Colleen Rowan Kosinski has always been involved in creative projects. She is an alumna of Moore College of Art and graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Visual Arts. While in college, Colleen worked with The Robert Wood Johnson Hospital as part of her curriculum. She developed, designed and constructed step-by-step instruction booklets to be used by nursing staff. After graduation, Colleen worked as a jewelry designer. While working as a designer she won a scholarship to the Gemological Institute of America and earned a certificate in Colored Stones. Colleen, having a great interest in science, volunteered at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. She worked with Dr. John Gelhaus in the entomology department rendering illustrations of insects for scientific publications. She also worked at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, were she designed illustrations for a cookbook featuring Ben Franklin’s favorite dishes.
After the birth of her first child, Colleen opened her studio and virtual gallery. She has been working as a visual artist, with clients all over the United States, for the past eighteen years. You can visit her site at http://www.myartsite.com. She specializes in pet portraiture and still life. Her mediums of choice are oil or pastel.
Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, three sons, doberman pinscher, rottweiler, and miniature dachshund and volunteers at the local animal shelter. During the summer you can usually find her nursing a sick squirrel or robin back to health.
Here is Colleen explaining her process:
This painting example was created for the NJSCBWI 2014 Conference. I knew I wanted a dreamy, fairytale-ish feel. I wanted the viewer to wonder what would happen next. I also wanted to include the theme of the Jersey shore.
First I researched elements I needed for this particular piece of work, ex. I needed to research old-fashioned bathing suit attire, seagulls, and Victorian style homes in Cape May for this piece.
Next, I drew (in pencil) each element that was to be included in the artwork. I scanned in the early sketches and placed everything in the space to see if worked. I’d drawn a lifeguard chair and the Cape May lifeguard boat but they didn’t fit in the composition, so they were cut.
Then, I went back and shadowed each drawing in pencil.
I scanned each shadowed piece into the computer and placed them on the page.
All the shadowed pieces were built as their own layers. I then painted in colors, using varying opacities and brushes.
Original pencil sketch
Scanned image, cut out, cleaned up and contrast adjusted.
Colored layers built up.
Shadows and highlights are added last.
I brought the colored drawings back into the original composition.
I adjusted scale and brightness.
I then layer in shadows into the final composition and sometimes I add various textures into the composition.
Finally, when the painting looks finished to me, I put a bump map of a watercolor texture over the entire painting. This makes the work look less “computer-like”. Copyright ©
After critiques by my trusted artist friends, I add my finished piece to my portfolio. For example, they suggested her head should be tilted toward the bird so I made the adjustment as seen here.
How long have you been illustrating?
I’ve been drawing forever. I participated in my first “show” when I was thirteen (and won first place.) I’ve been seriously working on illustrating for children for the past three years.
What made you choose to get your degree in visual Arts at Rutgers University?
I was originally granted a full scholarship to Moore College of Art when I happened upon a portfolio day after a Saturday class at the Philadelphia College of Art. I attended my freshman year, but then transferred to Rutgers to follow my boyfriend. I know. I know. But we’ve been married now for 27 years. : )
What were you favorite classes?
I loved figure drawing, creative writing, and anthropology. I’d always try to convince my professors to hold class outside on beautiful days. All except figure drawing. Naked models posing outside in the middle of campus would have been frowned upon—but would probably have drawn quite a crowd.
Did the School help you get work?
Actually, Moore College of Art helped me get my first internship as a scientific illustrator for the entomology department of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?
In high school the teachers would commission me for artwork.
What type of job did you do right after you graduated?
After college I worked in a jewelry store and did some jewelry design. I was fascinated with gemstones and won a scholarship to study colored stones with The Gemological Institute of America.
Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?
The figure drawing classes may have helped a bit but my style has organically evolved over the years.
When did you do your first illustration for children?
I started working on children’s books illustrations about three years ago.
How did that come about?
I had worked as a fine artist for many years, but stopped drawing to seriously study writing. I’ve written screenplays, YA novels, and MG novels, along with picture books. NJSCBWI was holding their first illustrators showcase three years ago and I decided to participate and developed a character, which then became a story.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?
After all the positive feedback at the NJSCBWI conference.
How did you get interested in writing novels and when did that happen?
I had a friend who worked in the SAG office in Philadelphia. I had an idea for a movie and asked her how I could try to sell my idea. She told me I’d need to write a screenplay. I bought books on the mechanics of writing screenplays and started networking with other screenwriters. I decided to try to convert one of my screenplays into a novel. Then I wrote bad novel after not as bad novel until I finally had one that I thought was good enough to submit. But it really wasn’t. So I kept writing more and more. I think my eighth book was the charm and is now being read by several editors.
Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a writer who would like to self-publish?
I think I’d rather work on my own books or be paired with an author from a traditional publisher.
Have you worked on illustrating a book dummy to help market your illustrating skills?
Since you already are writing novels, have you thought about writing and illustrating you own picture book?
I’ve written quite a few PBs and I have one finished dummy and one in process.
Do you have an artist rep.? If not, would you like to have one?
I’m presently not represented, but would love to work with an agent interested in an author/illustrator. I’m a hard worker and not afraid of revisions.
What types of things do you do to market your work?
I show at conferences, tweet, network on FB, display my work on the SCBWI illustrator showcase, and I have a website—ColleenRowanKosinski.com
What is your favorite medium to use?
I’m currently working with a combination of pencil sketching and digital painting. I also love oils, and soft pastel.
Has that changed over time?
Many years ago I worked primarily in pen and ink and watercolor. I did a lot of hand-numbing stippling with a rapidograph pen. I transitioned to pastel. Sold quite a few, then fell in love with oil painting. Oil painting is a long process because of the practice of building layers of colors and the drying times involved. That’s why I love digital so much now. I approach color the same way I did in my oil painting but have zero drying time!
Do you have a studio in your house?
I don’t have a designated studio. Because of very bad back issues I have trouble sitting for long periods of time in a regular chair, but I’ve found a recliner takes the stress off of my lower back so you can usually find my there, either writing, sketching or working digitally. I do have an office with my supplies, a desk, computer, scanner, printer and bookshelves from floor to ceiling.
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
My laptop computer.
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
I work every day for at least eight hours or more. I try to attend at least one SCBWI conference a year and as many other workshops that I can fit into my budget and schedule.
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
Yes, I take pictures and research reference images online.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Definitely. I used to have to find reference photos by paging through books and magazines for hours. The Internet also helps me network with other writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.
What do you feel was your biggest success?
I don’t know if I’ve experienced a “big” success yet. I just keep doing what I’m doing while constantly trying to improve.
Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?
I actually use GIMP, which is a free version of Photoshop. I did finally bite the bullet and start subscribing to Photoshop (you can’t buy it outright anymore, you must pay a monthly fee.) I’m experimenting with it but feel more comfortable with GIMP.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
Yes, I use a Wacom pad when creating my artwork.
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
I dream of finding an agent who knows the craft and market, and being traditionally published. I guess if I want to dream big, I’d love to win a Newberry or Caldecott.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a story called Lydia Light Takes Flight. The character I created for the 2014 NJSCBWI Conference Art Competition inspired the story. The text is finished and I’m currently working on the dummy. It’s a lyrical story with a fairytale’ish feel. I also have a couple PB biographies ready to go, and two other lyrical PB texts. Editors are reading my older MG novel and I’m hoping one of them will make an offer soon.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
I don’t know if I can really speak to being successful, but I can say that you have to be a fighter. Don’t wallow in rejection and keep moving forward. Be open to critique and learn from it. Lastly, be involved in the kidlit scene. It’s a wonderful, supportive community.
Thank you Colleen for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.
To see more of Colleen’s illustrations you can visit her at: www.ColleenRowanKosinski.com Twitter: @writergirlrowan
Facebook: Colleen Rowan Kosinski
Please take a minute to leave a comment for Colleen, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!