators heading away from traditional fields such as editorial work and into higher-paying fields such as storyboarding, concept art, etc… at least just freelance to pay the bills.

    Describe your process from getting contacted by a client to finishing the project.

    - First I suss out if it's a job that is worth my time and if it's a client I can imagine making great work with. It takes years to hone the fine art of saying "no" and turning down jobs but it's very freeing to put yourself in a position where you can be critical about what you choose to invest your time and energy in. If I choose to accept the project and it's a new client I'll either fill out an "agreement of terms" which covers the scope of the project, expectations of both the illustrator and client, deadlines, and a payment schedule. The more clear you are in handling expectations the more trouble you can avoid down the road; never assume. The work I get varies wildly and these days my favorite type of work is initial concept for TV/Movie campaigns which involves some sketching to mock up poster and motion ideas, but is primarily an exercise in creative thinking and taste (proposed execution.) This kind of work is delivered in a "concept template" which includes a sketch, scrap (images pulled to sell execution or concept), and a description or pitch.

    What do you think the best tools are to promoting yourself as an illustrator? Are book portfolios still in demand?

    - Social media has been incredibly useful to me as has showing in galleries. I think the big-picture goal should be to build a community around your work. Some things that I have found particularly helpful in building a community are: tutorials, support of other artists you respect and answering questions on tools, process, and technique whenever possible.

    What advice would you give to an illustration student?

    - Conduct yourself professionally especially online. Treat this as a career not a hobby; this is the skill set you have chosen to use to fulfill your financial obligations so that should be your first priority. Once that is taken care of THEN strive for a balance that makes you excited, involved, invested, passionate, learning, traveling, and living! Build the life you want, and build it on a sturdy foundation!

    How do you come up with ideas?

    - I keep copious lists… emotive words, colors, motifs, phrases, etc. which I can go back and draw from at any time.

    What is the most difficult part of being an illustrator and what is the most rewarding?

    The worst part is that your work is your life, so how you perceive your work directly effects your self-worth - every career pitfall takes a personal toll. The best part is that your work is your life, so every day that you spend working you are improving your craft and pursuing your passion - every career success has strong personal significance. I have such incredible freedom with my time, I travel and camp a lot and am able to take months off at a time to focus on personal projects. The drawbacks are minor compared with the opportunity to make a living doing the thing that I love!



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    • How did you first get into the Illustration Industry?
    I freelanced while I was still in college and showed in galleries which helped me to promote myself and I think my first steady gig out of college was a monthly "visual column" for LA Weekly.
    • Does age matter you think in becoming successful in the business of Illustration?
    Not at all but inexperience or more importantly the perception of inexperience can- so I usually keep my age private unless specifically asked. I actually keep most personal information private so that the work can speak for itself without being colored by prejudice based on age or gender... people are often surprised to find out that I am female.
    • Was creating art something you naturally picked up and wanted to do? Please explain why or why not (and if not how did art become an interest to you?)
    I drew a lot from an early age (~6yrs old) but resisted the idea of a career in art because it seemed impractical and self serving. I had my first art class Junior year of high school and by Senior year I decided to pursue it as a career.
    • When you are creating, do you have a type of audience that you image admiring your work?
    Not particularly- I'm always surprised by who is drawn to it. I assume my audience is pretty liberal and open minded since there is a fair amount of nudity and violence but even there I am often surprised.
    • Who was your biggest inspiration (as far as creating art) when you were younger? Who is it now? Why?
    My mother was always very good at drawing and painting and did some scientific illustration on the side of her main job as an entomologist and I am certain that I would not have been drawn to art were it not for her. Now there are too many to count: Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen, Chéret, etc.
    • What companies/organizations have you done illustrations for ? Who has been your favorite to work with? Why? 
    Many print motion companies, magazines, book covers, etc. My favorite of my "day jobs" has been freelancing for a Print/Motion/AD company in Sherman Oaks doing concepting and sketch art for movie and TV poster campaigns.
    • Who would you like to do work for?
    Myself- and I do!
    • What mediums are your favorites to use and which ones would you like to be better with?
    My favorites are gouache, graphite, and brush-pen and I would like to improve in oils.
    • What excites you the most when you are working?
    The overall concept of the series.
    • What frustrates you the most when you are working?
    Deadlines! I have a bad habit of procrastinating on gallery work and then sacrificing my health to get 20 paintings done in a month.
    • What is the biggest challenge you run into with your career as an artist?
    Focus and direction. It's so tempting to do everything but sometimes better to do a few things very well- saying "no" is a cultivated skill.
    • Do you have any goals when you’re about to start a new piece? If so what are they?
    To support the overall concept and to push myself technically.
    • What would you really like to do that you haven’t done yet( art wise)?
    Large sculptures/instillations.
    • If you could create a collaborative piece with any artist, who would it be and what would you create?
    I would collaborate with JC Leyendecker to create an epic peanut butter banana sandwich because.... yum. Peanut butter. To be honest I don't particularly love colabs with my fine art. My commercial art its 100% a team effort which is fun but I am also less invested in the product.
    • Where do you get your ideas for creating?
    I make lots of word lists and the ideas just spring forth.
    • Describe your “worst” drawing/painting
    Oh gee, I don't know. Worst EVER? Probably some shitty drawing of a dog I did in kindergarten.
    • Describe your best drawing/painting
    Oh gee, I don't know. I don't have a favorite at all. I like my drawings far more than my paintings as far as sentimental value but everything is just a stepping stone to the next.
    • How important is an “ artist style” and how would you say an artist finds it, or develops it?
    Super important for gallery work. You are selling yourself wether you like it or not so there better be a definable look or you have nothing to sell. For commercial work it is sometimes very important (for editorial work for example) and sometimes not as important as the narrative or creative thinking behind the piece (for AD agency pitches for example).
    • Overall how would you describe your style as an artist?  What do you want to communicate to people?
    Images from the mythology/folktales of an alternate reality.
    • Lastly, what advice would you give a young college student who wants to be a successful illustrator?
    Work hard and consistently and find a way to get it seen to build a following and promote yourself. It's very competitive out there so hold your work to the level of your heroes. If it falls short identify why and then work on those skills.



