Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 23, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Evi Gstottner


Evi Gstottner graduated in 1992 from Byam Shaw School of Art in London.

In February 2009 she successfully completed the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at the Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge School of Art).

I love stories, especially those with a happy ending. I am very drawn  to fairytales and folktales – old and new. Their wonder, imagination and  wit never cease to excite me.
Some of the things that inspire me are old and rusty things, whimsy stuff, everything that can be glued on paper and all that glitters.

Here is Evi explaining her process:

I like adding patterns and textures to some of my drawings and I usually have a few in mind while I start on the drawing.


(jpg 1)  Once I have done the drawing with pencil on paper I scan it into my computer on a fairly low resolution between 100 to 150dpi so I have a soft ghost image of the original drawing.


(jpg2) I choose a pattern from my collection that matches the story and that adds to the mood of it. I use Dover books as a resource because their images are copyright free. Recently I have also started creating my own patterns and stencils.


(jpg3) Now I overlay my original drawing with the pattern using either the ‘overlay’ or ‘colour burn’ layer in Photoshop choosing a low transparency. Than I start printing out samples to see what it will look like on actual paper until I like the result. This can be very time consuming and often takes as much time as doing the drawing itself, I also do a lot of tidying up at this stage with the ‘eraser’ and ‘healing brush tool’.


(jpg4) I than add the drawings and do some tweaking if necessary before I print out a draft on white watercolour paper with a good quality printer. I am lucky to own an Epson printer that allows me to print artwork up to sizes A3 plus.


(jpg5) After this, I proceed in a traditional way with watercolor and colored pencil. It is not possible to make changes to the original drawing at this stage because the underprinting cannot be erased, so its important that the drawing is absolutly right. I also save a copy on my computer in case I make a mistake and have to do it again.


Have you always lived in London?

I was born and raised in Austria and arrived for the first time in England when I was 17. After a few years of going back and forth I eventually settled down in London. I now live in Cambridge.


How did you end up going to Byam Shaw School of Art in London?

Byam Shaw School of Art was known at that time to encourage and teach a figurative style when most art schools were heavily into conceptual art and installations. My paintings have always been narrative as well as figurative so it seemed to be the right choice for me.


What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

I did not have illustration in mind at that time and just wanted to produce paintings and art for its own sake. But in all of my work somehow I ended up telling a story, and I was lucky that one of my tutors really encouraged me in that. I also loved and looked a lot at renaissance art and medieval manuscripts, which in those days was a highly unfashionable thing to do at art school.
What did you do after you graduated?

I drifted around a bit and then traveled. After settling down I continued working on narrative and mythical paintings. I experimented with collage and mixed media exploring allegorical and metaphorical subjects as well as writing my own stories and fairy tales. It was not until the late nineties though that I was beginning to discover and explore the children’s picture book market.


Did they help connect you to companies that could give you work?

No, I had to do my own research. I spent hours in bookshops browsing through children’s books and magazines to the point of arousing the suspicions of sales staff. The internet was in its baby stages at that time. Now it’s so much easier with nearly everyone and everything to do with children’s books being online, available at just a click of a mouse.


What are your career goals?

My goal is to illustrate and write children’s picture books and to win more commissions illustrating stories, poems and school books and other things in the meantime.


Did you start out using watercolors for your illustrations?

I started out using liquid acrylics as the colors are really bright and vibrant, but changed to watercolor because I wanted an overall softer effect in my illustrations.


What was the first thing you did that you got paid to do?

A set of black and white roughs for a lovely story by a children’s author.


How long have you been illustrating?

I have been experimenting with illustration for a number of years. However I really got serious about it just before I did the MA at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.


What caused you to decide to get your MA in Children’s Book Illustration at the Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge Art School)?

The course has a good reputation with a number of graduates ending up getting commissioned and established as children’s book authors and illustrators.


Can you tell us a little bit about Cambridge School of Art?

When I studied there I found it a lively place with good facilities and good teaching. But like with any art course you’ll get out of it as much as you are willing to put in.

Have you ever tried to write and illustrate a children’s book?

I have written and illustrated three – one is completed as a picture book dummy, there are also two others somewhat unfinished on my studio shelve for the time being, plus a few sketchbooks with ideas, notes, doodles and drawings lying around.


Do you want to concentrate on being a children’s picture book illustrator?

Yes very much so.


Have you made a picture book dummy to show art directors, editors, and reps.?

