Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 26, 2012

Illustrator Saturday – Louise C. Bergeron

This week I would like to introduce you to Illustrator Louise Catherine Bergeron. Louise sent me a couple of pieces of her artwork at the end of last year. What she sent was perfect for New Year’s Eve and New Years Day. I got busy and she sent another one for this month and I immediately recognized her style and asked myself why hadn’t I featured her before this. So persistence pays off. Keep that in mind when you assume someone isn’t interested when you do not hear back from them right away. Keep trying – Timing is everything! Here’s Louise:

In my life, illustration came as a second career, even though it was my first love. Life led me through a different path that took a slow turn back to art, in 1999. As a child, I would draw and make storybooks for my mom. Later, throughout my life as a project manager, I handled small illustration contracts on the side. I would also draw greeting cards for friends. After a few years, I had made close to 100 different models of greeting cards that I sold in a few stores. In 2007, I was offered to provide illustrations for some enterprises’ new web site and that is when I decided to join Illustration Québec (IQ), the illustrators’ society here in Quebec.

Here is the project that Louise worked on for the Illustrator Intensive being held at the June Conference with Lucy Cummins .  Louise walks you through the steps taken.

This work is the sketch I presented as my piece for critique by an AD at the upcoming NJ conference. The piece measures 11 x 17 inches and is from one of my ongoing personal projects. The comments from Art Director Lucy Cummins were positive and she made some very appreciated critique: She thought the hen’s face was a bit lost against the basket and suggested to raise the hen a little higher. She also recommended that the farmer peddling be moved away from the gutter and suggested to add some slack between the bicycle and the cart. She also wondered if the piece could benefit from removing the farm at left.

I proceeded with the changes in Photoshop (so much quicker). I switched the hen around and made it pop out of the rubble a bit. I was afraid it would be too close to the top of the page if raised higher. I also (easily) moved the cart to the left (thank you Photoshop!!) thus losing the farm. I spin the image horizontally to make sure everything holds out ok. I learned this the hard way and now, I don’t dare send out anything without proceeding with this precious step.

Then I spin it back to the original side and proceed with the clean up. I remove all confusing lines and define the ones that are too weak. With this amount of line work in some areas and because I am a messy illustrator 😉 – I can easily get confused when tracing as to which is a good line or not. I will also do some minor adjustments to the drawing. When I am satisfied, I print my image on 11 x 17 regular paper, which I will use as my base for the tracing.

I go on with the tracing on watercolor paper. I use an Artograph light table, 26 x 20, that is until my recently purchased Epson printer is installed and ready to run and I can just print the final sketch directly onto the watercolor paper. (Where do you think I got that great info?). But for now…

I am almost ready to start with the colors.

Now this is an important step – not to be overlooked 😉 This is when I go over the look, in my head, of how I want the image to appear, before I take the plunge. I take a deep breath…

Now I am ready to start. I use watercolors. Light washes are applied in the background first.

Then I move to the foreground.

And so on…

And so on…

I wanted the background to look hazier so I added a very light wash of diluted gesso. I also accentuated the shadows on the foreground and did a bit a touch up here and there. Now I need to sleep on it … to give myself the proper step back in order to look at is with fresh eyes.

Are there any marketing things you do that help you get additional work?

One of the last things I did was buy a page in a magazine produced by IQ. The only condition other than having to pay for it was that everyone buying a page had to produce a self-portrait. That was fun. I love this kind of challenge.

Other than that, I annually buy pages in special directories of illustrators and have also bought ¼ pages in an arts magazine. These often supply you with postcards or tear sheets. And of course, belonging to an illustrators’ society is best.    (Self -Portrait below)

What sparked you interest in children’s book illustrations?

I have always liked to draw stories even when I was a young child. Characters have been making their way into my conscious and living comfortably in my head for years. I just had to make them appear. When illustrating (and writing for that matter) you can create worlds and characters and give them whatever personality and feature you want. I also like to add details that I liked as a child, such as hiding small surprises in the drawings, simply for fun.

Do you use Photoshop in your illustrations?

Yes, I always use Photoshop for touch-ups and for some major corrections also sometimes. I like to use Photoshop also to add a special element to a drawing, like a pattern to a piece of clothing or a background to a scene.

What other special equipment do you use?

