Kimberly is a Children’s Illustrator living in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, Josh, her two sons, Wyatt and Grady, and her two dogs, Ralphie and Gertie. After graduating from the Columbus College of Art & Design with a BFA in Illustration, her journey to becoming an Illustrator in the Children’s Book market began. Since then her work has been published in picture books, ebooks, coloring books, story books and children’s magazines.
Here is Kimberly explaining her process:
I quickly make thumbnails of some composition ideas
I draw out the illustration in Photoshop on my ModBook Pro
Then start painting to finalize the color scheme
Shadows and dark light areas are added
I finish by adding highlights
How long have you been illustrating?
I worked on some small projects for local writers and companies starting in 2005, and my first published picture book came out in 2011.
Have you always lived in the Cleveland area?
Yes, I grew up in North Ridgeville, Ohio which is 30 minutes west of the city. Then I moved to Columbus for 4 years during College and moved back to the Cleveland area after graduation.
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
The first thing I painted was a set of school portraits for a high school in Columbus; it was my senior year of College.
What made you choose Columbus College of Art & Design?
My high school art teacher highly recommended CCAD, they came to our school and presented at college day and I was impressed. I applied and not only got accepted but received a scholarship as well.
What type of illustrating did you study there?
Every student graduates with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art with an emphasis in their chosen field. My emphasis was Illustration. I took numerous classes such as the history of illustration, children’s illustration and 3D illustration.
Do you feel College helped develop your style?
My current style, I feel, was more developed after school when I started working in the field. However, I would not have been able to do it without the fundamental skills I learned at college.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
After school I moved back to Cleveland and worked at a local art store. During that time I worked on numerous murals and had my illustrations in a local gallery.
Did art school help you get work when you graduated?
Art school gave me the fundamental skills I needed to succeed in art. It helped me realize how much I loved illustration and that I would need to put in hard work to get where I wanted to be. I wanted to illustrate for Children and now I am!
Have you seen your work change since you left school?
Yes, my work really has changed. I’m constantly looking at ways to improve my work, whether it’s from classes I’ve taken or advice I’ve received in critiques. Also, after graduation I worked traditionally and now my illustrations are all done digitally.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
I decided I wanted to illustrate children’s book right after graduation. I joined SCBWI that year and jumped right in. I attended the yearly regional conference in Cleveland and also took my portfolio to the New York national conference one year. Conferences are great for networking, keeping up on market trends and participating in portfolio critiques.
What was your first book you illustrated?
My first published book came out in 2011, called Ruth the Sleuth and the messy room by Character Publishing.
How did you get that contract?
The publisher found me on childrensillustrators.com
Did you do other types of illustrating before you got that book contract?
Prior to being published I showcased my illustrations at a local gallery and worked on small projects for businesses in the area such as restaurant children’s menus.
How did you get the contract for TINA TUMBLES?
A small New York publisher found me on childrensillustrators.com and asked if I was interested in illustrating Tina Tumbles. As the project went on though, the publishing house closed its doors. The author, Danielle Soucy Mills and I decided to continue the project and look into self-publishing. We created a Kickstarter Campaign to help with funding and Tina Tumbles was published in 2014.
How many picture books have you illustrated?
I have illustrated 5 picture books and 2 story books.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?
I do and am working on my first book dummy now! In the fall of 2015 I was lucky enough to attend the San Francisco SCBWI conference where Molly Idle and Kelly Light presented about Character development. I took away a lot of good information from that event and am using what I learned to create my own story.
What do you think is your biggest success?
Tina Tumbles has grown more than I can imagine. Working with Danielle, who is a very talented Author, has been such a great experience. The project has really taken off; Shannon Miller and Jenna Tatum have both read it to their children! And Snowflake Designs came out with a leotard, for children and a matching set for their dolls. Both leos were created from Tina’s leotard I designed in the book.
Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?
I have not, although I’m playing with idea of making the current book dummy I’m working on wordless, we will see how it goes.
I see you are represented by Deborah Wolfe. How did the two of you connect and when was that?
I found Deborah Wolfe’s contact information on a list of agents through SCBWI, two years ago. I put together a cover letter and some sample illustrations and emailed them to her. That same day she responded that she was interested in representing me and we’ve been working together ever since.
Do you illustrate full time?
Right now I illustrate part time and work as an advertising/marketing designer full time for a local company in Cleveland.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
For children’s illustration I work digitally and use a ModBook Pro that I love. It’s easy to travel with and user friendly. When I’m painting murals my favorite medium is acrylic, the colors are bright and it dries quickly.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
It depends on the project, sometimes I take my own pictures or I’ll refer to images on google and save them all on a Pinterest board.
Have you worked with any educational publishers?
If yes, is there any difference working with them? The project I just finished was for an educational publisher, and yes there is a difference. With education work there is usually a quicker turnaround time and numerous illustrations involved. Also, there are a number of stories to illustration in one education project, with picture books you’re working on one series of illustrations using the same characters.
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
I use Photoshop Exclusively. A couple years ago I enrolled in the Oatley Academy, an online school for digital painting, that taught me a lot about painting in Photoshop. I highly recommend his course.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
I do, I use a ModBook Pro which is essentially a MacBook converted into a digital drawing tablet. It’s easy to travel with and makes it easy to work from anywhere.
Has any of your work appeared in magazines?
Yes, my work has appeared in multiple Girls World magazine editions.
Do you have a studio in your house?
I have a studio set up in my house and I often head over to the local Starbucks and work there as well. It all depends on the day as I have two little boys at home. J
Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?
My collection of signed pictures books that I’ve acquired over the years from SCBWI conferences. They remind me of the authors and illustrators I have met along the way and are a true example of what good work look likes.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
My daily routine, I draw every day, even if it’s just small doodle on a piece of paper. Also, in between contracted work I create new portfolio pieces to keep it fresh.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
I’m excited to perfect my book dummy and see what people think of it!
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
Most definietly, first and foremost SCBWI is an internet based society that has gotten my foot in the door with all the resources they provide. Also, there are online classes available to help polish skills and learn new techniques. It was because of what I learned while taking courses at the Oatley Academy that I was able to appeal to my agent.
What are your career goals?
My goal is to work as a full time illustrator in the children’s market, participate in school presentations and one day I would love to read my own book, that I’ve written and illustrated, to my children.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on my book dummy, some new illustration pieces for my portfolio and I illustrated a fiction story for Animal Tales magazine coming out in stores on August 16th.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
Photoshop is an amazing tool you can use, whether you work digitally or traditionally. I like to change the mode of the painting to black and white to see if anything sticks out that needs some adjusting. You can also play with the color palette without making the change permanent.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
Join SCBWI and learn everything you can about the industry, attend conferences, meet fellow illustrators, find critique groups and draw everyday!
Thank you Kimberly for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Kimberly’s work, you can visit her at website at: http://www.Kimberlysoderberg.com
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Kimberbly. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!