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      1)What has contributed to your style as a artist, through your upbringing, your education, and your experiences?


      I traveled extensively growing up, living in Africa, Sweden, Ireland, England, and California. Practically speaking, drawing was perfect talent to cultivate for someone who moved frequently and had to travel light. My father and mother are entomologists/ecologists and my mother also does scientific illustration so I always had a strong interest in science and an exposure to art.



      2)Who are your influences?

      Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen and Chéret.



      3)How do you come up with concepts for your work and what is your main inspiration? 

      I make lists of words, ideas, motifs, objects, colors, whatever to get all the things rattling around my head out onto paper where I can view it critically and make connections/form images/distill concepts into a simple word or sentence. My main inspirations are interesting and surprising nature facts/stories and thesaurus.com. Words have a powerful effect on my process and I'll spend hours looking for the exact word to describe my concept and use that as a decision-making devise when sketching/painting.




      4)How did you establish yourself as an illustrator?

      I worked hard and made connections. There is no one right or wrong way to go about building your career- do what feels natural to you and do it well. My "thing" right out of college was my blog which I updated a couple times a week with new material/WIPs/tutorials/raffles/etc. Eventually I posted that I was interested in a job doing concept art/storyboarding/etc, basically freelance work for the entertainment industry and a follower of my blog recommended me to his boss and I started working at print/motion companies around LA. Simultaneously I built up a gallery/fine-art career which is the work that most people are familiar with. I got into gallery shows while still in school and worked my way up to solo shows by pushing my technical and conceptual skills and most importantly by selling well.




      5)What do you think are the best tools are for promoting yourself as an illustrator? Do you still believe that book portfolios are as effective?

      There is no wrong or right way- whatever you do, do it so well that people have no choice but to take notice! There is nothing wrong with book portfolios but to completely ignore the capabilities of online networking sites (Facebook, twitter, instagram, blogger, tumblr, blue canvas, society 6, etc) is to miss a golden opportunity to get your work seen and to make potentially useful connections.




      6)How do you make the selections for your portfolio? are they based on the markets, subjects, or style?

      Yes, the selections are tailored to the type of work/gallery shows I would like to receive. When I do go in to "meet and greet" at a company I have not freelanced for before I will update my portfolio to show work that relates to the type of work that the company does. I do not usually include my commercial work, however, as I have found that most companies that want me want me because my gallery work even if my work for them will be more commercial. I have a lot of adult subject matter in my work and part of the reason that I do not edit those from my portfolio even when applying for a commercial gig is that I have found that I most enjoy working for people who are excited by my personal work even if the work I do for them is more "accessible".




      7)What do you think of the current trends in illustration and where to you think the field is heading, in relation to commercial illustration, editorial illustration, and fine art?

      Oh man that's a tough one. I think that fine art is a great way to stay fresh and excited, and it is great promotion. I have found editorial illustration to be fun but it doens't necessarily pay well. I have found the most satisfaction working for print/motion/advertising/animation companies. There is so much money in entertainment and they want to make beautiful and exciting work so it's usually really exciting, challenging, and validating... and it definitely pays the bills which allows you to "work-work" less so you have time to pursue personal goals.




      8)What is your process when contacted by clients - prelims to the final piece? 

      For freelance illustration and commissions: I give them my rates and make the process clear so that we are all on the same page about the scope of the project, compensation, and due dates and such. I usually give them several sketches to pick from, then a drawing, then I execute.

      For storyboarding/concepting/sketch art.: I give them my day rate and find out what they need done/how they need it done/ and how fast they need it done. Then I either show up at the studio (working in-house) or work from home (working remotely) and work my butt off to deliver something that we are both happy with in the time allotted!




