Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 20, 2010

Illustrator Saturday – Barbara Eveleth

Like most artists I have always been drawing. First, it was watercolors of birds rendered on my dad’s dry-cleaning cardboard inserts (remember those?). Then it was comic books in crayon and pencil, loosely based on Archie but mine were artier. Then it was fashion and costume illustration in marker, ink and colored pencil; inspired by an illustrator/theater director whom I acted under. His drawings made my jaw drop.

 But I really I owe it all to Marc Chagall. For my eleventh birthday, a friend of mine gave me a print of his. Not something you would ordinarily give as a gift to a sixth grader. Still it was the best present ever. Chagall’s paintings tell stories. And I remember thinking I want to do this. My dad and I made frequent trips to Lincoln Center, and I was mesmerized by the huge Chagall canvases that hung from the rafters.

When I studied art at Connecticut College (we called it Connect the Dots College) I fell in love with collage (no pun intended). My concentration was in illustration and graphic design. But I wondered what I would eventually do with that degree in Fine Art. I knew that I wanted to move to New York City where all the Chagall and illustration was. But where did I fit in?

The drawings of nature and comic books never made their way into my portfolios. But the fashion and costume illustrations did. I applied for an accelerated one year post graduate program in fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. And a competitive one at that. What I really wanted though, was illustration. The professors said that this part of the industry looked bleak. I never finished that program as I was a total klutz with draping and pattern-making.

My best patterns and drapery soon would be done on illustration board.

After much soul searching, I began a career in advertising as a “Creative Assistant.” This was the grunt work that most beginners get. The nice thing is that I worked on storyboards as part of my job. Storyboards are not called storyboards for nothing.

At the same time, I took many night classes at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts, and put together another portfolio; this time in advertising art and typography. Eventually, this portfolio got me a job as a real art director. But I kept studying illustration… my true love.

Fast forward… Then I got married and had kids. As my kids grew up and went to school I was invited to the book-fairs. A friend of mine introduced me to some beautiful, funny and well written picture books. I thought I want to do this. But how? Are there any classes that can help me?

Lo and behold I found two, through a continuing ed program. I wound up with two fully illustrated, bound books both of which I am still writing.

Basically, I start out with a stech like this. Then I select a color palette from my piles of papers I’ve bought over the years, or that I have made myself (picture below).

Then I transfer my sketch onto bristol board or illustration board. Then I trace the shapes on to the paper I will cut or tear. Sometimes I wing it and get as close to the sketch freehand as possible… especially for intricate things.

After I lay down my papers I use whatever I think works for detail: Ink, marker, crayon, dry paint brush, wet paint brush, colored pencil, pastel etc., and what I think will work with the texture of paper I have.

Shading is usually the last thing I do.

When I have a book dummy I am working from, I make sure I have enough paper to sustain the whole book project. Or else I will be in trouble. My frequented art store owner has catalogues of paper samples and lets me know how much is available and how long the papers stay in print.

Below are a few of Barbara’s watercolor paintings.

If you are an illustrator, I hope Barbara gave you some thought to expressing yourself in other ways.  If you would like to see more, please stop by Barbara’s website:

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Barbara, I am VERY slowly trying to work my way through hundreds of backed-up blogs and newsletters and only, just now, finally saw your beautiful work!

    The patience you must have to be willing to cut all that paper! What you achieve is so impressive—the vibrant colors and personality! Anyway, thank you for sharing!


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