Frequently Asked Questions

For commercial inquiries, project proposals and licensing questions, please contact me directly at kendyll.hillegas@gmail.com.


What materials/equipment do you use? 

Paper 

  • 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

Media 

Tools

  • Latex-free kneaded erasers 
  • Glass palette, palette knife
  • Brushes:
    • 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

Tech

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:

Broadly

Trees, the ocean, my family, animals, the grocery store, people eating together, old botanical & medical drawings, public transit, baking and bakeries, the Internet, music

Specifically 

(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
  • Walk
  • Studio (painting, drawing, making)
  • Lunch
  • Emails, admin, invoicing
  • Studio (painting, drawing, making)
  • Dinner
  • Walk
  • Watch TV, sketch/draw on the iPad
  • Bed

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

MATERIALS & EQUIPMENT

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

EXPERIENCE/PERSONAL

MISC


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. :)


Disclosure

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.