Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 23, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Becca Stedtlander

Becca Stadtlander and I’m an artist/illustrator. I grew up in Covington, Kentucky (very near Cincinnati) and went to the Maryland Institute College of Art. I lived in Rhode Island for a while and now I’m in my forever home with my husband and my dog in Covington. I work full time on mostly children’s books and publications but I also paint for fun and run an Etsy shop where I sell prints of my work. I love color, and pattern and mixing fine details with expressionism. I use gouache, and sometimes watercolor.

HERE IS BECCA DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

This job was for an OpEd the New York Times.

Sketch_to_final-  This a comparison of one of my sketches compared to the final painting.

Paint- This photo shows how I lay down my colors on my palette paper before I start mixing them.

Brushes- just a few of my favorite brushes for creating texture.

Hotel process-  funny selfie taken while working in a Holiday Inn.  It was not my ideal set up but sometimes you have to bring your work with you.

Paint palette- One of my tarot card designs in process next to my paint palette.

INTERVIEW WITH BECCA STADTLANDER:

How long have you been illustrating?

11 years! I started right away after graduating college.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I made miniature furniture out of moss, sticks and natural material after seeing a movie about the Cottingley fairies when I was 12 years old. I sold it in a local gift store and made a little bit of money that I used to buy a silver ring.

You live in Kentucky. Did you grow up there?

Yes. I currently live in my hometown of Covington, KY. It’s much more urban than people think it is, it’s right next to downtown Cincinnati. My husband and I purchased a house on the same street I grew up on. I’ve lived in Baltimore and Newport, Rhode Island and came back to KY after about 10 years of living away. We love it.

What made you decide to get your BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art?

I applied all over the US and toured a few different art schools. I liked the campus at MICA and the illustration program was the most appealing at the time. It also helped that I had a nice scholarship offer.

What did you study?

I majored in Illustration.

Did MICA have any classes children’s illustrating classes you could take?

Yes, there were all sorts of specific Illustration classes. I took a class called “The Illustrated Book”.

Did MICA help you find illustration work?

No, once you graduate, it’s up to you to build connections and get work. However, my education did prepare me for how a career in illustration works, so I wasn’t totally in the dark when I started getting work.

When did you decide you want to illustrate for children?

When I became aware of illustration as a career, I knew I wanted to do children’s books. They really meant a lot to me as a child, and I knew it would be a good fit to do them myself.

Was Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter published by Chronicle Books in 2016 your first illustrated picture book?

My first picture book was On the Wing by David Elliot.

How did you get that job?

I’m not entirely sure how I got to be on Candlewick Press’s radar. I had been doing almost any illustration job that came up on offer for a long time before I had any inquiries about children’s books. I knew I wanted to do children’s book work but I wanted to make sure I could sustain a full time career as an illustrator, so I just accepted whatever came my way. I was always making sure I had a presence on the internet and that I was polite and professional when building new relationships with clients. I think the combination of all those things and a little bit of luck worked for me.

You illustrated On the Wing by David Elliott with Candlewick Press March 2017 and I see you illustrated a Picture Book, Made By Hand: A Crafts Sampler by Carole Lexa Schaefer at Candlewick October 2018. Was this a two book deal?

No, the projects were completely unrelated, they just happened to be the same publisher. It’s very important to me to always be kind, professional and gracious in my relationships with clients. I never know when another job will come my way, so I treat every project with the utmost care.

In August 2019 you illustrated The Greatest Table by Michael J. Rosen with Creative Editions. How did you get that job?

I was approached by Creative Editions through my agency. I assume they saw my work and thought of me for the text. I have a lot of food illustration in my portfolio and I think that was helpful when I was being considered for the job.

On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson (Emily Dickinson for Kids, Biography of Female Poet for Kids) by Jennifer Berne Feb. 2020 Chronicle Books. This book has 52 pages. Did you illustrate every page?

Yes, I illustrated every page, but not ever page is a full page illustration. There are half spreads, and spots too, so the book has a good flow and spaces for the eye to rest. I also illustrated Emily Dickinson’s handwriting for the poetry sections in the book.

This year in May Fearless World Traveler: Adventures of Marianne North, Botanical Artist by Laurie Lawlor came out from Holiday House and illustrated by you. How much research did you need to do for this book?

SO much research! The first thing I did was buy a big beautiful book of her work, which was important in understanding her art and my own interpretation of it. When I do a historical book, I have to make sure everything in it is accurate down to the finest details. I end up looking up reference photos for everything- all the objects in the book, pictures of the real people in the book (if they exist), clothes, places, flowers, cars, animals, etc, etc. It can be an immense undertaking.

You have three books coming out in 2022. The first book Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor’s Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars by Elizabeth Brown is coming out in February 2022 with Bloomsbury Children’s Books. Did you complete this book before starting to illustrate the second book,  How Frederick Law Olmsted Designed America by Elizabeth Partridge coming out in March 2022 with Viking?

