GRETCHEN ELLEN POWERS is an artist and illustrator residing among the tall trees of Michigan. She loves that through painting and sketching she can share her dreams with those around her! Through her work she enjoys lassoing characters from her imagination and cradling them in all of the everyday good things. There’s always a bee in her bonnet, and in the constant pursuit of capturing it.
She draws inspiration from nature and everyday living around her. She enjoys combining realism with the surreal, to merge the heart with the mind. It’s her greatest hope to tell a story through the strokes of her brush.
Here is Gretchen explaining her process for her Christmas illustration, Santa’s Little Helpers.
Step 1 – Ink (Santa’s Little Helpers)
After sketching the illustration, I carefully ink the image and set it aside to dry.
Step 2 – Watercolor (Santa’s Little Helpers)
Laying the first light washes of color on the raccoon with watercolor.
Step 3 – Watercolor (Santa’s Little Helpers)
Darker applications of color are applied in layers of washes to the squirrel, giving him more shape.
Step 4 – Watercolor (Santa’s Little Helpers)
A glimpse of the illustration coming together, the animal fur is finished at this point, next light washes will be applied to their clothing and the toy elephant. Almost there!
Step 5 – Finished Illustration (Santa’s Little Helpers)
The finished illustration, I was so happy with the results of this piece. It is one of my favorites that I have done, the red and green color palette are there to reinforce the holiday theme. And now they can get back to their work, helping that right jolly old elf, St. Nick himself!
How long have you been illustrating?
I have been drawing and painting for most of my life, it’s always been something that I have loved to do, and now I am just so thankful and excited that it has become my career! I have the best job in the world!
Where do you live?
Among the tall trees of Michigan.
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
When I was ten or eleven, I was commissioned by my local library to design t-shirts, posters, and other promotional materials for a summer youth writing workshop. At that age, it was an accomplishment that I was very proud of.
Did you go to college to study art? If so, where? What did you study there?
I am happy to say that I am self-taught!
What influenced your style?
Nature, animals, days from by-gone-eras, and a good amount of make believe with a hint of pretend!
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
I knew that I wanted to work in the creative arts. So, I started by making a few illustrations into prints, and selling them online as well as in a brick-and-mortar boutique shop that asked to carry my work.
Have you seen your work change since you started your illustrating career?
Oh my goodness, yes! That is one of the exciting things about being an illustrator, you are constantly seeing yourself grow as an artist and a person while you are on the journey.
How did you get started painting eggs? Do you use them as hanging Christmas ornaments?
It’s always been a family tradition since I was very young to decorate eggs for Easter. We used real eggs, that were hard-boiled and dropped into tinted vinegar. My mother always encouraged me to be creative, and I am so thankful for those traditions, the effort she put into nurturing my imagination and bringing out the illustrator in me. As I grew, the time spent on these hard-boiled creations grew longer and more complicated. Recently in the past few years I have been too sad to see them simply thrown out once they reach an expiration date, and so I have been painting them on ceramic eggs to enjoy forever. Also this year, I have been painting on glass globes for Scandinavian inspired Christmas ornaments that I am selling in my shop.
How long have you been making cards and stationery?
Shortly after I began making prints of my work, I received requests to turn them into greeting cards. It was fun knowing my paintings were holding special correspondences through the good old snail mail!
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
My work has always leaned towards the young and young at heart, but it occurred to me several years ago that what I really wanted to pursue was children’s illustration. My favorite place to discover new reading material has always been the children’s section in bookstores, and so I suppose it was something destined to be. Picture books are still on my never-ending book list, and my inner child couldn’t be happier.
Have you had the opportunity to illustrate a picture book, yet?
Not as of yet, but I am so excited for what the future holds and for the adventures ahead of me in the publishing world!
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own books?
Yes, very much so! I am working on a story of my own that I have written and will be illustrating myself.
What do you think is your biggest success?
Having the courage to pursue a dream that I am passionate about.
Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?
Not yet, but I am fascinated by silent pictures and the two seem like kindred spirits! I always have intended to create one, and I hope it will be on a near horizon.
Do you have an artist rep.? How did the two of you connect? How long have you been with them?
I am so excited to say that I have just recently begun being represented by Nicole Tugeau from Tugeau 2 Children’s Illustration Agency! I am just thrilled and thankful to be working with her, they are such a wonderful agency and have impacted the children’s market in such a delightful way! I have recently signed on with them in just the past month.
Do you illustrate full time?
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
I use a wide variety of the mediums, gouache, watercolor, acrylic, colored pencils, and oil… But there is a soft spot in my heart for watercolor, we were made for each other.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
My process differs from project to project, and I use a photo or two when I can, but occasionally you just can’t find research for what you are illustrating. A fox in a sweater, reaching for a pumpkin pie? That’s where a good imagination comes into play.
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
Mainly just for editing and touching up my finished pieces.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
Nope, it’s good old brush and paint for me!
Has any of your work appeared in magazines?
Yes! The Telegraph (Stella Magazine), Mollie Makes, Betty Magazine, Babiekins Magazine, Lionheart Magazine, Oh Marie, Frrresh Magazine, Ardent Magazine, Old Tat Magazine, The Girls Are Music Magazine, and a few others.
Do you have a studio in your house?
Yes, it’s so wonderful that I get to work in my home. Tea is always easily accessible that way!
Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?
Good lighting, it can change the colors you are seeing dramatically. I use natural light when I can, but of course a good artificial light is important too (especially in the shorter winter hours, and into the wee hours of the night).
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
I try to get up early and start the day off right with coffee, from there I work. I use a good helping of determination and make believe, followed up by large pots of tea. Draw, sketch, paint, repeat.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
There are so many things that I am excited about, a future book I am working on, and breaking into the world of children’s publishing!
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
I believe that the world-wide-web has created many new opportunities for illustrators and creatives of all kinds. New and exciting things are always happening and with this tool and access to these things are always at our fingertips.
What are your career goals?
To write and illustrate for children. That is what I am putting all of my focus and energy into these days, it’s really a magical thing and I am over-the-moon happy about the entire process.
What are you working on now?
Being the merry month of December, I have just finished painting some Christmas illustrations, hand-painted ornaments, and recently did some live-painting locally for the holiday season as well.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! You’ll constantly be learning and growing as an illustrator. It can be challenging at times, but in the end the rewards of your work and efforts are always worth it!
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
As far as advice, honestly the best I can give is to create work that makes you happy, and never give up!
©2016 Gretchen Ellen Powers all rights reserved http://www.gretchenellenpowers.com
Thank you Gretchen 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 Gretchen’s work, you can visit her at her website: http://www.gretchenellenpowers.com/
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Gretchen. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!