Monday, February 25, 2013

Carol Heyer

How is it that you came to be an illustrator?
It runs in the family!  My grandfather was an amazing artist who also wrote.  He painted in oils and watercolor.   My mother was a wonderful artist.  She sketched and did watercolors. When I was a child she taught me all my basic art techniques, blending, value, composition. She carved miniature figures out of sticks of school chalk!  She used a sewing needle.  They were amazing.  I tried to do this too, but decided I didn’t have the patience for it.  You could get all the way to the end and find an air bubble.  Then you had to start all over again. My father made gold and silver jewelry, did lapidary, and carved figures out of wood. He was a craftsman. 
My family taught me everything they knew, including their love of the artsI was always surrounded by creativity.  It was impossible not to walk that path too.
Did you go to art school?
I went to Moorpark College for two years majoring in art and minoring in English.  I transferred to California Lutheran University majoring in art.  I had an art scholarship there and was the teaching assistant for the art department in my senior year.  I had some very inspirational professors and took every art class offered, including ancillary classes in pottery, sculpture and even the school publications.  
I’ve used everything I learned in those classes, from layout to structure, in my subsequent jobs. An example of this was when I worked for an independent film/pyrotechnics company.  I did everything from storyboarding stunts, and production paintings to layout for pre-production brochures. I worked on sculpts of life-sized whales and aliens to using my English minor writing screenplays, and now children’s books.  I’ve always thought that the more you know in various media et al, the better chance you have of being hired later down the line.  
Were there any individuals that were an influence in your becoming an illustrator?
I remember my mother bringing out a thick book filled with exciting children’s stories and beautiful art. It was magic for me to hear her read these wondrous tales and look at the illustrations for Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Louisa May Alcott and H.G. Wells every night.  But the most exciting thing contained in those pages were the illustrations done by my grandfather, Harold Hutson for one of the stories. I always remember begging her to show me his art before she began. I think this was what really started my interest in art and influenced me to be an illustrator.  It was wonderful to think that my grandfather had drawn those pen and ink illustrations in his studio and now they were in countless books.
Does anyone continue to influence your work?When I was a kid, I was in love with anything by Norman Rockwell!  Later I drifted more toward Maxfield Parrish’s art, especially his colors and the contrast between warm and cool. I loved Frank Frazetta, an amazing science fiction/fantasy artist. I bought all of his books.  I wore them out looking at them over and over again and I still have the tattered remains.  I was influenced greatly by the Pre-Raphaelite movement, especially John William Waterhouse and Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and I also admired William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a French academic painter. 
What inspires you now?
In more recent years I’ve been studying the Alla Prima or direct painting technique.  Richard Schmid wrote an amazing art instruction book with the same title, and I think his paintings are incredible.  I also admire the landscapes and still life work of David Leffel. 
Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work?
I love working in just about every media.  I used to work in chalk pastels on velour or Canson paper as well as scratchboard, but when I started shipping my art to publishers, many of these didn’t travel well.  I did one of my picture books, “Beauty and the Beast” in colored pencil, and another, “All Things Bright and Beautiful” in felt pens on vellum, but gradually I shifted over completely to acrylic paint.  It reproduces well and I can work quickly to finish a painting in a day if I need to.  
Over the years I’ve developed a dry brush technique.  I start out by blocking everything in darker tones, and then gradually build up the highlights with dry brush layers.  There are no strokes showing, which also works well for making changes.  I can wear out a brush in a setting.  The bristles literally shear off while I’m working and look like smoke falling down the canvas.  I call it burning brushes. 
I enjoy fantasy illustration the most.  Four paintings I did for different Lord of the Rings projects were recently purchased for the Greisinger Middle Earth Collection.  It’s housed in a replica of Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit hole, but the downstairs is filled with art.  Fantasy is fun for me because I can paint anything I can imagine.  I always told my students you can draw a dragon anyway you want, because no one can tell you your dragon is wrong!
What types of markets do you do  illustration for?  
I’ve worked for a lot of markets and companies over the years including Disney, Readers Digest, Penguin Putnam and Wizards of the Coast. I’ve done everything from production paintings/storyboards for feature films, to doorknob hangers for kid’s rooms.  I’ve also worked in a lot of different genres, religious, fantasy, sci-fi, educational, new age, children’s books et al.  
Are there links to your images you would like to share? You can check out my fantasy, children’s, and Angel art at my website: http// 
I also have a news blog with updates on my projects.
Do you do other things regarding art like teaching, or classroom visits?  
I used to teach art years ago before I started illustrating full time.  I enjoyed working with students and seeing their joy and love of art come out in their work.  Nowadays I do school visits, but mostly local since I usually have tight deadlines.  I have book signings scattered throughout the year, as well as speaking engagements.
 Are there other creative interests you pursue like writing or music? 
I love writing. I’ve done numerous retellings for my picture books, but somewhat recently I illustrated my first original children’s book, “Humphrey’s First Christmas”.  It was exciting to hold that book in my hands.  It had the same energy as my very first picture book.  Since Humphrey came out I’ve also written and illustrated, “The Little Shepherd’s Christmas” and the sequel to HFC,  “Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday”.  
I have a middle grade/YA writers group that meets every week at my home.  It’s exciting to write longer works and to create new characters and whole worlds.  My perfect project would be to write and illustrate one of my fantasy novels.

