As promised below is my very first artist highlight with the incredibly talented and supremely inspiring Vanessa Brantley-Newton. I have had the pleasure of getting to know her through blogging and couldn't imagine an artist more perfect to kick off my new monthly interviews with. What a thrill that she was able to take time out of her busy schedule to share a bit of creative insight with us all. And following the interview, be sure to check out her blog, Ooh La La Design Studio, to see all the delightful pieces she is creating, including her latest children's book "Don't Let Aunt Mabel Bless the Table".
"I think we care to much about what everyone else is going to say or feel about our work instead of enjoying ourselves and allowing ourselves the joy of being or having more creative expression and freedom." -Vanessa Brantley-Newton
What part of creating an illustration is most fun for you? Coming up with the characters. I am a people watcher so there are always some character that is wanting and waiting to be put on to paper or created on the computer.
How did you become involved in childrens book illustration? I had been working as a phlebotomist ( One who draws blood) for over 25 years. I had always been doing illustration work on the side, but only got small jobs and commissions here and there. I went to F.I.T. for fashion illustrations, but it was during the early 80's when a lots of black illustrators where not getting the jobs in the field of fashion illustration. Of course this deeply sadden me and I had to work so I did phlebotomy. My mom was my teacher and taught me well. I became one the best phlebotomist in the state of NJ. I worked with children with terminal cancer and other blood diseases as well as Neo Natal and Oncology patients as well. Knowing that I went to school for illustration and couldn't get a job it the field was driving me crazy. I started working on a different kind of portfolio. I began to study children's books and the love for them was great! I had a passion for them. I had already been working with children, but now I wanted to illustrate their world. I took a couple of courses at the School of Visual arts in NYC and became even more inspired. After I lost my job in phlebotomy in 1998 and my husband lost his job, we needed to put food on the table. I will say this, "There is nothing like a need to make or inspire someone to pull out what they have put away and deemed over, to get them moving in the right direction!" I was HUNGRY!!!!! I started devouring children's book and researching the publishing industry. I purchased every book on children's illustration and writing. I would take our last dollars and buy a book because I wanted to know about this passion I had for this thing. Learned all I could and then I created my first real portfolio of children's illustration and sent out letters to agents and publishers. My little sister, Coy, helped me with the letters and all. I stayed positive even when I got bad news. One day a friend came to visit and I had my work all spread out on our dinning room table. We knew each others from church. She asked me who was doing all this work and I told her me. She asked me did I know what she did for a living? I told her no. We never really talked about work. She said, "Vanessa I work for Scholastic Book and I love your work!!!" and the rest shall we say, is history.
Is there a medium that you would like to explore but haven't yet? Yes!!! Working with illustration and photography together. Like Mo Willems and Veronica Ball.
You are in the studio and have a deadline looming, how do you get in the creative zone? I have to meditate and really get myself in a good space and place. I put on my, Get Me Going Music, and look for inspiration. Then take a deep breathe and go for it!!! What’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative? One person said to me, " It's like contour drawing. Contour drawing is when you put pencil or pen to paper and you look at your subject, but not your paper and let it go". That is what it is like for me when being more creative. I don't know where this is going to lead, but I will trust the process. You can't be concerned about making the prefect picture, but you must enjoy the process. Allowing one's self to be stretched and provoked even to do something crazy and different. I think we care to much about what everyone else is going to say or feel about our work instead of enjoying ourselves and allowing ourselves the joy of being or having more creative expression and freedom. If you could be any famous painting in the world today... I would be....The Mona Lisa! Okay you knew that was coming LOL!!!!
Thank you so much Vanessa for this wonderful interview. You truly are an inspiration to illustrators and artists alike!!!