I have a great light table, ArtoGraph, approximately 26 x 20 inches. Although this one will not be used as much when I learn to use the EPSON 2000 printer I just got. I will be able to transfer my sketches directly onto the watercolor paper – Ah! What a great invention! I also have Wacom Bamboo tablet, and pen. That is much better than a mouse but I still have some difficulty using it at times.

Where do you do your illustrating?

My studio is at home. So I have to be disciplined, which I am. I have learned not to do laundry during working hours, or cooking for that matter. Disastrous! But normally, it is quiet and the only interruptions I get are from my cats. Like yesterday, when my cat came in with a feathered mouthful!!! I had to catch the little thing that started flying around the house.

Do you have a routine?

I do, at 9 am I open my computer. I go through my emails and start the day. On very busy days, when I have accepted more than I can really handle 😉 I will work during the evenings and on weekends also. But otherwise, I end my working day at 5 pm.

Do you have an agent? Would you like to have one?

No I don’t. I will see when I get to that bridge.

What is your best technical tip that you use?

There are a few but one I won’t go without, is flipping my work horizontally. I use Photoshop to do this but it can be done using a mirror and looking at the reflection. This is no new trick but we too often forget to do it. It points to the weaknesses of the work right away.

What is the thing you would like to improve in your work?

Color !!! It can be the greatest challenge. Having to learn to restraint myself to a limited palette.

You mentioned you produce greeting cards, do you still sell them yourself or do you have a distributor?

I used to go to boutiques and stores and present my card portfolio. Then I took the orders. The steps (go to printer, buy envelopes and plastic pockets, insert card in envelope and pocket, prepare orders, delivery, etc…) took so much time that the end result was not worth it. I made a few salons that worked really well. Over the years, different companies represented me but nothing worked out well. One folded and another would only buy a couple of models per year. Recently, a company that has been selling cards online for over 15 years contacted me. They are now representing me for some models. So far so good.

Have you ever thought of writing and illustrating your own book?

This dream goal goes back to when I was very young– I have stories that have been “waiting” for years. Most are for a 7 to 99 years old crowd and many are part of series of books. Last year, in February, I took part in the PB marathon. I ended up with 26 more stories to develop. Some I will not but others I definitely will. The problem is that I love them all and will have to develop them further eventually. So I recently started putting book dummies together. That is great fun!

I see your art on other websites. Would you recommend this to other illustrators?

Yes. Having an online portfolio with a known reputable illustrator society gave me a lot of visibility and drew contracts in. To my astonishment, one of my first assignments came from a magazine that contacted me for regular work and eventually a monthly collaboration that lasted a few years. Then a publisher offered to work on a picture book, and then others came with youth novels and so on. Over the years, I have had the pleasure to work with different publishers, magazines, a newspaper, different government agencies, corporations and municipal offices.

When did you join the SCBWI?

That was another great step I took for my career by joining the SCBWI in January 2011.

Did you go to school for art?

No, I did not learn the trade on art school benches, I am learning as I go and picking tricks and information everywhere I can (and a lot come from this very spot). I studied watercolor with a great watercolorist, Ming Ma and took contemporary drawing and painting lessons at different venues.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

Over the years, I have filled many sketchbooks – I enjoy sketching people in cafes and going about the cities. Going to live model sessions and belonging to artists circles where we challenge each others work is also a great way to enrich your artistic life and learn, learn, learn…

What are your illustrating goals?

My ultimate goal is to publish my own stories. Some characters have been created years ago and are now anxious to live their lives in book form.

Have you ever made a book dummy?

Yes, I recently learned how to produce a book dummy – my very first was sent in for the Don Freeman WIP grant application. I admit I have little hope of getting the grant, but my greatest reward comes from finally getting it done and meeting the deadline. That was a great challenge that I am proud to have achieved. I am now working on another book dummy that I hope to bring at the SCBWI- NJ conference in June.

What type of paint do you prefer to use?

I work mostly with watercolors and inks but sometimes like to add a bit of Photoshop spices to the finished product. And I have just started to experiment with oil on my watercolors.

What was the first piece of art that you did and got paid for? How did that come about?

In the 90’s while working in project management, I did some illustration work for a friend of a friend who worked for a large corporation doing their employees’ activities program. She needed someone to add illustrations and humour to the programs she prepared for every new season.

