Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 7, 2012

Illustrator Saturday – Roberta Baird

Roberta is a full time illustrator from Texas. She specializes in whimsical artwork for children’s picture books and related industries. When not illustrating, she paints murals and sets for the theater and writes her own poetry.

She has been a contributing illustrator for Stories for Children Magazine, was a finalist in the ABC Children’s Book Competition and has a newly illustrated book, published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that came out in June of 2011.

Often I’ll use my daughter or one of my many pets as models in my work. Here are a few of my studio mates that I use quite often!

This is my first book, I See the Animals Sleeping: A Bedtime Story. It was written by Thomas Heffron for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and came out in June of 2011. It’s a wonderful book that highlights the diverse sleep habits of animals and teaches children about the importance of a good nights sleep. It was chosen by Sweet Dreams Inc. to be placed in Head Start libraries across Detroit to help educate children at-risk.

This is the first illustration I created for the book. Over the next twelve weeks I spent most of my days and many of those nights, sketching and painting animals in various sleep poses. One of the interesting things about being an illustrator of educational materials is the amount of research required to portray your idea accurately. Did you know that elephants stand guard while others in the heard get some shut eye? It’s true.

This is a picture of my mostly clean desk top, believe me, it isn’t always this put together and that’s my Wacom Intuos 4 tablet that I create all of my work on.

While I used to use watercolor and colored pencil as my medium… I started painting digitally about four years ago. I try to make my digital work have the same organic feel of traditional mediums. I start with a pencil drawing, sometimes very sketchy, that I take into Photoshop and clean up a bit. Often I paint over or eliminate the lines altogether, but If I’m going to leave the line work, I’ll ink them first and clean them up digitally.

After I’ve separated the layers, I usually always work over a layer that had been under-painted with a darker color. This gives the illustration a luminous quality and helps define the natural contours and highlights.

Next I paint in the details on many separate layers with brushes that have a texture added. This allows some of the under-painting to show through and gives the illustration a pastel feel. I always turn the opacity and flow down to about 40. Then I go back and add more details and highlights on yet another layer. Clean it up and it’s done. This is a very brief explanation I know, but I’ve learned and continue to learn by playing with my medium and making mistakes…..only now I get to push undo!

This is the sketch and my finished illustration for the 2012 SCBWI Tomie Depaola Award. The winner is to be announced on Monday, January 9th. What a pleasure and a challenge it was to design an illustration of the Chicken Licken Story by P.C. Asbjörnsen.

The next group of illustrations is a peek of a picture book dummy Roberta wrote and illustrated, titled “Ruby Rue’s New Stew.”

These images come from a book of my own I’ve been busy developing. It’s about a character quite dear to my heart, named Ruby Rue. She’s a loveable little old witch who learns the importance of good friends. I’ve finished the dummy book and am in the process of looking for a publisher for her story.

Did you go to school for art?

I didn’t go to formal art school. I’m a self taught artist that was fortunate to grow in a family of artists who were always creating something and bringing us kids into the fray. I took classes in high school and my Senior year, I was the only Advanced Art student so I spent the year in a Mentor type program, working along side of my art teachers.

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been working off and on as an illustrator for about twelve years, but I’ve been actively pursuing illustration full time for the last six years.

I see you are from Texas. Have you always lived there?
I’ve lived in Texas for almost twenty years now, but Utah is my home. I grew up in Salt Lake City.

It looks like you do most of your work digitally. Did you do illustrations the traditional way when you started?

Yes I did work traditionally for many years. I loved working with watercolors and colored pencils. I was a muralist and Scenic Designer as well. Now it seems the only paint brush I pick up is to paint the occasional theater set piece.

What made you go digital?

I was constantly in pursuit of where I fit in. I started working digitally about four years ago and knew right then I’d found my medium. I enjoy the spontaneity and the incredible detail that you are able to achieve working digitally.

Do you have a graphic tablet?

I work on a Wacom Intuos 4 9×12 tablet.

What software do you use?

I do all of my painting in Photoshop. It’s my paper, my paint, and my brush.

Do you ever do color studies?

I do color studies to get familiar with the the settings and the characters, but sometimes when I feel very strongly about a project and I have a color palette already in mind, I just jump right in to the work.

What was the first piece of art where you received payment?

Well, I’ve always been an artist so I’ve been paid in one way or another for my art. The first illustration work that I got paid rather nicely for, was a map of the journey of Christopher Columbus for Scholastic News. Although I must say, it’s almost as fun to see your work in ptint…. almost!

