I feel so exotic being in a foreign language magazine! To be honest, I was really impressed with these magazines - when they contacted me I thought the magazine must be a small matte paper/ pamphlet-like thing, but these issues are full-on glossy magazines filled with Bella Sara characters, artwork, fans and various articles! I think I might have loved this kind of thing when I was that age!
The interview was conducted via email and while I don't have the actual translation of the edited down version featured in the magazine, I can share my original answers in full here:
Why and how did you become a visual artist?
When I was a toddler in day care, a teacher came to my parents concerned that I was constantly drawing horses, only horses. My parents were more impressed with the fact that I was drawing recognizeable horses at the age of two. I think having such supportive & encouraging parents has played a major part in my development as an artist. I always loved to draw, in fact I found myself drawing more often than taking notes, in school. That’s a lot of practice! I basically just kept going, until I found some people willing to pay me for it.
Can you tell us a bit about your career?
I sold my first painting when I was 13. It had been an art class project, the object was to illustrate a word acting out it’s definition. I chose the word camping and I painted the letters of the word, sitting around a camp fire on a starry night, in a forest clearing with tents in the background. It was on display at my school and someone that passed by had an immediate emotional connection to it and asked the school if she could buy it. It was a very exciting moment for me, realizing I could earn money doing something I love to do.
I’ve always been attracted to fantasy worlds and fantastical creatures, naturally I thought children’s books where the way to go for me. I started focusing on that direction for my career, but it usually takes time to break into that industry (it involves a lot of hard work, dedication, and more than a little luck), so in the meantime I needed to find a regular job that would help me pay my rent and my college loans! I was lucky to get a staff position after college, designing & illustrating stickers in the scrapbook industry. I got to travel all over the United States for market research, visit manufacturers in Taiwan and China, I even went to big trade shows in places like New York City, Hong Kong, and Paris. It was an amazing job and I learned lot during my seven years with that company.
I left that position two years ago to work as a freelance illustrator and designer. Now there is a lot more variety in my work - and one of my newest clients is Bella Sara! I have to say, the projects I do for them is among the most fun I have - and I already have a pretty fun job. :)
What is your creative process? Do you get specific guidelines before starting a project? How do you proceed?
Bella Sara does send specific guidelines for each character they assign. They always include a few reference images along with a detailed written description to get the artist started, but they are also open to the ideas and suggestions of the artist. Most clients just send a theme or idea and I have to create a visual concept for it. I always like to start out by researching any special attributes, such a a particular horse breed. I use various internet searching techniques to gather information and imagery that inspires me, and that help add on to the ideas I’ve already started to formulate in my head. Once that’s done, I start sketching. These days, I do a lot of different sketches, scan them into my computer, then take the best parts and layer them together digitally. Once I have the sketch just the way I want it, I submit it to my client for review. They either approve it as is, or come back with a few changes for me to make. Sometimes I make the changes and submit it again, sometimes I can make the changes as part of the final color artwork.
What/who inspires you?
Just about everything I see inspires me. I am an admitted design geek - I love Ikea and all things considered “designy”. Books and movies are a huge source of inspiration for me also (for example the Narnia books or anything by Neil Gaiman, or the ending credits artwork from the Lemony Snicket movie). Whenever & wherever I am, I usually have a book, along with a moleskin sketchbook just in case I read something that inspires a visual image in my head that I just have to put on paper. I read and collect picture books as well - I would still love to work on one, they’re simply the best avenue for an artist to really showcase their ideas and artwork. The internet as opened up a lot of options for finding new and interesting things to inspire me. Some specific artists that are constantly inspiring me are Danny Gregory, James Jean, Jennifer Meyer, Kelly Murphy, Mary GrandPre, and my brother, Sean Beavers. There’s really too many to list.
Do you work digitally, or do you still pull out the ol’ paint and brushes?
I actually favor colored pencils. I’m a signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America (www.CPSA.org). My work has been accepted into their international juried show 4 times, and I’ve had the honor of receiving two awards. It’s a great medium, but it’s a little on the slow side, so I’ve only gotten to do one of my Bella Sara pieces in colored pencil (Harmony, from the Treasures series). The rest have been a combination of traditional graphite drawing and digital coloring. I like to use a lot of textures in my digital paintings as well. More often than not, it’s just a paper texture, so the digital art has a slightly more organic feel. I also love photography, and I never leave my house without a digital camera, so just as often as I stop to take a picture of a beautiful sunset, I’ll stop to take a picture of an interesting marble, granite, or stone surface. (Suffice to say, I’m always carrying around a really big, really full, bag)