Frequently Asked Questions
For commercial inquiries, project proposals and licensing questions, please contact me directly at email@example.com.
What materials/equipment do you use?
- For originals: Hot and Cold-pressed Watercolor paper, various sizes and brands including Strathmore, Fabriano, Arches and Rives BFK.
- For prints: Moab Entrada Rag Bright, 300gsm
- Graphite pencils Prismacolor Turquoise Graphite Pencils, generally 4H-6H
- Colored pencils - Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, Soft Core Pencils and Verithins
- Watercolors - Sakura Koi, Schmincke Horadam
- Gouache - Holbein Acryla
- Wax pastels - Caran d’Ache Neocolor
- Markers/pens - Copic, Prismacolor, Microns
- Solvents - Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits
- Misc - Sharpie Paint Pens, occasional gold leaf
- Latex-free kneaded erasers
- Glass palette, palette knife
- Watercolor: Isabey, Princeton Neptune and Da Vinci (size 000-12 round, ¼-1/2 inch filbert, large wash)
- Oil/Acrylic - Not picky about the brand, as long as the bristles are stiff. I often get the art store brand, generally in a size 2-4, round
- Camera - Nikon D3300
- Lens - Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
- Printer - Canon Pixma iX6500
- Scanner - Epson Perfection V370
What’s your process like?
My process changes somewhat from piece-to-piece depending on the subject I’m working on and the purpose of the work. In general though, I start with a light pencil sketch to lay out proportions and composition. Then I use some mix of watercolor, colored pencil, marker, wax pastels and gouache to gradually build up color and detail.
Do you work from references or your imagination?
The inspiration/feeling for a piece may come from my imagination, but I always use references in some capacity during the execution of a piece. Our world is incredibly complex and surprising, and as a person who aims for some amount of realism in my work, I need that constant reminder of references to keep me tethered to the nuances of reality.
How long did it take you to make that?
It depends! Anywhere from 3 hours for a small, simple illustration, to 25+ for a larger painting.
Why do you paint food so often? What does it mean?
At a basic level, I love that a painting of an ice cream cone can remind me of one experience, and someone in the UK of another, and someone in China of still another. Food is so accessible a subject, that a painting of toast could carry a thousand meanings, or none at all. Given this, most of the particular meanings and narratives I would connect with my work are specific to individual paintings rather than to the body of work as a whole. Some works are far more personal and freighted with meaning than others.
If I were to ascribe meaning or intention to the larger body of work, it would probably have to do with the symbolic, communal, perishable nature of food. Food is an aspect of human life that is simultaneously ubiquitous and transcendent. We all have memories of food, feelings about food, stories about food. Food is physical, temporary and often shared with others. These characteristics make it an interesting doorway for exploring mortality, family, connection and other fleeting aspects of human life. This wasn’t part of my initial attraction to the subject, but it’s become significant to me over time, especially as I have dealt with major health issues and have had to come to terms with my own physical, perishable nature at a young age.
Lastly, this is less to do with the what than the why, but here it is none-the-less - I like food. I like looking at it, cooking it, eating it, and sharing it. I like telling stories about it and hearing stories about it. Painting food is fun and interesting. Given that I started painting it at a time in my life when I had trouble motivating myself to make anything at all, this was a major reason I was drawn to food it as a subject, and it continues to be relevant to me today even as I incorporate other subjects into my work more and more frequently.
What’s your favorite piece and why?
I don’t actually have one. Choosing a favorite would require me to be objective about my own work, which I think is impossible.
Inspirations & Influences:
Trees, the ocean, my family, animals, the grocery store, people eating together, old botanical & medical drawings, public transit, baking and bakeries, the Internet, music
(in no particular order) Euan Uglow, Wayne Thiebaud, Soey Milk, Erik Jones, Meredith Marsone, Martine Johanna, Maira Kalman, Jen Mann, Joanne Nam, Henri Matisse, Johannes Vermeer
Were you artistic as a child?
