catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 9 :: 2008.05.02 — 2008.05.16


Doing what I love

I'm an artist. I quit my job in 2002 and started working as an artist full time. I paint, teach art and do freelance graphic art and illustration work whenever I can get it. There are occasional spurts of activity and lots of times when I think maybe I should go find a "real job" again. I've joined organizations for illustrators, gone to meetings and workshops, won a contest to work with an illustration mentor for a year (which was very helpful), sent out samples to every publisher I could think of and, of course, received hundreds of polite rejection letters. In the last few years, however, a few book illustration projects have come my way.

The first book I illustrated was a coloring book for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was almost volunteer work but I agreed to do it because I was trying to get started in book illustration and they needed to raise funds to help offset some of the costs of having a canine unit. I love dogs, so it was a fun project. I went to a training session with some of the handlers and their partners, then wrote short stories about them and created coloring pages for each story. I found out that they really do shout, "Come out with your hands up, or I'm sending in the dog."

Kat's Magic Bubble 

The next book I illustrated was a full-color children's book called Kat's Magic Bubble by Jeff Lower (Savage Press, Wisconsin), which came out in 2007. It was challenging because the little girl, for whom the stories were written, had died from a congenital heart problem. She was only five-and-a-half years old and was beautiful. Each picture was a portrait of her and her parents had the final approval of each illustration. I worked from about a dozen pictures her parents had taken the few years before she died. I finished 38 illustrations in 6 months. This had to have been a difficult thing for them to go through and for Jeff, her father, to write about.

A Mouse in the Rabbi's Study 

I've recently finished illustrating my third children's book called A Mouse in the Rabbi's Study by Nancy Larner (Song Sparrow Press, Colorado). In fact, it should be arriving today. It was an eight month project from the date of the contract until the last art was approved. There were several times that I didn't think I'd be able to finish it as the author had such definite ideas, but couldn't explain to me what she wanted. Painting 36 illustrations of a mouse has its drawbacks, but now that it's finished, I'm very happy with it. Nancy and I have a good working relationship and I'm glad I didn't give up on the project.

I'm currently working on another coloring book for a non-profit organization that takes care of a herd of donkeys. It should be finished in a month or so. Again, this is a volunteer project, but one I am enjoying. I think it will benefit the group (and the donkeys) as well as my career. My goal is to get work from a larger, more nationally known publisher. I keep thinking that the right people will see the work I've done and that it will result in work for larger publishers. It's a very competitive market, so I do other things to make ends meet—like teach art classes, sell paintings and do freelance graphic art. As long as I get to put an image on a surface, be it canvas or a computer screen, I'm a happy camper. I try to balance between doing the fun work of creating and doing the business side of things (promoting myself, sending out samples, entering shows, etc.).  The business work is a lot less fun for me, but is essential.

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