I think all little children are artists, but I hung on to that desire to keep making art as I grew up. Neither of my parents are artists but they’re both creative people. My mom is an early childhood educator, and she always encouraged my sisters and I to be creative. We had a big box of art supplies so we were never limited to just colouring books. In fact my mom discouraged colouring books, she wanted us to make our own images. That support really fostered the creative spirit in all three of us girls.
Initially, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career or what my style was going to be when I went into Design School (or when I finished Design School, for that matter.) I just had a creative fire in my belly and I was ready to make “stuff”. My degree program was Art and Design, which focused on design problems with fine art solutions. So, I got to sample classes in everything from typography and animation to painting and printmaking. I mostly focused on drawing and painting, but having a breath of experience in other media really gave me a can-do attitude in regard to trying new things and figuring problems out on my own.
I graduated in May 2009 right as the economy was at its worst and I didn’t really have a clear idea of what kind of job I wanted. I didn’t have a coherent portfolio for illustration or a solid graphic design portfolio. A graphic design portfolio and an illustration portfolio are completely different. I think that in good economic times, I would have been able get a design job with my mix-matched painting/design/illustration work but in bad times, hardly anyone was hiring and I didn’t have a focused enough portfolio to compete for the few jobs that were out there. So, I moved the Bay Area of San Francisco, got a job in an after school program and for the past two and a half years I’ve been teaching myself how to be a professional freelance illustrator and hand-letter printer.
I have also continued my education with a sign painting apprenticeship at New Bohemia Signs in San Francisco. I’ve only recently gotten my feet on the ground with my art career. I still work at the school two afternoons a week but the majority of my time is spent doing illustration and sign painting. It just takes time and a lot of energy. I’m not done yet but I think 2012 is going to be a good year for me.
Most of my ideas for personal work are derived from personal interests and direct experiences. If my life starts getting monotonous, my work starts getting flat too. My blog, Illustrated Bites, came about because I was looking for a way to combine my interest of image-making and cooking. I was also trying to build my illustration portfolio at the time and I knew having a weekly blog would motivate me to always be making new work. The colour palate I use is simply colours that I’m attracted to. The same colours that show up in my illustrations, show up in my apartment, wardrobe, and jewellery. I live a life full of olive greens, burnt oranges and pinks.
The team I work with at New Bohemia Signs are a constant inspiration and motivate me to work harder and really step up my game. The late Margaret Kilgallan, who was a Bay Area artist influenced by sign painting and she is someone who I greatly admire. Some other Bay Area artists that I find inspiring are Lisa Cogdon, Wendy Macnaughton, and Jessica Hische. Julia Rothman is an illustrator in New York whose work is also inspirational.
Meeting with new clients and arriving at finished commissioned work is normally a four step process. Initially you have a discussion with the client to evaluate their needs and expectations. Next, you go to a sketching phase and give them a few choices. Once a direction is decided upon you go on to make the final art work. From there it is either approved or it’s decided that there needs to be a revision of the initial idea. I usually write in one or two revisions into the contract, and beyond that the client has to pay more than the initial estimate.
Food is definitely a huge part of the Bay Area culture, and in Berkeley, it’s taken to an even a higher level.
I live right around the corner from an amazing grocery store called the Berkeley Bowl and there is a Farmers’ Market every Tuesday a few blocks from my house. There are Farmers’ Markets almost every day of the week, and the venue moves around town depending on the day.
I have experimented with a little vegetable gardening but unfortunately I don’t have a lot of green space, only a little flower bed in front of my apartment. So I have to make do with that little plot and some container gardening. I never intended to be such a foodie, but it happens naturally if you live here long enough.
My biggest hope for 2012, is that it is a productive year for my art career: I have an art show coming up in April that I’m currently working on. I hope to sell some work and get some exposure from the show. As far as clients, I would love to illustrate some recipes for lifestyle magazines like Real Simple, or other similar publications. A big goal would be to get an Illustrated Bites Book underway. Overall, I would just to make more connections and get a steadier flow of client work.
Heather Hardison’s website: www.heatherdiane.com
Heather’s Blog: www.illustratedbites.wordpress.com
Follow Heather on twitter: @illustratedbite