Teresa Wiles lives and works in Kernersville, North Carolina. She received her BFA in sculpture from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Digital Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Creating images with a strong narrative has been a theme throughout Teresa’s work. She began her art career as a sculptor working with metals and fabrics and then gradually moved back to her two-dimensional work. She has worked with oils, acrylics, watercolor, encaustics and even digitally. Being open to what material suits a project and will ultimately yield the best result is very important to Teresa.
Here’s Teresa sharing her process:
This piece was the illustrator intensive assignment for the SCBWI Carolina’s 2016 Fall Conference. The challenge given was to reimagine a Beatrix Potter character doing something in your own vision of a potter world. I made many sketches with other characters, at the beach, fishing, and in a laboratory but this dune buggy idea seemed most interesting to me. In the image I already cleaned up the sketch converted the color to sepia then placed it in Painter and set the layer to multiply.
I decided to work from background to foreground and I knew I wanted the lighting to be about mid-morning. I created a watercolor wash traditionally, placed it behind the drawing for the sky, and built the other parts of the background on top keeping in mind where the light and shadows would be. I like to use thin layers of color and brushes with a grainy texture. Painter has a paper control panel that allows you to control the texture for brushes. I use reference images for the color of the sand.
Then I begin on the dune buggy, keeping in mind the lights and darks and how the shadow would appear. I’m always trying to keep the piece cleaned up as I go. I find in Photoshop or Painter, working shadows and line work on separate layers before flattening them helps prevent mistakes and allows you to make changes. I use pastel, charcoal and colored pencil brushes in Painter because they are the tools I like traditionally. Like Photoshop, Painter has a brush control panel that allows you to alter brushes. I save brushes I like and reuse them in the future and make my own from scratch. There are tutorials online for making your own brushes. I highly recommend them.
The tires were very challenging for me. I haven’t drawn many vehicles before but I really enjoyed working on this car. I think it is important to challenge yourself with things your uncomfortable with it can surprise you.
At this point, I added the main characters referring back to my sketches for consistency. As I work, I make changes to anything that needs adjusting, maybe going back to the background. The process can be overwhelming but I try to keep the layers organized grouping and flattening them as I go. I finally added the surfboard, umbrella and fishing rod to the dune buggy, continuing to tweak the lighting and refining the image until I am satisfied.
How long have you been illustrating?
I started working seriously on my illustration in 2012.
What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?
I cannot remember the first painting I sold; I know I had offers in High School for some pieces.
What made you choose to attend University of North Carolina for Sculpture?
I wanted to study painting and UNCG is near my home, it was a practical choice. The BFA program required a technique of sculpture class that I really enjoyed which introduced me to the world of sculpture.
Did you get a job putting to use your sculpting skills after you graduated?
After I graduated, I found a job working as an art preparer in a custom frame shop that worked with local galleries and designers that allowed me to use many of my sculpture skills.
How long after your graduated did you decide to study Digital Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh?
I worked as an artist for 15 years after graduating, exhibiting my work in local galleries but I realized I needed more skills as an artist to achieve what I wanted for my work. The Design program taught me how to work digitally and how to build a website.
Did you always plan to move back to North Carolina after you received your Digital Design degree?
My family is very important to me so I enrolled in the online course program.
Do you think the art school institute influenced your style?
No, but I learned a great deal about creating art digitally.
What type of job did you do right after you graduated?
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
I guess I have always had an interest in children’s illustration through my love of reading and animation.
Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you? How did you meet and how long have they represented you?
No, but I would be open to the possibly I think it could be very beneficial.
What did you have to do to win the 2016 SCBWI Carolinas Art Contest?
I won third place in the 2014 SCBWI Carolinas Art Contest. It was a reimagining of the “Goodnight Moon” book.
Do you do art exhibits?
Yes, I participate in local art exhibits occasionally.
Have you illustrated any book covers?
Yes, for a middle school biography of Andrew Jackson’s youth.
Would you like to write and illustrate a children’s picture book?
Yes, I would love to illustrate a picture book.
Would you be open to illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?
I would if the project were right.
Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?
No, it is an interesting idea.
Have you worked with any educational publishers?
Not an educational publisher but I have worked for a historical nonfiction publisher.
Have you ever illustrated anything for a children’s magazine?
Yes, for New Moon Girls magazine.
What types of things do you do to find illustration work?
I try to promote my work through social media, postcards and a portfolio website childrensillustrators.com
What is your favorite medium to use?
I could not say I have a favorite medium but I am trying to improve my skills in digital media at this time.
Has that changed over time?
Yes, I love to explore different mediums and have worked in clay, metal, textiles, oils, and encaustics to name a few.
Do you have a studio set up in your home?
Yes, my studio is a quiet room in my house where I can focus on my work.
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
I would not give up any of my materials but I use my Wacom tablet more than any other tool now.
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
Almost every day I am working in the studio coming up with new ideas or developing characters for my projects.
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
Research is an important part of developing an image; it prevents mistakes in my drawings. I use references for color and getting the details of a drawing the way I want. At times, I have made 3d models of things I am drawing to get the shape or perspective correct.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Oh yes, I think the internet is probably the most useful way to be noticed in the illustration world today besides conferences, contests and workshops.
Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?
I use both Photoshop and Painter in my work whether its digital or traditional. I use Photoshop to make changes to sketches and resize traditional work. I use Painter for its brushes; they are the nearest thing to real brushes that I have found. I also like to make my own brushes in both programs.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
Yes, I use it almost every day; it has greatly improved my digital work.
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
I would love to create my own picture book or maybe a chapter book or graphic novel. I am increasingly interested in writing in addition to illustrating.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a picture book idea I have been playing around with for a while.
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.
Do lots of sketching. I have found when I do quite a lot of sketches, compositional work, and even color studies in preparing a project, my pieces are more successful.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
Be sponge-like. I think it’s important to study work from the past in addition to the present. Illustrators can get fresh ideas from looking at all art. Think of yourself as an artist. Work hard and be creative.
Thank you Teresa 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 Teresa’s work, you can visit her at her website: http://www.teresawiles.com
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Teresa. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!