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 I’m delighted to be chatting up with the super sweet Illustrator, Denise Holmes! She is a fellow Tugeau2 artist and I’m totally in love with her darling artwork. Denise attended The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and earned her BFA in 2003. After graduating, Denise worked everything from a server to a sales associate until she saved up enough money to pursue her dream of illustrating children's books. In 2012, after 6 years of freelancing, her hard work and perseverance paid off when she was asked to illustrate If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback, published by Simply Read Books. Since then she has worked on a variety of projects, including The Yoga Game series and 2 children's activity books. You can view more of her artwork here!
|Jack and Jill went up and hill and read Denise's book!|
Q: You are a member of the fabulous art collective, Happy Happy. What are the advantages of being closely connected to an active art community as a freelancer? Dish with us about your experiences as a member of the online group.
A: I have been freelancing for eight years and most of those years were pretty lonely. I had become friends with Emily Balsley and Tammie Bennett over time and we all ended up taking Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells course together. Tammie had the great idea after the class to start the Happy Happy Art Collective!
Being part of Happy Happy is one of the best things. We started out as a group to get together and push ourselves to make more work and we ended up all getting amazing paying work within a year. We now talk daily about jobs, questions we have about contracts, gossip in the industry and what is happening in our personal lives. It’s a great support system and doesn’t make freelancing feel as lonely.
|Would you like a spot of tea, kitty cat? Oh, yes, please!|
Q: Give us the scoop on your artistic process from initial concept & sketches thru final art technique & finishing touches. (I simply adore your whimsical linework & earthy, but bright palette! Swooon!)
A: I start all my projects—be it client or personal work looking around for inspiration. It could be in my book collection, out and about in the neighborhood or on the Internet. Then I sketch everything in my sketchbook with my handy mechanical pencil and bring it over to my lightbox to ink it in with a nib pen (my favorite tool) and ink. I scan everything into Illustrator and color from there. My color palettes are always so similiar, I tend to work with a lot of the same colors. I have a huge color spreadsheet in Illustrator that I keep adding pretty colors to. When I start a project I go to the sheet and pick out what I think would work best. Last, I will play around with adding textures and shadows and save it!
|Let's go on an outer space adventure!|
Q: You’ve illustrated a handful of lovely children’s books! Which one is your favorite? Then tell us all about it—how it began, how it developed, everything.
A: I got so lucky—I mean it. It has always been my dream to be a children’s book illustrator. I was a new mom and having a rough day when I got the email. An editor at Simply Read Books contacted me to see if I would be interested in illustrating a book they had in mind. It just so happened to be If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback. I got the manuscript and couldn’t believe what perfect timing the story was. The story is about a mother’s love for her child and I quickly replied YES! I said YES! And I actually had no clue where to start. I luckily came across Susan Hartung who offers a how to make a book dummy class online and I asked if we could change it up a little to help me. She mentored me through the entire process. Her critiques were the hardest I have ever endured, but it really helped me to create the best work I could have made for the book. It’s silly but the best part is getting to read it to my daughter. Who luckily asks for it pretty often.
|Sweetness abounds! Sunshine meooow!|
Q: As an Illustrator Mama, in what ways do you balance your home life and your work life? How does your daughter influence your artistic life, both personally and professionally?
A: If only I knew the answer! This is the toughest thing for me to do. I try my best to balance work and life so that I’m not super exhausted by the end of the day. My daughter is 3 and not in school yet (can’t wait for the fall!) so I spend my mornings doing mom duty, cooking, cleaning, playing, and trying to do a fun activity before lunch. We paint, make projects, draw, read books and explore the neighborhood most days. After lunch is her two-hour nap and that is where I bust out my emails, Facebook, blogs and I write a list of all the things I need to get done for the day/week. 3 PM is wake up time and we try to go outside until my husband gets home from work at 4. Dinner, bath, read books and she’s off to bed and I finally get to sit down and work at 7. I do my best to respond to everyone’s email, but I spend the next 4 hours working on my to-do list. It makes for a long day, but I end my nights reading my on my kindle until I fall asleep. If I am on a deadline I enlist the help of my neighbor to watch Hazel for a few hours in the mornings. Oh, and I should add that my mom comes in once a month to help out, too. I’m pretty lucky!
As for my daughter, she is such a huge influence on me! To me she helped open up the children's book world even more. I get to read books to her over and over and over again. I know what I love about them, I know what I hate—what could I do better, what did they do to make this book so great? It is amazing what my daughter likes and what she doesn't (we don't always agree). It might be sort of like cheating!? We also get to draw together a lot and I love being able to sit down with her and just doodle— not worrying about how it will look or if the color is all wrong. I really love experiencing childhood with her again.
|Wouldn't you just LOVE to cozy up with this book?! Buy it here!|
Q: How do you market yourself to both publishing and art licensing clients? What advice would you give to fellow illustrators?
A: This is a great question, because it is something I have struggled with. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to merge my two worlds together. To me it felt like illustration for clients and picture book illustration were two different worlds. I kept trying to figure out if I should have two separate websites, but in the end, I just decided to combine everything into one portfolio. It works for me, it’s who I am and I can’t separate them.
As for advice, I have seen it both ways, but I feel like it’s great if you do different markets—the more you know about each industry the more work for you to get! I love being able to bring in my knowledge of design to my children’s books and my children’s book work into my client projects. It really opens up your world.
Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: Coffee. With my family in tow, head up to Logan Square Farmer’s Market to get some delicious food and hang out on the grass with my cousin and her husband. A catnap in the early afternoon and then some time to work in my sketchbook at my favorite coffee shop Star Lounge. Dinner at The Chicago Diner, a nice evening walk around the neighborhood and end it with gelato at Black Dog. Hang out on the porch with husband after the little one goes to bed, drinks, talking, laughing, go to bed super happy because life is lovely.