5 Questions for Renee Kurilla

Renee Kurilla is an illustrator for children books, enthusiastic sketcher and lead artist at animation studio FableVision.

I found out about her after discovering her Kickstarter campaign So... Many... Sketchbooks!. After filling 12 sketchbooks in 2 years, she's now selecting the best of her sketches to publish a sketchbook for Kickerstarter backers. The campaign ends on 16 Oct 2014 and you can see more details at http://kck.st/1y8pVJm

Today's interview, we talk about her work and illustrating for children books.

Qn: Can you give us an introduction about yourself and the work you do?

Hi there, thanks for chatting with me, Parka! Describing what I do always turns into a long story because I wear many creative hats.

By day, I am one of the lead artists at a children's media studio in Boston called FableVision. At work, I develop the visual style for various projects (apps, websites, board games, graphic novels, animations, etc.) as well as manage small teams of artists and animators. It's a fun job, but since I can't get enough... when I go home I wear my publishing hat. In my spare time, I do a lot of illustrating for picture books. I have worked with many publishers including Lerner, Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. My next book is called Orangutanka: A Story in Poems (Holt, March 2015), written by the fabulous Newbery Honor winning author, Margarita Engle.

Qn: You said you're the lead artist at this multimedia studio FableVision. Can you describe what happens during your typical day at work?

I have been asked this question many times and my answers always change, because after 9 years of being at FableVision I can honestly say that every single day is unpredictable. I think that is what I like most about my job. Because I work on so many different projects (sometimes 4 or 5 at a time) I am often pulled in many directions. This has helped me to become more on point and quick with both my art making and critiquing of others art.

One thing, however, that hasn't changed in forever is that I cannot start my day without a giant cup of coffee. :)

Qn: What are the drawing tools that you use? I see quite a variety from the photos and videos on your website.

My go-to tools (not including Photoshop) are currently my Fabriano Sketchbook, Blackwing pencils, Kuretake fountain pen, and my Winsor Newton Watercolor Field Set. I seriously cannot leave home without all of the above. You never know when an idea will strike!

I actually did a very in depth interview on The Tools Artists Use blog a few years ago. Some of my tools have changed, but it's kind of a nice reminder of how you grow and change as an artist. Changing your tools can bring out new ideas. Sometimes, in meetings, I sketch with Crayola markers... I've actually been able to use some of those sketches in art projects for clients!

Qn: What do you like about children illustrations?

Kids and adults teach each other. Through my art I am helping kids to use their imagination by developing characters and scenes that they will inevitable question to no end. "Why is that monkey hanging from that tree?" "Why is she sad?" I've learned that the more creative you are when you answer these questions about your art, the more accomplished you feel as an illustrator. "Linda was on her way to the store and took a detour to get out of a tree traffic jam and got her foot stuck on a branch!" "All she really wants is a peanut butter sandwich, so she is sad." (I could have even been more creative with my answer to my own questions, but you get the idea.)

The more you give, the more you get, and the more you can take back to the drawing board. It's important not to get so lost in your art making that you forget who your audience is.

Qn: What do you think are qualities that an artist illustrating for children books should have?

I think I answered a little bit of this in the last question. What I said there is important, but it is also important to have passion and persistence. It's not an easy field to jump in to, though I think many folks assume that it is. It sometimes takes years to illustrate a book, and writing can take even longer (yes, even with a word count of 700...). I have heard of authors who have marinated on their ideas for up to 20 years before they actually were able to write the book. While your ideas are marinating, you have to be open to criticism, change, and you have to practice. I, for some reason, am so determined to coax whatever unique art-making-style I have in me - out - that I filled 12 sketchbooks in two years. It takes that kind of persistence. Even then, I still have a long way to go.

I am thankful (and also relieved!) to have so many folks backing my Kickstarter. To me, it means 2 years worth of sketching and idea making were not totally worthless. It's motivation for me to take just a little time to celebrate this small milestone, but to keep...on...going...


Special thanks to Renee Kurilla for this interview.

See more of her work at http://www.kurillastration.com

And also check out her Kickstarter campaign So... Many... Sketchbooks! which ends on 16 Oct 2014 at http://kck.st/1y8pVJm

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