I collect primitive art, and I like trying my hand at interior decorating!  I’m always rearranging my house, adding and editing sculptures and changing color schemes!  I’m a decorating diva!
Do you currently have product with your images on the market, books, gift or home products?  
Yes, I have illustrated twenty-eight children’s picture books and my work is currently on collector cards, t-shirts, prints, and book covers. I recently completed a deck of Indigo Angels cards for Doreen Virtue that will be released soon, and I’m currently working on seventy-eight angel tarot cards for Doreen. 
What is the thing you love best about what you do?
Everything!  I feel so lucky to be doing what I love everyday!
A wise man once said: ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ 
I’ve never worked a day in my life!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Laurie Keller

How is it that you came to be an illustrator?
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 and I now have a Facebook page:  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.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tara Reed

How is it that you came to be an artist?

I actually have a degree in Marketing from Penn State and went into sales after college.  Got married, had a baby, became a stay-at-home mom / corporate wife.  My then-husband changed jobs a bit climbing the corporate ladder so we moved every 3-4 years.  My creative outlets included decorating the house, having great kids parties where I would make everything from invitations to decorations to piƱatas, and I also got into scrapbooking.

My first ‘professional’ art job was designing things for the scrapbooking industry – working as a “Creative Alliance Partner” for EK Success. (That was their term for licensor I guess.)  I then worked with Simple Scrapbooks Magazine for 2 years as a Contributing Editor – designing, creating & teaching classes and writing – pretty much whatever I was asked to do.

In 2004 I learned about the wider-world of licensing and exhibited at my first trade show – Licensing International Expo.  At the same time I was also going through a divorce and had to decide to really go for it or get a more traditional job with a boss and benefits.  I am SO HAPPY that I went out on the limb since I love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way!

Who influenced your art career?

There were many different influences in my life that led me to where I am today – from my parents getting me arts & craft supplies as a kid to teachers, friends and more.  One friend in particular helped me get started in art licensing by refusing to listen to my “I’m not good enough” fears and continuing to tell me to look into art licensing.  Without her I probably wouldn’t have given it a shot – my life would be very, very different!

Then there are artists who I’ve admired and been inspired by – Paul Brent was one who I always admired in the licensing industry and now I consider him a great friend and mentor.  It’s awesome when things work out that way.

What inspires you?

The creative challenge of designing new collections that will work for products keeps me going.  I love working with manufacturers or coming up with an idea on my own and then figuring out who to pitch it to.  

I am also inspired to do what I do so I can have the lifestyle I want.  I was basically a single mom for 8+ years and wanted to be at home with my son – licensing my art has allowed me to work from home and have a lot of flexibility with my time.  There is definitely a trade off between having a more traditional job and being self-employed.  I provide my own benefits and never really “punch the clock” and leave the job.   But for me, the trade offs are worth it and I enjoy the challenges that come with it.

How has your background in marketing helped you?

I think art licensing is a great fit for me because of my background in marketing and sales, and my overall love of business.  I enjoy learning about my clients businesses as much as I enjoy creating the art collections.  To be successful in this competitive industry it helps to understand the full chain of people involved – not only what a client makes but who their client is (what types of stores they sell to etc) and what the end consumers want.  The artist is at the end of a chain of dominoes and understanding the wants, needs and motivations of each helps everyone be successful.