      9)What do you find the most difficult and the most rewarding parts of being an illustrator?

      The worst part is that your work is your life, so how you perceive your work directly effects your self-worth - every career pitfall takes a personal toll. The best part is that your work is your life, so every day that you spend working you are improving your craft and pursuing your passion - every career success has strong personal significance.




      10)What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator? 

      For me the hardest years were the first two out of college. I could not accept that paying the bills was as important as persuing my personal goals. I allowed myself to be distracted by small gigs and gallery work and could not understand why I continued to feel so anxious and unfulfilled. Satisfaction and confidence comes from being skilled and being given a chance to showcase those skills, but also to flex and push those skills towards a greater goal. Only working on "personal work" such as gallery shows allows you to showcase your skills but doesn't necessarily push those skills or force you out of your comfort zone. Commercial jobs allows you to work towards something greater than yourself and gives you validation in praise and income, but has the potential to burn you out or leave you jaded. The ideal is to constantly seek a balance between the two. These are always in flux so the balance is not a destination but a journey.



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        1)      Why did you choose this field?
        I intended to pursue a career in zoology and applied to many colleges, some for zoology and some for art. I got into all of them and than had to decide and chose to pursue art as a career and indulge my passion for science and zoology on the side. I suspected that if I was placed in an environment that really pushed me technically and conceptually that I could be very competitive professionally and make a career out of it- and so I chose to go to a 4-year art college.

        2)      Why should I?
        I don't know you so I can't say wether you should or should not. I will say this- careers in art are extremely competitive and art colleges are very expensive. If you choose to pursue a career in art and/or attend an art college to make that happen go into it critical of your abilities and potential and work your ass off through college and once graduating to pay off loans quickly and build a client base so that you can fulfill your financial obligations. I think if you want to do art as a career you have to treat it like a career and not a hobby- you should hold yourself to professional standards and expect to make a good living doing what you love.

        3)      What much traveling have you done for you career?
        I did just take a trip abroad to draw at Natural History Museums across Europe and spent about one third of last year out on long camping expeditions which I used as inspiration for gallery work, but that's mostly on my free time/personal art time. I make my "living" working for Print/Motion/Advertising companies in Los Angeles as a freelance illustrator and idea machine which doesn't involve much traveling itself but affords me the freedom and financial flexibility to work 5-10 days a month to pay bills and save, which means I can do what I want and travel where I want with my ample free time.

        4)      What kind of benefits are there?
        Freedom, the ability to be your own boss, the ability to balance commercial and personal work so that both are strengthened, and the ability to have the time to work on personal projects.

        5)      What type of people do you deal with?
        All kinds. Generally pretty liberal and creative since all my work is art-related, but that covers all manner of personalities.

        6)      What kind of/how much education do you need for this field?
        I went to Otis College of Art and Design and received a BFA in Communication Arts/Illustration. I think it is certainly much harder to get into this profession without going to an art college and getting all that instruction, guidance, and most importantly... contacts... but going to an art college is not absolutely necessary if you are extremely talented, motivated, and hard working. Once you graduate no one will ever ask where you went to school- all that matters is the quality of your portfolio and contacts that can testify to your professionalism and temperament.

        7)      Where did you go to school? Certificate or degree?
        I went to Otis College of Art and Design and received a BFA in Communication Arts/Illustration

        8)      Did someone influence you? When?
        My father is a biologist/ecologist, my mother is a biologist/scientific illustrator and both of them were big influences both in my art career and overall curiosity toward the world.

        9)      When did you start in the field?
        I started drawing earnestly around age 6, went to art college at 18, started freelancing at 19, started showing in galleries at 20, graduated at 21, and have been freelancing and showing in galleries ever since.

        10)   What would you say the starting salary is?
        It's all over the place depending on what specifically you are doing. For freelancing at advertising companies and depending on your skill, design sense, taste level, creative ideation, etc when starting I'd guess 200-500$/day starting. That usually caps out to around 800$/day as you become very experienced and prove your usefulness, but I suspect that there are a few veteran freelancers making up to a grand per day. (speculation)

        11)   How did you hear about this job?
        I put a note up on my blog years ago saying I was looking to get into art for advertising or animation and a follower forwarded my website to their boss, who is now my boss. So... it was a happy accident enabled by hard work and a willingness to self-promote and ask for help.

        12)   How does it affect you?
        How does the job concepting on Movie/TV posters freelance for AD companies affect me? Well, it pays all my bills while giving me tons of free time to pursue my own work and it exposes me to new concepts and visual aesthetics and challenges me conceptually all of which benefit my personal work.

        13)   What would say the pros and cons are?
        Of that particular job? Not many cons. Of the life of a freelancer/gallery artist in general? Well freelance work is not always predictable but it's not a problem if you keep your cost of living low. Making art for a living is so personal and to be competitive you have to be very passionate and dedicated which means that it can be hard to separate yourself from your work for better or for worse.




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