Monday, August 5, 2013

Cathy Heck

How did you become an artist?
I think all of us start off as artists. Every 3-year-old I know loves a fresh box of crayons and the chance to see the marks that miraculously come right out of his or her very own hand. For those of us who continue to be called artists, we just never stop drawing and coloring ... or maybe it’s that we never grow up!  :-)

Did you go to art school?
I attended the University of Texas and received a fine arts degree with an emphasis in advertising design. I also took some instrumental courses afterward at the School of Visual Arts when we lived in New York–one from Barron Storey and one from Milton Glaser. I still use lessons learned in those classes today.

Were there 1 or more individuals who were an influence in your becoming an illustrator/artist?
There have been so many people who have encouraged me throughout my career. The first would be my mother, who ran her own company, which included an art department. I can remember seeing my first four-color separation and placing each color overlay on top of the next until a full-color image appeared. It was pure magic.

Another important mentor was Dr. Leonard Ruben, a tough advertising teacher at UT, who demanded strong conceptual solutions and the best work from all of us. With his guidance, I headed to New York with my portfolio and was able to begin my career working as an art director for Young & Rubicam. Understanding the needs of an art director helps me to be a better illustrator today.

And, I can’t forget to mention another very encouraging person in my life–my husband, Jim. He has an amazing can-do spirit that rubs off on everyone around him.

What inspires you now?
I am inspired by everything. I am almost inspired too much. Sometimes I have to say to myself, “Self, quit being so inspired and get to work.” If I had to pick one thing that I can count on for certain stimulation, I might choose children’s books. When our three girls were little, we read bedtime stories together every night, and after story time, they would fall asleep, while I would be wide awake, full of energy and ideas.

Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work? 
These days, the most exciting aspect to my style of work is that I collaborate with my daughters. Ellen, our oldest, began working with me after she graduated from the School at the Art Institute of Chicago. We love to work together. And, I mean literally work together–often I will start a drawing and Ellen will complete the color work.  And other times, Ellen will create a collection, and I will add coordinates.  I think our work is stronger because of this teamwork, and it’s a lot more fun. Recently, our middle daughter, Julianna, who is a graphic design student at VCUarts, began working with us. She is comfortable with all things digital. We send work back and forth to be silhouetted, mocked up for products, or brought to life with animation. And, although our third daughter, Margaret, has chosen animal science as her major in college, she helps with our trade shows and in-house studio projects, plus she re-trains our beloved mutt, Neville, when she is home from college, because I might spoil him just a little bit.

What types of markets do you do art/illustration for?
Although we design for many product categories, we are most known for our juvenile designs. (In fact, over two million babies own our baby books. We love that.)

Do you currently have product with your images on the market?  books, gift or home products?
Last year was the year of fabric design for Cathy Heck Studio. We created 10 fabric collections under our CathyLoo® brand for David Textiles.  And, we are excited about a new collection, Cuteville County Fair, which will be coming out in September with Henry Glass, exclusively for quilt stores. You can also find several cross-stitch kits at Jo-Ann’s, produced by Dimensions. And, we have lots of new CathyLoo® needlecraft collections coming out soon through Plaid’s Bucilla line. Our baby books and memory products are produced by C.R. Gibson, which was one of our first licensees over 25 years ago, and we are looking forward to the introduction of a beautiful new baby book collection this January at the Atlanta Gift Show.

Are there other creative interests you pursue like writing or music?
I love to write for our mother-artist/daughter-artist blog. We share stories about life in a family art business, and tips for new artists who might like to try art-making as a livelihood. From our three different studio locations, Austin, Berkeley and Richmond, we relate happenings from day-to-day life and the ways they inspire us ... anything from a great restaurant discovery to a handy new artist’s tool to my personal favorite topic: bacon, an excellent source for delicious inspiration.

Are there links to your images you would like to share?
Here is a link to our blog, the best place to read about life in the studio: 

This is a link to our website, where companies can look at some of our collections to see if we have styles that will suit their needs:

This is a link to our shopping site, where you can help create personalized nursery art with our designs using our interactive features:

If you would like to have a little glimpse into family life in the art business, here’s a link to a 60-second video, which Julianna made for us after our last trade show, Surtex 2013:

What is the thing you love best about what you do?
That’s a hard question. I think one of my favorite phases of a project is the early development, when I imagine the person for whom I am making the art. Once a collection has been chosen, we add many hours of development, and we actually enjoy that part as well, because the concept has been sold, and we are having fun making it work. But, probably the part of our work we love best is when a new mom sends us a picture of her precious little one delighted with our designs. It just doesn’t get any better than that.


  1. What a delightful interview with such a delightful person! Thanks, Cathy for all of your insight into the biz.

  2. GREAT interview! Thanks Patti & Cathy :-D

  3. Bacon inspires so many creative ideas. I thought that was our secret. Nice interview and I love all the pictures of you, Jim, and your lovely daughters.

  4. What a lovely interview! Cathy is one of my favorite artists ~ thanks for sharing more about what you do and your fabulous family.