Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 16, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Christina Wald

Christina Wald is a professional children’s book illustrator specializing in animal and science work. A prolific artist with over 20 years experience in the field, she has worked with numerous major publishers including Scholastic, Bloomsbury, Hachette, Penguin, and National Geographic, as well as on smaller-scale projects directly with authors.

Christina’s characters have a whimsical, anthropomorphized quality. She creates the majority of her work as traditional, hand-painted illustrations, though she works in a variety of media including digital and vector. All final artwork is sent to clients digitally, regardless of the media it is created in.

She holds a BS in Industrial Design from the University of Cincinnati, and is well-known for her work with licensed gaming products including Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

Christina loves to combine her two passions: travel and illustration. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband – a toy engineer, and their two cats.

HERE IS CHRISTINA SHOWING HER PROCESS FOR OHIOANA BOOK FESTIVAL POSTER: 

ROUGH SKETCH

SKETCH

TIME-LAPSE PROCESS

FINISHED POSTER

https://watch.cetconnect.org/video/arts-bridge-season-4-episode-4/
Click the link above to watch a nice video interview with Christina. Her portion starts about two minutes in.

HERE ARE SOME OF CHRISTINA’S BOOK COVERS

MY INTERVIEW WITH CHRSTINA:

How long have you been illustrating?

Professionally since the early 90s.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

One of my high school teachers paid me to paint a landscape of the Swiss Alps on a two-man saw!! I used to paint sets for the Drama Club and his like my paintings. I also did all the program art, but was not paid for that.

Did you choose to attend the University of Cincinnati because of their Industrial Design Program?

I started in graphic design and switched after my freshman year. I had never heard of Industrial Design when I applied and saw their senior show when I visited the campus. It was so cool I had to switch! University of Cincinnati did/does not have an illustration program but Industrial Design is a very drawing intensive program.

What type of classes were your favorites?

I liked all of my studio classes. Design Communications was probably my favorite (our drawing classes). Our mains design studio classes were really interesting. We designed everything from vacuum cleaners to cars. I also enjoyed life drawing.

Is that where you learned what you needed to get into illustrating games?

I really wanted to be a comic book artist but was too slow when I got out of school. Someone that looked at my portfolio suggested that I show my work to game companies. It snowballed from there.

Did U of C help you get illustrating work?

UC is known for their co-op program. I worked for Kenner Toys, Huffy Bikes and IBM while still in school. It is an amazing program. At Kenner, I worked on a Spirograph toy that actually made it to market. I also worked on the Police Academy toy line.

How did you get involved with creating storyboards (is that correct?) for Star War and Lord of the Rings games?

I did illustrations for the games. I started going to conventions like Dragon Con and Gencon in the early 90s and showed my portfolio to various companies. I did interior and card art for 13 books for the Star Wars RPG. My background in industrial design got me work doing a lot of tech. I could draw good vehicles and droids.

I did paintings for cards for Lord of the Rings. A friend recommended me to the art director and I did many paintings for them. I cannot remember how many… 40ish? I also did work for Wizards of the Coast (Netrunner, Legend of 5 Rings and Battletech) Dungeons and Dragons and Dragon Magazine.

What type of illustrating did you do first starting out?

The game illustrations were my first jobs. I also had a day job when I started out designing packaging.

When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

In the late 90s, a lot of companies went under dramatically, some owing me a lot of money. I started taking on a lot of product design work and worked at a design agency for a couple years while I redid my portfolio. A couple years later I went part time at the agency and did a mix of toy design and illustration for a bunch of toy companies (Galoob, Playalong, Wild Planet, Tek Nek, Jakks Pacific, Hasbro and others), got an illustration agent and started doing a lot of work for textbooks. I did a lot of licensed product design for properties like Crayola, Sesame Street, National Geographic, Trolls, Encyclopedia Britannica, Discovery Kids, Hannah Montana, Smurfs, Domo, and many others…

Was The Barnyard: Read-and-Play Sticker Book your first illustrated book?

My first kid’s book was Look, Find and Learn: Animals of the World for Publications International. Each spread had hundreds of animals. Each illustration took several weeks to do!

It came out in 2005. In 2003, I started doing a lot of work for Scholastic News. I worked with them a lot for many years until they stopped using illustration for their See Through issues. I also did some other big illustration projects for them including a giant project for their book club that included a sticker book, ten  11” X 17” posters that fit together to make a giant poster and a sticker sheet of animals a month.

How did get that contract?

The Animals of the World book was through my agent. The Scholastic art directors found me on iSpot.

Is The Hidden Shoreline your most recent illustrated book?

No, the two Elin books were my most recent. They are published in Switzerland by Werd & Weber. The author is a famous yodeler, Melanie Oesch. They sent me English translations to illustrate from but they will only be printed in German. It was such a cool project! I am doing another book for them and receiving the translation the end of March.

How did you get the contract?

They found my website and contacted me. They liked my illustrations from Wild Life of Elk (my book for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the US Forest Service) of the mountains.

How many picture books have you illustrated?

Over 50. Some have been series.

Would you like to write and illustrate a book?

Yes. I have written a several manuscripts and doing a weekly web comic. I have also been working on a graphic novel pitch with YA author Carey Corp. The problem is that I get so swamped with illustration contracts that I rarely have time to send out pitches. I keep thinking things will slow down enough for me to give more attention to sending out dummies and perfecting manuscripts but I never seem to have any down time.