I would say I was a pretty typical kid related to art. I certainly loved to draw, but I really wasn’t very serious about it. I never had classes or lessons in art, and I didn’t like spending much longer than an hour or so on one drawing. I remember constantly feeling frustrated that I couldn’t create on paper what I saw in my head.
Did you go to school for art? Do you recommend art school?
I did, but I didn’t plan to. When it came time to consider college, I really never thought about going to school for art. I hadn’t taken lessons, and I didn’t really view it as a learnable skill, so it just didn’t occur to me. I went in as an english major, and didn’t even take a drawing class until the second semester of my sophomore year. It’s hard for me to say broadly whether I’d recommend art school to others because everyone is so different. For myself, I can say that it was a good experience, and I’m glad I went. I learned some good technique, but by far the most valuable thing I took away was that art, like anything else (math, writing, swimming) requires time, patience and lots of work. With practice, anyone can improve, and with years of dedication anyone can develop some serious skills. I’m not sure if I would have come to that conclusion on my own had I not gone to art school.
How did you get started as an illustrator? How do you find clients?
- Step 1: Make stuff
- Step 2: Internet
- Step 3: Repeat (and repeat, and repeat)
- Step 4: Clients
Do you have another job? How do you make a living as an artist?
Freelancing is my only job, but it’s made up of a number of different kinds of work including: commercial illustration, private commissions, print sales (Etsy, Uncommon Goods) and even some branding/web design.
A musician friend of mine who is further along in his career than I am says that he never turns down a paying music-job. To me, that seems like a sensible philosophy when you work in the arts - especially if you’re in the early part of your career. So I generally try to stay openminded about learning new skills, trying new projects and taking on jobs that are different than my current area of interest.
The fact is that if you want to make art professionally, you’re in it for the long game and the road will probably have a lot of twists and turns. While prodigies, and young, overnight art celebrities certainly are out there, they are few and far between. I am not one of them, and I have never met one. Talent is important, but blood, sweat and tears are more important.
What is a typical work day like?
- Get up
- Drink coffee, eat breakfast
- Studio (painting, drawing, making)
- Emails, admin, invoicing
- Studio (painting, drawing, making)
- Watch TV, sketch/draw on the iPad
Is your art for sale? Where can I buy it?
Do you do commissions?
Yes, absolutely. Email me and we can discuss particulars.
What’s your advice to young/aspiring artists? How can I improve my drawing?
Draw something that you like looking at. If you’re interested in a particular subject, go with it. Look closely at things. Learn to see what is actually there, rather than what you think is there. Once you have a clear idea of what’s there, expand on it. Change it. Add to it; make it into something more. Take something away; make it something less. Pay attention to proportion (if you want to). Practice. Draw as much as possible, as often as possible.
Can I use your work for/on…?
- My desktop background/phone lock screen? Yes
- My tattoo? Yes, please send me a picture!
- A class project? Yes, please be sure to credit me
- Printed out for my own use? No, sorry. Any physical reproduction (even for personal uses) of my work is prohibited
- On my blog? That depends…
- If it’s a feature (i.e. a post about my work) that’s generally fine so long as you link to my website or Tumblr and do not edit/modify the work in any way.
- If it’s in the blog header, and your blog is not monetized (you’re not making money from it) that’s fine so long as you do not change the work at all (no editing, cropping, adding text on top) and include a visible link to my website
- If it’s in the blog header, and your blog is monetized (you are making money from it), then you’ll need to obtain permission first. Please email me here.
If you have any questions/doubts, please check with me first!