Do you try to follow a regular illustrating routine?

After I drop my daughter off at school I come home and get right to work. I start by responding to emails and doing any paperwork that needs completing. Then I move on to projects that are on the drawing board. Other days I’ll work on promotion or tweak my website. I stop work around two thirty to do mommy duty. If I have a pressing deadline, I try to get back to it in the evening. It’s not uncommon for me to be working in the wee hours of the morning.

When did you first start wanting to illustrate for children?

I’ve always loved books and I’ve always loved art. As a child I paid as much attention to the illustrations as the words. I loved the narrative quality of children’s book art.

Many of your illustrations have such a fun aspect to them. Are you a funny person? The life of the party?

Ha! I am an extroverted introvert. How’s that for an answer! I admittedly have a hard time getting to know people. I have to battle being quite shy. I think once you get to know me I can be kind of outrageous, maybe a little funny or quirky.

How did you get the contract to illustrate “I See the Animals Sleeping: A Bedtime Story”?

I was approached by the project manager, who saw my work on my website. I was hired to do another book. It was a whimsical book for older kids. When that book got put on hold they came back to me and asked if I would be interested in working on a book for a younger audience and could I draw semi realistic animals. I drew the mama sloth with her baby as an example and I was hired.

How long did it take you to complete the 32 pages of illustrations?

This book had a very short turn around. I finished it in twelve grueling and wonderful weeks.

Do you plan to work with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, again?

Hopefully. I would like to. There’s always the book that was put on the back burner.

Is your goal to write and illustrate a children’s book?

I would definitely like to both write and illustrate. Right now I’m participating in the 12 x 12 in 2012: Picture Book Writing Challenge, started by Julie Hedlund. The goal is twelve complete picture book drafts in twelve months. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

How many dummies have you done?

I have two that are completed, but I have at least three more floating around in the back of my head.

What type of things do you do to help market yourself and your talent?

Besides my website, I have my work on several portfolio sites and I send out postcards every couple of months. Much of the work I’ve done has been the result of promotional mail outs.

Do you have an artist rep? Would you like one?

I don’t have a Artist Rep, but I would very much like to work with one. I would love to have a team mate with common goals. That’s something I plan to pursue this year.

What project are you working on now?

I just completed a project for McGraw Hill, that will be published in a reading textbook in 2014.

Any advice you can shared that might help a new illustrator?

Some of the best advice I’ve received and can pass on, would be to draw or create something every day. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Good or bad, it helps you grow. Then go to your drawing board and work hard. Most of all, follow your heart.

Thank you Roberta for sharing your wonderful illustrations and process with us. I am sure you have a long successful road ahead of you. If you would like to see more of Roberts artwork, you can visit her at: www.robertabaird.com.  I’m sure Roberta would love if you left a comment.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Ah, my favorite day — Illustrator Saturday! These illustrations are simply charming. I especially love the Mummy. Thanks for another great post!

    Like

    • Thank you Rosi!
      Sometimes mummies have to ask those quesions of their ghoul friends too! 🙂

      Like

  2. nice Kathy…and if she’s interested, I might love to see more printed samples and talk. 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you so much Ms. Tugeau. I appreciate your taking the time to look.
      I am definitely interested and would love to talk!

      -Roberta

      Like

  3. Such a great interview by a lovely and talented artist. Roberta is always such a positive, creative role model.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  4. Kathy,

    Thank you so much for all of your hard work. I know how busy you are, and I deeply appreciate your taking the time time to put this together.
    You are awesome!!!

    -Roberta

    Like

  5. Wow! This is so great! Nice work Kathy! I am a HUGE roberta fan! She ROCKS!

    Like

    • Hola Jack, my talented friend! Thank you… It means so much to me that you stopped by to take a look.

      Like

  6. Wonderful post, love Roberta’s work!

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  7. AMAZING work, Roberta..and what a fine post. I’ve always been and always will be a big fan…you are one hard-working, talented woman!

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    • Thank you Shirley… and I am a fan of yours too… and Monsieur Olivet! 🙂

      Like

  8. Roberta, thank you for sharing your beautiful and expressive work! Great interview! Thank you Kathy!

    Like

  9. Roberta, you are an amazing illustrator. Love your work!

    Like

  10. Awesome expressive artworks! Truly a great source of inspiration for me! love your work! Thanks for sharing!

    Like


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