I see you have done educational illustrations. When did you first get involved in that?

A few years ago, I was contacted by an educational publisher who saw my work online. That is how I got into illustrating educational manuals. Over the years, more educational publishers have contacted me. Always in the same manner.

Your greeting card illustrations are awesome. Is it difficult to get a large card company to pick up your work?

Thank you. Actually, I never did take contact with a large company. I had dreams of getting published by Hallmark (Ha!) but I never really did anything about it. I don’t think my style was quite what they would have been looking for. Instead, I went around here and approached small boutiques and some card stores where I scored well. But in the end, that was too much work for too little return.

What spurred you to make the trip from Quebec to attend the New Jersey SCBWI Conference?

You are very persuasive! Don’t you know? 😉 I have been reading your blog daily ever since a friend introduced me to it in 2010. You got me interested in SCBWI and all that it offers, namely the conferences. Last fall, I attended my first conference in Ottawa. And now, the NJ conference. And it will also mark the beginning of our holidays.

Did you design and develop your new website?

Actually I have to redo my website. It was done in 2007, when I just started as a full-time illustrator. A graphic designer did it for me. But unfortunately, it is not user-friendly and I can’t update it easily. It is in the plans for this year to create a new one. For now, I prefer to use the one I have with Illustration Quebec.

Have you always lived in Canada?

Yes, I was raised in Quebec city where my mom and some sisters still live. I have also lived a few years in Alberta. But for the last 26 years, I have been living in and around Montreal.

Since you have your website in French and English, I am assuming that you are bilingual and have to be to get work. Is that correct?

It is always a good thing to display all the languages you are fluent in. I believe it helps reach farther. But you don’t need to be bilingual to get work here. Most of my clients are french. But it certainly makes it easier when needed.

What is the best advise you ever got?

Years ago, when I had just switched my life to fulltime arts, a friend suggested I go and take a contemporary drawing class. The teacher had very strong composition and critique skills – she had us do blind contour and also draw a dancing/moving model – Boy! do you ever learn to go to the essentials of the movement that way. These classes got me to a new level.

Thank you Louise for sharing your talent and process with us. I look forward to meeting you at the June Conference in Princeton, NJ. Louise will display a piece of art at the conference and see her logo on the Beach Towel with the other contest submissions. If you would like to see more of Louise’s work, you can visit her at www.louisecatherine.com  or www.illustrationquebec.com/illustrateur/LouiseCatherineBergeron/illustrations/11802

If you have a minute, I am sure Louise would love to hear your comments about her work.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Louise & Kathy!
    I loved seeing your process and reading about your illo journey, Louise. Your tips are great–I’ll be writing a note to myself to flip drawings horizontally– you’re right– so easy to forget that trick.
    I have to admit, I’m wishing I could make it to the NJ conf too but it won’t happen this year. Have a great conference!

    Like

  2. You know, it’s been well over a month, I think, since I’ve been able to enjoy Illustrator Saturday and Kathy’s blog, but I’m glad I got nudged over here. I needed the respite!

    Louise, looking at your work brought tears to my eyes because it’s a reminder of WHY we work so hard on our conference—-for talented people like you! Your work is so lively and playful and appealing, I would DEfinitely be drawn to a book with your work in it!

    Thank you for sharing, and I hope your “cart” picture will be on display at the conference! I LOVE it! What wonderful art direction, too, huh? 🙂

    And I also want you to SHOW me what you mean by flipping your work “horizontal” ’cause it already looks horizontal to me! lol
    Thanks, Kathy 🙂

    Like

  3. Hello Dana and Donna, Thank you so much for your uplifting comments – I find part of an artist’s pay is in the comments we get from the public who views our work. It is so appreciated. And when we move people to tears, I mean, what more can we ask for? A million dollars perhaps? 😉

    I will be bringing the cart picture with me – the story is about this hen that lays balloons. I am working on a book dummy to bring along as well.

    Thank you Donna Marie for all your efforts to bring the conference to us – I am really looking forward to attending it. And Dana, I hope we can meet at such a conference, one year or another.

    lc

    Like

  4. A great article and I loved the illustrations. It was full of good tips and I’ve favorited her website. I know you said that you work in watercolors. The colors are so rich, I’d like to know what brand you use and also which papers? Thanks!

    Like


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