Previous Videos and Questions By Topic
TECH & EQUIPMENT
- What program do you use to edit your video, and do you any tips on lighting, etc? (3:45 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- Do you ever scan things in to work onto your iPad or do you always work from scratch directly on the iPad? (5:25 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- How did you set up your website? Was it professionally done or did you put it together yourself? (1:30 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- Are you happy with your drafting table? Which brand is it? (8:20 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- Do you use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator? (11:33 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
- Do you use any tablet to paint or use a mouse for digital painting? (12:57 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
MATERIALS & EQUIPMENT
- Is there anything I can do if I have burnished my drawing too much? (6:50 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- When you use Gamsol to blend colored pencils, does it affect the water based media you’ve already laid down? (2:40 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- Do you recommend any good gold marker? (13:40 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- Do you prefer hot press or cold press and why? (15:00 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- How do you know which medium to use for each stage of a painting? (16:00 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- When painting with watercolor, how do you ensure pencil lines don't show through? (18:45 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- How do you decide on what materials you want to use? (13:50 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
- How do you achieve a smooth effect when blending colored pencils with Gamsol? (6:00 - https://youtu.be/CPpB_nT6-Hg)
- How do you create your sketches? How do you transfer sketches to watercolor paper? (3:00 - https://youtu.be/k9taLvcNbm4)
- Studio Tour - https://youtu.be/iTTrXQnvHQ4
- On working with mixed media - https://youtu.be/RUQDYJxDgZE
- On color, saturation, value - https://youtu.be/GddZfLV7G3Q
- On blending colored pencils - https://youtu.be/EboLg1EcIvU
CLIENTS & FREELANCE
- Do you do any follow-up on clients once you have worked with them? (8:30 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- How does pricing for freelance work? Do you set your price or do the clients tell your their budget? Do you charge by the hour or the size of the drawing? (1:30 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- Did you ever use an agent at any point to represent you? What would be the main reason to do so in your opinion? (7:00 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- On dealing with client revisions - https://youtu.be/jnap3QFuuz8
- On contracts and invoicing - https://youtu.be/15ImEIrWciY
- On finding clients - https://youtu.be/3RoB3sEzoSE
- Is 21 too old to star an art career? (14:50 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- How do you stay motivated? Especially working from home on an "off" day? (11:30 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- How do you strike the balance between time making art and time spent doing everything else (posting it online, making prints, etc)?How much time do you dedicate per week to JUST making the art? (22:30 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- Do you recommend going to art school? (6:28 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
- How did you get your first freelance job? (20:02 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
- Is it important to focus on only one topic in building an illustration portfolio? (1:00 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
- How did you develop your style of making art and how did you know it was what you wanted to stick with? (3:12 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
- On building a portfolio - https://youtu.be/0v6gLYXVjq8
- On my own art journey including art school - https://youtu.be/MQJgUfAH59Q
- On style - https://youtu.be/MQJgUfAH59Q, https://youtu.be/P_YU4gwg3Iw
- Do you listen to podcasts while you work? If so, what are your favorites? (10:00 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- What YouTube channels do you like? (11:00 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
- I have been thinking of starting an Etsy. Is it better to sell prints or originals? (10:00 - https://youtu.be/ylO4maED0kY)
- On running an Etsy shop - https://youtu.be/sDXKihUSQfc
- How do you sign your work? (5:29 - https://youtu.be/UEanONbwT3w)
- Do you have any tips on Instagram for artists, specifically getting your account seen? (18:00 - https://youtu.be/jeA6lEZb0I8)
- How do you plan to continue to work at home after having your baby? Will you find out the gender? (16:40 - https://youtu.be/x8VbZ1AXD6g)
If you're still curious...
There’s lots more info on my Tumblr Questions page, and in videos on my YouTube channel, and in this interview, this article, and this Q&A video. If you’ve asked a question that I haven’t yet responded to, please don’t be sad - it may be because the answer already exists in one of these places. :)
Some of the links on this page are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This support helps me continue to be able to make videos, share my process and take the time to link to all the art supplies & materials I use/talk about so that you guys can easily find them. Regardless, I only recommend products that I use personally on a regular basis.
All work is © Kendyll Hillegas, all rights reserved. Use without the artist's permission is strictly prohibited.