Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Super Star Interview: Teagan White

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month it is my pleasure to be chatting it up with the lovely Illustrator/Designer, Teagan White! I have long admired her dreamy artwork and am honored to be a fellow Tugeau2, Inc. artist alongside her. She is a freelance illustrator specializing in intricate drawings of floral and fauna, playful watercolors of animal characters, and illustrated typography. Her clients have included Target, Papyrus, American Greetings, Random House, Penguin Books, Nike, Wired Magazine, and the Washington Post, with projects ranging from advertising and editorial to children's books, greeting cards, and textiles. She lives in Minneapolis, where she spends her tiny amounts of free time following tangled animal paths through forest and field, squishing along reedy riverbanks, attempting to befriend gulls on rocky lakeshores, picking wildflowers, and collecting animal bones. You can view more of Teagan’s artwork here.

Isn't Teagan's picture book gorgeous?!

Q: Your first (& very lovely!) picture book, Adventures with Barefoot Critters, was released over the summer. Dish with us about how it came to be: initial dummy, working with the AD, final art and printed book, all the good stuff! (You can buy it here!)

A: Weirdly, Adventures with Barefoot Critters actually began as a class project in college! In my last year at MCAD I took a children’s book class taught by Nancy Carlson, and one of our assignments was to write a manuscript for an ABC book, and illustrate a couple of the pages. My manuscript wasn’t particularly strong and my children’s style was pretty underdeveloped at that stage, but I loved creating the characters and inventing activities for them to do, and so I included the work from that project on my website. A few months after I graduated, Samantha Swenson, my lovely editor at Tundra Books, reached out to me expressing interest in turning those pages into a complete picture book! I believe she stumbled across the images on my Behance. Our process of working together was really smooth and collaborative; Sam provided a lot of guidance on the manuscript, since writing is something very new to me, and offered helpful suggestions about activities and the details of each scene—it was incredibly easy to work with her, because from the very beginning our tastes and sense of humor and vision for the book were the same. Proofing took some back and forth, because we chose to print everything on a matte stock and getting the colors to print accurately was a challenge, but I love the matte paper and it was totally worth the extra effort!

So sweet! Is there anything more adorable than a hugging momma & her babe?

Q: Your artwork is rich in the colors and characters of the outdoors. Tell us about your relationship with nature and how it influences your work.

A: Nature has been such a powerful inspiration for me that I can’t even imagine creating work without habitually adventuring outdoors and immersing myself in natural environments. Whenever time allows, I seek out new places to explore around the Twin Cities, whether forests or fields or lakes or riversides or swamps or pockets of overgrown industrial road, and I leave each experience brimming with ideas for new work. The inspiration can be as nebulous as the feeling of the weather that day or as specific as the scrape a deer hoof left on a fallen log, as ordinary as a patch of moss or as elusive as the delicate musical tone of bits of ice clinking together at the edge of a frigid river moments before they dissolve. For years I had been channelling these types of experiences into my illustration work, but that work tended to be very serious and poetic or macabre, whereas sometimes my interactions with nature felt much more lighthearted: watching a deer nervously decide whether to cross a path, or making “bridges” out of found logs to help ourselves cross muddy patches of forest in the spring, seeing the remnants of an acorn scattered across a rock that some chipmunk or squirrel used as a little table, or listening to the ruckus of geese waking up from a bad dream. These sorts of observations inspire work that is more narrative and character-driven than my illustration work had been, and that’s sort of what drove me to develop a children’s illustration style in the first place, as an outlet for expressing my excitement about this whole other facet of nature that I find amusing and silly and fun.

This fabric would make the most adorable girlie dress!!

Q: I’m so in love with your Fort Firefly fabric collection from Birch Fabrics! Give us the scoop on your process for creating the illustrations and repeat patterns.

A: My process of assembling the illustrations for Fort Firefly was kind of laborious, because I chose to hand-illustrate the entire collection, and since each color needed to be on its own layer for production that meant that I actually drew it in color separations, lining things up by working on a light table. By the time I was starting on my more recent collection for Birch (Acorn Trail), I had pretty much decided that my previous process was insane, and did the illustrations digitally instead :)

Actually creating seamless toss patterns isn’t too difficult if you keep in mind some basic tricks to hide the repeat, such as making sure that colors are evenly distributed, designing in threes (so rather than 1 large tree, always opt for 3 large trees so that the 1 doesn’t stand out so much), and triangulating elements. I recall that the treehouse pattern in that collection broke my brain for a couple days, though, that was a very hard repeat to figure out!

Love the colors! Love the little kerchiefs! Love the little characters!

Q: As an accomplished Illustrator, who has licensed artwork across many markets, what advice would you give to an artist looking to break into art licensing?

A: I actually don’t work very much in the licensing market at all, I am primarily commissioned directly for fully custom freelance work. Even in industries that are licensing-heavy like greeting cards and textiles, I have mainly been hired for custom work. Based on what I do know of art licensing, my recommendation is to create a very consistent body of work that is accessible to a broad audience and useable for many different occasions and applications, and shop that around to the types of companies you’re interested in working with, whether in textiles, stationery, greeting cards, gift, etc. I have also heard that Surtex is an eye-opening experience, though I have never been myself!
Custom freelance work is a pretty different world, where rather than developing a self-directed licensing portfolio that aims to be multifunctional, you are creating designs based on specific art direction for a specific purpose. There are so many different markets for illustration and approaches for breaking into each of them that I couldn’t hope to cover it all here. As someone who works in virtually every area of the illustration field rather than focusing on one outlet, my strategy has been to develop a consistent style and really master that and make it unique, rather than developing work that only functions well as, say, editorial. Being consistent in my style (or, rather, two styles, since I have my children’s book style and my non-children’s work), subject matter, and color palette means that even though I do everything from advertising and book covers to giftwrap and fabric, my body of work stays cohesive and my clients know what to expect from me.

Q: What projects are you currently working on that we can look forward to seeing?

A: My next children’s book comes out in Spring 2015: Bunny Roo, I Love You, written by Melissa Marr and published by Nancy Paulsen Books. I’ll also tease you by saying I have more book projects on the way as well, but nothing I’m quite able to announce yet…

I’ve spent the past year or so working on greeting cards for Papyrus, a few of which have been released already, but you can expect to see more of those in the coming few months!

Who doesn't love spooky tales around the campfire?!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: If it’s a Sunday I feel that it should probably start off with a giant homemade tofu scramble, but otherwise the day of the week wouldn’t matter too much to me, and it would be filled with woodland and riverside adventures, preferably a lot of autumn leaves and animal sightings and seagull-feeding, and end in starting a fire on the edge of the Mississippi and sipping beers with friends (who magically don’t work Monday morning—you said perfect, right?!) as the night grows chilly and the stars shine brightly overhead.


Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Teagan! We can’t wait to read all your fabulous books & shop your lovely cards and fabric! Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely interview, loved reading about her inspiration and the tips on seamless pattern. Her work is amazing, such an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete