Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Illustrator Spotlight Katie Frey

Katie Frey profile pictOur featured artist for June is author/illustrator Katie Frey. Below is the rest of her interview.

How has being a classically trained artist helped you pivot to illustrating kid’s books?

It’s hard to imagine the hodgepodge of random art classes I took spread out over seven years, five colleges, and three continents as “classically trained,” but it does sound better than a degree in Avoiding Real Life, which is what I should have been awarded. In truth, yes, I had a few really good instructors, but like writing, I’ve learned more from just doing, than I ever did in college.

What do you like about the illustration profession? How is it different from what you expected?

This is a hard question to answer as I am still very much feeling my way forward, trying different techniques, and studying different illustration styles. I love illustration because, like all art, every style is welcome. There are no rules on how to create.

However, creating a single piece of art is nothing like illustrating a story. So far, in my art experience, every painting tells its own story. Even if it is a working part of a show that may have an overall narrative, it is meant to be bought by an individual, and separated from the series. Until I tried illustrating, I had never tried to create a series of artwork that is all telling the same story. It’s absurdly difficult and does not lend itself easily to my spontaneous process.

How do you prime yourself to be creative?

I don’t. If I don’t feel like painting, I don’t paint. Just like if I don’t feel like writing, I don’t write. I thought I was lazy for a long time, but if I force it, it never works. I read this book called Originals by Adam Grant and he says, “Procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, but it can be a resource for creativity.”

I’ve found this to be especially true of writing. If I just leave something on the back burner of my brain, usually the next time I sit down to write or paint or illustrate (whether that is the next day, week, or month), I have what I need to move forward.

Three chickens Ninja kicking a robot

What do you do to slay the dragon known as “creative block?”

I kiss the dragon and we watch Star Trek together!

In all seriousness, this links to the last question. Creative block only seems to happen when I force myself to do something I don’t feel like doing. My brain needs time to process ideas and work out problems, and the great thing is, it will do that all on its own if I just give it time.

Do you have a favorite artistic companion — a certain pencil, acrylic brush, sketchpad that you take everywhere you go? Why that one?

Not really, but I do take a sketchbook and a travel watercolor set with me when I go on trips.

Who are your top five favorite illustrators or artists and why?

My three favorite illustrators are Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen, and Mo Willems. I’m drawn to illustrators who are loose, playful, and a bit messy.

Two of my favorite contemporary artists are Erin Hanson and Carol Nelson. Erin Hanson is an impressionist landscape painter, and Carol Nelson is a mixed media texture and collage artist. They are both known for their bold use of color, and abstract interpretations of a scene.

What are you working on now? What projects are you looking forward to and why?

I’ve got two illustration projects on the back burner right now. One new, and one old. I feel like the stories aren’t quite right, and I haven’t hit the complimentary illustration style yet, so there is really nothing to do, but keep experimenting.

Duck callWhere can we find more of your amazing work?



Instagram: @katiefreyart