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who and how long have you been with them? If not, would you be willing to consider representation?

Not anymore. My agent I used to have is no longer in business. I would consider a literary agent for writing but I probably need a lot more writing. When I write, I get so excited about drawing it that the writing gets short shrift. I think very visually and love to draw more than anything else. I never seem to tire of it.

Do you do freelance illustrating full time?

Yes. I also still do freelance product design and the past few years I have been teaching illustration at Art Academy of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University. I like teaching to keep me in touch with young people and current trends.

Have you done any book covers for novels?

Yes, occasionally for a couple different publishers.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Yes, if they agree to my price. I will not do royalty deals. It does not happen often but I have had some really great experiences.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

I loved comics and fantasy/sci fi art as a kid; the Brothers Hildebrandt, Michael Whelan, Frank Frazetta, and Wendy Pini as a kid. I also loved movies and animation; Star Wars, Terry Gilliam, Fantasia, Allegro non Tropo, Heavy Metal…

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

McGraw Hill, ABDO, Scott Foresman, Pearson, Capstone, Scholastic, Oxford University Press, Usborne, National Geopraphic… I know I am forgetting some… I just had a 6 book series of birds come out from Heinemann.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Scholastic News, Let’s Find Out, a couple of other Scholastic magazines I cannot remember the name of, Weekly Reader, and again I think I am forgetting some.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I would love to. I am not sure how to pitch it. I did a dummy with minimum words but have not sent it out very much.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I have gotten to work on so many exciting projects and with so many great people! I was very excited to do the official children’s book for the San Diego Zoo 2016 Centennial a couple years ago. My latest book for Arbordale Publishing, Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant written by Songju Ma Daemicke was an NSTA Outstanding Trade Book, 2018 Mathical Honor Book and 2018 Notable SocialStudies Trade Book. I did a biography of astronomer Annie Jump Cannon several years ago. When they did the dedication of her childhood home as a historical site, they bought a couple prints of the illustrations to hang there. It was very exciting! (Another fun factoid about the AJC book was the researchers for the new Cosmos show contacted the author and I about her for their segment. It is my only book in the Harvard Library)

What is your favorite medium to use?

I use acrylic, watercolor and digital. Cao Chong was my first book in watercolor. I would like to do more. My favorite is probably still acrylic but everything I do is a hybrid of mediums.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, I am doing more and more digital.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Yes, I am constantly trying to improve and evolve. I keep a lot of sketchbooks and urban sketch as much as I can. I have so many ideas…

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, many. Most recently I traveled to Switzerland to get pictures of the landscape I was illustrating. I went to the San Diego Zoo for the centennial book, Montana for the Elk book, visited bat rescuers for Little Red Bat and many others. I have a lot of scientist friends who give me advice when I need it.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, that is how people from all over the world find me. It is why I do not need an illustration agent.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop and occasionally Clip studio. I love Kyle Webster’s brushes.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I have a first generation Wacom Cintiq 12WX that still works. I keep thinking I will need to replace it but it still works perfectly. I just bought a new computer and the Cintiq still works! I also have a Lenovo tablet laptop for illustrating on the road.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to write my own books and do a graphic novel. I also hope to travel to world and urban sketch, my two biggest obsessions.

What are you working on now?

I am finishing illustrations for a picture book called Fire Chase. I will be starting sketches next month for another book for Werd & Weber,

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.

I love Stillman & Bird and Handbook sketchbooks. My favorite watercolors at QoR, they are designed to play well with Golden Acrylics and as I said before, Kyle Webster’s Photoshop brushes are game changers.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Be versatile, open to experience and learning about everything. A career in illustration takes a lot of tenacity and persistence. You have to LOVE drawing and generating ideas; it is an obsession. I feel so lucky to get to do what I love every day and fortunate to have gotten so many exciting opportunities.

Thank you Christina for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Christina’s work, you can visit her at: Website: http://www.christinawald.com/

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Christina. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Freelance News and commented:
    Christina Wald, University of Cincinnati

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  2. Thank you so much for interviewing Christina Wald. Her work is very inspiring. Since she is already teaching maybe Christina will make some tutorials on how she creates. Christina Wald has been my favorite interview I’ve read.

    Like

  3. I love Christina Wald’s work! She illustrated two of my books: LITTLE RED BAT and ANNIE JUMP CANNON, ASTRONOMER. (Some of the illustrations for ANNIE are shown here.) She is multi-talented and is one of the busiest and friendliest artists I know.

    Like

  4. I am so fortunate to know Christina through Urban Sketchers Cincinnati. This is a wonderful article, I knew Christina was beyond talented but thrilled to learn more about her and her work.

    Like

  5. Love, love, love the foxes! What wonderful work. Thanks for the post.

    Like

  6. Christina, such detail, such patience, such beauty 🙂 And WOW to the San Diego Zoo book! Not surprised 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  7. Yay, Christina! She illustrated two books I wrote — A WARM WINTER TAIL AND A COOL SUMMER TAIL with Arbordale. Children and adults (me, too!) adore her nature art because it is a perfect combo of lifelike and engaging. Her talent brought these stories to life.

    Like

  8. I own Camas and Sage. My friend Dorothy wrote it and I’m interested in prairie protection. Great illustrations!

    Like

  9. Wow! Great variety and range of illustrations! Love them!

    Like


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