My background also helps me understand how to spread the word about my business – how to attract the attention of the clients I want to work with, how to talk to them and to feel comfortable talking “business”.  It seems like many artists are intimidated with the business side of things but it is a very necessary skill to have.  Or – if you really don’t want it, it’s important to find an agent that can do that side of things for you.  I feel fortunate that I enjoy both sides of the equation – no one has a more vested interest in my success than I do and getting to both create and interact with clients keeps things interesting!

What do you think are the most effective tools for marketing yourself?

There are so many ways to market yourself as an artist or to market any type of business and finding the right mix can take some experimentation.  A person or business’ personality will also affect what tools will work best.

For me, face-to-face and personal interaction has been the best for my business.  While I do postcard mailings, have a website and an eNewsletter, the more personal communication is what I see as making the biggest impact.  Art Licensing, like so many businesses, is a relationship business.  Building a relationship of mutual respect, trust and often friendship can make or break a business.  There is a lot of competition in licensing and there are always several art choices that will likely work just as well as the next – so how does a manufacturer make a decision? It often comes down to the relationship.  Can the artist be counted on to make deadlines? Are they easy to work with and willing to make changes if needed? 

My biggest and best marketing investment each year is exhibiting at the SURTEX art and design trade show.  I am able to meet a lot of clients and potential clients in person.  I can see how they react to things, ask questions and begin to build a bond with them (or further a relationship if I have met them or worked with them before).  Having a marketing and sales background makes this type of interaction easier for me than an artist who is reserved and uncomfortable outside of their studio.  There again – there is no “ONE WAY” to do things – each person has to decide what will work best for them and that is often done through trial and error.

What types of markets do you create images for?

One thing I love about licensing my art is that I don’t have to focus on only one type of product or market.  I can be creative and let the manufacturers do what they do best – create the products and get them into the marketplace!

I’ve had my art on all sorts of products – from fabric to garden flags, coasters, kitchen textiles, gift bags, greeting cards, and more.  You can wipe your feet on my art (rugs), blow your nose in my art (tissues) and feed your family on my art (dishes).  This is why when asked what I do I say, “I create art for stuff that you buy in stores” – I simply don’t know what cool product it will be on next. 

Are there links to your images you would like to share?

My art website is and has some samples of my work on products.  I also have a Facebook page at  

Do you do other things regarding art like teaching?

I do!  I have taught all sorts of things over the years – from how to make balloon animals and cake decorating for the local park and rec to color classes for scrapbookers and more.  I pretty much warn people that if they hand me a microphone we just don’t know what will happen!  

Being an artist is often a very secluded job – I work out of a studio in my house so many days the only person I would see was my son or the checkout lady at Target.  Being able to teach and share my experience and insights is a great way to connect with the wider world.

Since 2008 I have focused on teaching about what I know best – the art licensing industry.  I blog, write eBooks, have teleseminars every other month and sometimes speak and teach at live events like the SURTEX trade show I mentioned before.

My main websites for artists interested in learning more about art licensing are: and 

In addition to teaching about the art licensing industry specifically, I have also created a few educational products for any type of artist or creative person – regardless of what they do.  They include a goal setting system that allows you to still work from inspiration (, a time management tool ( and how to get press (

Do you currently have product with your images on them in the market?

Yes!  I have a lot of different products – from garden flags at Lowe’s to coasters and wine accessory lines to full lines of gift products in dog, cat and wine themes.  New gift lines that will be released soon include patriotic barbeque, and bridal shower/bachelorette party.  Art licensing is about building a “pipeline” of deals so you hopefully have new things coming onto the market each season.  One downside to licensing is that you often don’t know where the products are for sale.  Since the manufacturing and selling are left to other companies, I have little control – and sometimes low visibility – of where things end up.

What is the think you love best about what you do?

What I love best about what I do is the ability to control my own direction, growth, opportunities and time.  I have so many friends with more traditional jobs who feel like they could be laid off at a moments notice, who don’t like their boss and dread going to work.  While I have my days where I am less optimistic and don’t have the same creative energy and enthusiasm, 99% of the time I know I am doing what I am meant to do and  really enjoy it.