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 am thrilled to be catching up with the fabulous Illustrator, Laura Huliska Beith! I first came across Laura’s artwork while working as an Art Director at Intervisual Books, who published the classic childhood favorite, Ten Little Ladybugs, illustrated by Laura. More recently, though, I was Laura’s classmate in Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sellse-course—so fun! Laura is a freelance Illustrator living with her husband and three dogs in Kansas City, Missouri. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where her siblings were the inspiration behind her first picture book, “The Book of Bad Ideas” (although she takes full credit for Bad Idea #143). She has since illustrated many books including “The Recess Queen" by Alexis O’Neill, and most recently "Little Red Hot" by Eric Kimmel. Her work has also led to teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute, children’s art workshops, presentations at elementary schools, and several community art projects. You can enjoy more of Laura’s fabulous artwork here! And her books here!
|The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and the Little Critter|
Q: You’ve illustrated many gorgeous children’s books, but recently you’ve illustrated something a little bit different: the children’s book app, Wake Up World. Dish with us about how this project was both similar and different from a traditional book project.
A: Ooooh, this was such fun to work on! What made it most fun (and different) was thinking in terms of movement and making stationary elements come to life. Many of the illustrations were painted traditionally, then scanned and put on several Photoshop layers—objects came with extra painted parts that could be swapped out to create the illusion of movement. I worked closely with a fantastic art director and programmer and they were magically able to put those parts into motion...and were very open any ideas I had.
It was the same as working on a book in terms of thinking about a "story", flow, and how one image would lead into the next.
Q: Before freelancing fulltime, you spent several years working in-house at Hallmark. How did that experience influence and shape the career you have today?
A: Working at Hallmark was an amazing experience for me! I'd almost describe it as graduate school, and my greatest teachers were my co-workers. I was lucky to be able to immerse myself in those creative surroundings for 9 years and 51 weeks. ;-). The resources were amazing—the library, the art supply room, and a place called the "Rice Center" that had a ceramics facility, wood shop, and print shop. Hallmark was also great at bringing in top-notch speakers and designers to help inspire us (we saw Maira Kalman speak, among others).
I think what helped me prepare for a career in children's books was learning how words and pictures go together on a page. I also learned how to communicate with art directors, editors, and artists from other disciplines. What it didn't prepare me for was the sticker shock at the cost of art supplies—I had been spoiled!
|Hello, Yeti Bear!|
Q: I love your dimensional artwork, particularly your yeti gentleman plushie! Tell us all about him—who he is, where he came from in your imagination and what project he is part of.
A: Oh, thank you! I call this little guy a "Yeti Bear". He was a gift for my good pal Sarah Walsh (of the MATS class and Lilla Rogers’ group!) and her new baby, Finn. Since Finn has such amazingly creative parents, I knew I couldn't make a regular ol' "Teddy Bear" for him—this bear had to be special and have a sense of humor.
So having specific people in mind for this project helped me imagine the finished product. Most of my 3 dimensional art is made for a specific person or as a donation/auction item.
Q: You have two distinctive portfolios—one for children’s work and one for editorial work. Chat with us how each of your styles evolved and how you’ve marketed each individually.
A: Ok, this is a great question because I am still trying to find my voice as an illustrator.
I should probably re-categorize my website because I'm not sure any of my work is "editorial" or "conceptual".
The work that I'm labeling as "editorial" is really just personal, narrative work....they are pieces that illustrate a single moment in time, and therefore allow me to experiment a bit. The children's book work is very much driven by the story, characters within the story, and the unfolding of time... so it involves a slightly different approach and way of thinking. Last year I found myself needing a kick in the pants to re-invigorate my art so I took the MATS class with Lilla Rogers (and you!). I re-discovered design and color, and was inspired by SO MANY talented designers and illustrators! Since that class I've been able to push my personal work and pay more attention to the ways I was using design and color in my book work.
As far as marketing, I have been very lucky to be represented by MB Artists (previously HK Portfolio) for many years now. Beyond that, I have marketed through such venues as Workbook, Folio Planet, the I-spot, and social media.
|Deja Food—so lush, lovely & delicious!|
Q: You teach illustration at your alma mater, the Kansas City Art Institute. What advice do you give your students about how to create a successful career as a freelance illustrator?
A: Ingredients for a successful freelance career:
• One part self-starter. (You gotta show up at the drawing board!)
• Two parts hard worker. (It takes work—sometimes work that you're not initially paid for—to help create opportunities. Once you have those opportunities, give the client more than they ask for up front and it will save loads of time down the road.)
• Three parts persistence (Never give up—you can take a breather, but don't give up.)
• Add a bucket of humility. (Listen to criticism/feedback)
• Mix with a lifetime of curiosity. (Continue to take classes, attend workshops, try new things, embrace technology, and weave life experiences into your art—and, as Lilla would say, do what you love!)
• Light a candle for good luck.
Talent and creativity are a given—but many people are talented and creative. It's the willingness to stick with it, evolve, and create mounds of work (some of it really crappy), as well as look for and make your own opportunities that will eventually pay off. Also, keep in touch with your classmates—we can all help each other!
|Laura's mural painted at the North Kansas City Public Library!|
Q: What are you working on now? And what can we expect to see from you in the future?
A: A few projects in the works right now:
• Creating murals for the children's section of the North Kansas City Public Library. (2 of 4 rooms are completed.)
• Working with a writing partner on elementary education story-creating workshops.
• Crafting manuscripts and book dummies for my own picture book projects. Hopefully, those published books are what you'll see from me in the future!!
Thank you for chatting with us here on Bird Meets Worm, Laura! It was a pleasure!