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 arts. I 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//www.carolheyer.com
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!