Yes I have – it is with one editor at the moment….so hopefully……


What types of things do you do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

I send postcards by mail as well as samples via e-mail – a successful and experienced illustrator told me to do this about three times a year – plus the follow-up call. So far I have managed to do this once sometimes twice a year. Like with so many illustrators marketing my work is not my strongest point and it can be time-consuming doing the research but it is a very essential part of being an illustrator and its well worth building that extra time for marketing into your diary.

eviprincessAny picture books on the horizon?

Yes, I am working on one idea.


Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have they represented you?  If not, would you like one?

My work is represented by advocate-art and I have been with them for about a year.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Yes, I sometimes use collage in my illustrations. Mostly I use watercolor as the main medium and colored pencils as well as white gouache to add details and highlights.


Do you belong to the SCBWI in London?

Not yet – something to be done this year.


Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Yes, this almost seems to be an unconscious as well as an organic thing that happens as you go along and when you look back at previous work you have done you will notice a change. It is a bit like planting a garden, you sow the seeds and water them, that is the work you do, but the growing and the maturing of the seeds into distinct and recognizable plants that happens all by itself. That’s why it’s so important to do and develop what seems to come naturally and not worry too much about style or start copying someone else. After all a dahlia cannot be a rose and an apple tree will not turn into a cherry tree.


Have you gotten any work through networking?

Sofar most of my work came through people contacting me directly via my website or they have seen my work on Book and Trade fairs can also be a good place to build up contacts but can be stressful places to visit if you don’t like crowds, but they have a buzz and excitement about them that you don’t get anywhere else. As for social media networking – I am only just now beginning to tap into the weird and wonderful world of blogging, tweeting and linkedin.


Have you published any illustration in magazines or newspapers?

No,  so far my work has been commissioned and published by educational children’s book publishers.


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

Not yet for my illustrations – but I have exhibited some of my other work – paintings and collages in group shows and galleries.


Are you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?

I feel a bit hesitant about it but it really does depend on whether I get excited about the story. I have done some work for a self publishing author once because I liked the story and could easily visualize the illustrations in my mind. I got paid for the work I did, but the book project was never taken further. Working on a picture book is a big commitment – it can be very frustrating putting a lot of work and time into a project only to see it abandoned. If an author really believes in the story why not keep submitting it to publishers or a literary agent until it gets taken on board by one of them?


Do you ever use Photoshop?

I have experimented with Photoshop overlaying my drawings with patterns and textures giving it depth as well as adding decorative elements. I also scan in drawings and sketches and move them around experimenting how images and text work best on the page. And finally –  for tidying up artwork.


Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

No not yet. I have heard different views on those. Some artists love them – some prefer the physical handling of pen on paper and the control it gives them. I think I prefer the later, but am open to new ideas and ways of working.


How much time do you spend illustrating?

That varies from week to week. I have a part-time job which pays my bills at the moment so I have to work around that. One week I may spend half a day working in my studio whereas the next week it may be three to four days in a row. When I am working on a commission and have a deadline I will put in extra hours if needed.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

My Epson printer and my Dover pattern and reference books. Also some favorite picture books by Errol le Cain, Kay Nielsen, Shaun Tan, Angela Barret and others.


What are you working on now?

A set of illustrations inspired by the Brother Grimm fairy tales. I have also started work on some drawings for Bible stories.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Believe in yourself and what you want to achieve. Take time out to study and research the market you want to work in and know what is being commissioned. Keep in touch with other illustrators – their encouragement, feedback and support is important while you are in between commissions or are waiting for that big break and be an encouragement to others as well. Keep creating new work regularly and keep drawing from life as much as you can.

Tip: A good resource on how to combine inkjet printing with traditional art materials is the book ‘Digital Art Studio’ by Schminke, Krauss & Lhotka.


  1. Evi, your artwork is very accomplished and lovely. I especially like your sense of color and how you combine the digital and traditional methods. The Hansel and Gretal illustration is stunning! You have inspired me to try my hand at some photoshop. I’ve put the book your recommended on my wish list. Good luck with your career, which I trust will be long and successful.


    • Thank you Diane for your comments and encouragement – I hope you find the book ‘Digital Art Studio helpful. As for your own work – it’s lovely!


  2. Great interview! I enjoyed reading it and love the art work. Thanks for posting this! I am going to check out the Digital Art Studio book too.


    • Hi Annie
      I am glad you like my work and good luck with the book Digital Art Studio.


  3. Your work is magical and enchanting. The soft colors give a dreamy feel and nothing pleases me more than illustrations that evoke feelings.
    All the best good wishes for your success.


    • Adrienne,
      thank you so much for your positive feedback on my work. To evoke feelings is what I want to achieve with my work so I am glad you picked up on that.


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