I was recently contacted by a student, Andrea Mull, who needed to interview an artist for a paper for her Graphic Illustration class. I was flattered that Andrea chose to interview me and grateful for the opportunity. Composing the answers led me to think more deeply about how and why I work the way I do.
Dear Ms. Bateman,
This letter is to request your assistance for a school paper that I am writing for my Graphic Illustration class that I am attending with the Art Institute Online of Pittsburgh. We are to contact an artist that we admire and ask them questions about their work.
I found your profile on Graphic Artists Guild and loved your illustrations. I am fascinated by the way you use line and color to created such soft and beautiful pieces like Little Pink Dress with Cones. I also enjoyed your sheep oil pastel work.
You will find an attachment of a few questions about your work and style. I hope that you will be able to spare a few moments of your time to answer and share your creative process with me.
I thank you for your time.
1) How did you get started as an illustrator?
My background is in fine arts. I have a BFA from the University of Southern California and a MFA from the University of Washington. I majored in printmaking and have always had an interest in picture books.
2) How did you find your style? How has it changed since you started?
I think style, to a certain extent, is innate. I admire many artists and illustrators and I study their work to see how they accomplish certain effects. Ultimately, my work always looks like me.
When I started my work was darker, moodier and the artists I liked reflected that: Bosch, Kollewitz, Goya. Now my work is lighter in palette, line and subject matter and I love picture book illustrators like Mini Grey, Emily Gravett, and Shirley Hughes. Not to say I’ve left the dark behind, maybe the work is more balanced.
3) Can you explain your creative process?
I first sketch from life or photographs to get the forms I want. Then I make several thumbnails to play with the composition. I usually have some colors in mind but that can change over the course of the painting.
I work slowly and used to work hours at a time on a painting. This often left me tired and hating the process. Now, I work faster and don’t spend so many hours each day. That way I am eager to get back to it the next day.
4) Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do to overcome them?
I have had long periods of not working where it just seems impossible. I’ll trick myself by saying “I am just going to clean up my desk and palette” or “I’ll only work for ten minutes”. This gets me over the inertia. When I look up, it's several hours later.
Looking at art is also helpful. I’ll see a painting that excites me and it makes me want to paint something that I hope will engender that same emotion in someone else.
5) What is the best/worst part of your job?
Best part: I love color and paint and playing. Art supplies stores are toy stores to me. I am my own boss and can create whatever world I want. Making art puts me outside of time. It is passing, but I am not aware of it.
Worst: When the work is not going well and I stop for the day thinking, "I hate this, I can't paint." And each painting is starting all over again. I look at a finished piece and wonder how I ever did it.
I am my own boss. I have to organize and motivate myself.