Drawing and painting were always my favorite thing to do as a kid. I took every art class I could all through junior high and high school and ended up going to art school at Kendall College of Art and Design. My first job as an artist was at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. I worked there for 7 years and quit to move to New York City to become a freelance artist.
Were there individuals that were an influence
in your becoming an illustrator?
I have to credit my mom because when I told her I wanted to go to art school she encouraged me to follow my passion. That made all the difference to me to have her support. I know many people who wanted to go to art school but were pressured into going into another field only to give it up years later because they hated it and wanted to follow their artistic calling.
What inspires you now?
I used to live in NYC and was continually inspired by all the people and “big city” life. I worried about not having that when I moved back to Michigan but I’ve found that now I’m inspired by different things. I live out in the woods along Lake Michigan so I get lots of wildlife in my yard — deer, turkey, raccoons and of course, bugs, birds and squirrels. I always imagine their conversations and what they’re up to and that gives me ideas. Another good source of inspiration is when I do school visits. I don’t have kids of my own so it’s good for me to visit school kids to see what they’re excited about and hear their ideas for me. And of course, my old inspirational standbys — funny movies, cartoons and books!
Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work for instance what types of medium do you like to work in?
I like trying different things all the time. I used to do lots of conventional painting (mostly with acrylics) and collage but over the past several years I started using the computer, too. I begin by painting textures and drawing doodles and then scan them into the computer and piece things together. My cottage is small so working on the computer has helped with my space issues. At some point I hope to get a bigger studio and then I’ll probably dive back into doing more conventional painting and collage again, too.
What types of markets do you do illustration for?
I used to do lots of freelance work for magazines and newspapers but my focus these days is children’s books. A dream of mine is to have an animated show or movie to work on. I love collaborating with other people so I think that would be great fun.
Are there links to your images you would like to share?
My website is www.lauriekeller.com and I now have a Facebook page: facebook.com/lauriekellerbooks. I resisted Facebook for a long time but I’ve really been enjoying it.
Do you do other things regarding art like teaching or classroom visits?
For about the past 5 years I spent much of my time on the road doing school visits. I never planned to have that be such a part of my life but I had a hard time saying “no” when I was asked to visit a school. It was good for me though as I said earlier because the kids are so inspiring and fun. BUT, the downside was that I wasn’t making many books being on the road so much. So this year I cut back on my visits by about 75% in an effort to be home more to make more books.
Are there other creative interests you pursue like writing or music?
Well, yes, I write my own picture books and recently I wrote my first early chapter book. I’d been wanting to try writing for other age groups and was thinking up characters and scenarios when my editor suggested that I write an early chapter book series about Arnie the Doughnut (one of my picture book characters). Kids always ask me if I’m going to write more stories about him so he was the perfect character to start with. The series is called The Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut and the first book title is Bowling Alley Bandit. It will hit stores on June 4th and I’m busy working on the second one now. In addition to writing, I DO play music. I’ve plunked on the banjo on and off (mostly OFF) for years but the last 2 years I’ve started to take it more seriously (as seriously as you can take a banjo). I take lessons and I go to jam sessions to try to learn to play with other musicians (I’ve even gone to 2 banjo camps – ha!). At first I felt like devoting time each day to practicing the banjo was time I should be working on books. Instead I’ve found that my mind lets go of trying so hard and ideas come more easily. I guess music helps to get those creative pathways cleared. BONUS!
Do you currently have product with your images on the market; books, gift or home products?
Mainly just books but one of them, The Scrambled States of America, was turned into a game and puzzle by Gamewright. Also, Weston Woods/Scholastic has turned 5 of my books into short animations. They’re all available wherever books are sold!
What is the thing you love best about what you do? I feel like I’m doing for my job what I’d be doing for fun so I feel very fortunate. It’s been great meeting fans of my books and getting letters and emails from kids and people that I never would have met if it hadn’t been for making books.