I don’t like working on multiple projects at once, so I usually work on things one at a time. I like to be immersed in one thing- it’s too difficult for me to jump back and forth, especially if I’m trying to work within a certain color palette. I ended up working on the Olmsted book first and Like A Diamond In the Sky after that. They couldn’t be more different!

The third book Serengeti: Plains of Grass by Leslie Bulion scheduled for March 2022 with Peachtree Publishing Company, but Amazon does not show a cover yet. Does that mean you are still working on the illustrations?

My part in creating that book has been complete for sometime now. It usually just means that the cover hasn’t been finalized by the publisher, or that they haven’t released the cover image yet. I loved working on that book, and I’m so excited for it. It was a much need breathe of fresh air after working on nothing but historical biographies for a long time.

You have worked with so many publishers, is Anne Armstrong responsible for most of these contracts?

She is responsible for a lot of them! Anne is my publishing agent, so she handles all the jobs that fall under that umbrella. That would include, books, book covers, and other publications. I have other agents that work through Bright to handle any licensing business that comes my way.

How excited were you to get to illustrated Genevieve’s War by Patrica Reilly Giff published by Holiday House?

I was thrilled with that job. It’s one of my favorite covers I’ve ever done.

Did you do all the B & W interior illustrations? How many did you do?

I did, yes! I did a handful of them for the chapter headers here and there, I don’t recall the exact number of them.

How did you connect with The Bright Agency?

I had worked with Anne Armstrong when she was working as a creative director, she moved on from that position and became an agent for Bright. She was looking for artists in the United States and asked me if I wanted to join Bright and have her as my agent.

Do you still work on your portfolio?

Yes, of course. All of my newest work gets added to my portfolio.

What do you feel helped develop your style?

Time and a lot of trial and error. I’m always trying to get better. A constant willingness to change and grow is very important to me as an artist. It’s also important that I please myself and paint things in a way that I find beautiful.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Definitely, in the future. At the moment it’s been difficult for me to devote the time and thought required. I think I’m a little apprehensive about coming up with an idea that will showcase the things I love to paint and draw.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

No, but I’d be happy to give it a go.

Have you illustrated anything for children’s magazines?

I’ve recently done some work for Honest History Magazine which was very fun.

Do you have studio in your house?

Yes

Do you ever exhibit your artwork?

I usually show some work as part of the Enormous Tiny Art Show at Nahcotta every year in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’ve also shown some work locally, in Kentucky and Ohio.

Do you think you will continue to exhibit your work?

Yes, of course. I’ve been working on some larger paintings that I’d love to show somewhere.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would still consider?

No, unfortunately not.

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

On Wings of Words is one of my favorite books I’ve illustrated. I learned so much from doing that book. It challenged me in the best way possible.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Gouache

Has that changed over time?

I still use gouache for most things but over time I’ve become interested in adding different mediums like colored pencil and pastel.

What type of Graphic Drawing Tablet do you use when illustrating?

I don’t use a tablet. All of my work is created traditionally.

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

Whatever amount of time is necessary to finish what I’m working on sometimes is a very long time and sometimes I only need a day or so. If I’m working on a book, I try to stick to 6-8 hours a day.

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

Yes, always. Especially if the project relates to something historical. I’ve done several biography books in the past few years and they involve a lot of research.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, absolutely. When I was starting out I submitted my work to a handful of illustration websites which was incredibly helpful getting exposure. 10 years later everything I do- the entire process other than the making of the art- is done online. It’s hard to imagine life without it.

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

It changes every so often, but at the moment I’d love to write and illustrate my own book and I’m also excited to work on more fine art large scale paintings.

What are you working on now?

I just finished a big book project so I’m taking the rest of the year to work on a personal passion project- creating my own tarot deck.

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’ve become very attached and set in my ways when it comes to certain materials. I’d be lost if they were ever discontinued. I use Arches paper, Holbein Acryla Gouache, and very cheap brushes.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

I think it’s easy to think that there is a secret to getting hired or a magic weapon when it comes to starting your career, and there isn’t! You just have to keep going. I did “pretend” jobs for years before I had real ones.

Becca, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Becca using the following links:

WEBSITE: http://www.beccastadtlander.com/
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/beccastadtlander/
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Becca.Stadtlander.Illustration
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/rhstadtlander?lang=en
AGENCY: https://thebrightagency.com/uk/publishing/artists/becca-stadtlander

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Gorgeous work! The treehouse is one of my favorites here. But so many are truly beautiful. Thanks for sharing your process!

    Like

  2. Stunning. I ❤️ it all!

    Like

  3. Such lovely and thoughtful work! I am impressed that you work traditionally, and so glad you shared it with us, Becca!

    Like

  4. Love your sense of color and your work! Thanks, Becca!

    Like

  5. These illustrations are perfectly charming. I especially like the cover the Treasure Hunt House. Magical. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    Like

  6. I love the sense of nostalgia I feel when I look at some of your illustrations! Love the colors and “home” touches. I really enjoyed the black kitty in front of the fireplace. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Like

    • And I forgot to say I’ve read “Sleep Tight Farm!” I love it!

      Like


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