[Sarah Mensinga] is an illustrator/animator/comic artist, who is currently taking time to work on her own graphic novel called The Wellington Division. I first read her work The Changeling in Flight (v.5, I think), and I think her comics are lovely and endearing. The last image here is from a four page comic called Fish, which is hilarious and [available to read online]. She also gives incredibly helpful, sincere advice, so keep reading!
Her children often appear in her work, ahaha. ^
1) What sort of medium or programs to you use for your work?
I usually start with paper and color-erase pencils. I scan that and paint it digitally, usually with Photoshop, sometime with both Painter and Photoshop. I love the look of Illustrator, but I've never had the chance to sit down and really figure it out.
2) What are some of your favorite websites/magazines/books/publications for inspiration?
I add nearly every cool art blog I find to my google reader, which I try to check everyday. Most of the blogs I follow are conceptual artists in animation-related feilds. My newest discovery is ha.com, which is an online auction site. If you get a free membership, you can browse their lots and study high-resolution images of some fantastic illustrators. As far as books go, I have a huge collection of visual reference books. I love books on architecture and costume, most of all.
3) What was your favorite professional assignment that you've ever done?
I once got to design some Wizard of Oz dolls for some product pitch. I don't think the project ever materialized, but it was a lot of fun.
4) You have a really distinctive, painterly style has it always been that way? How did you get there?
Ha, it's a bit of a relief that you say that. I still feel that my painting is a bit unpredictable and that I'm not entirely happy with my process. I went to an arts high school and for my final year I focused on oil-painting and illustration. I think that gave me a pretty good foundation for learning how to digitally paint, but it wasn't until I started professionally character designing that I had to knuckle down and really learn how to digitally paint well. I realized that if I wanted my designs to catch the eyes of producers and directors who weren't necessarily accustomed to looking at line drawings, I'd better figure out how to make my designs look more like they would on screen. To learn, I asked friends who painted well a lot of questions, I did a lot of terrible paintings, I searched for tutorials and I studied the work of other artists I admired. I still do all those things. :)
5) What sort of process do you have? Do you work on many peices at once or one at a time?
My process now is a bit up in the air, but that's just because I'm not doing working full-time. (My kids are very little and I'm home with them.) In general though, I do a fairly tight line-drawing and scan it. I usually look for some photo (often completely unrelated) to create a color palette, and often tweak it even further in photoshop. I do a rough painted pass, keeping as many things on layers as I can and then I save and tighten and polish. The polishing part always takes forever. :) I do often have several projects on the go, both story-related and art-related. I try to focus on them one at a time, though.
6) What do you do when you can't come up with ideas? How do you manage stress?
If I'm working on a professional project, usually I have enough direction from a client that it's not difficult to build on their ideas. But sometimes if I'm working on my own art and there is no deadline, I feel a bit lost. Often, I start pulling reference books down from my shelves and open them to random pages, looking for inspiration. Othertimes, I think about something I could draw that would make my daughter or husband smile. As for stress, I push through it! I'm definitely the sort of person that just gets more determined when confronted with something that is stressing me out. The more I work on it, the faster it will be done and the faster is will stop stressing me out. :)
7) How do you advertise yourself/get work? What works for you?
At the moment, I'm sort of anti-advertising. :) Since I'm home full-time with my kids, and trying to focus on writing, I don't really want to be inundated with freelance projects. When my kids are older, I'll probably try to go back to a studio because I like how social it is. Or at the very least, I'll look into getting an art rep. I'm terrible at negotiating contracts.
When I do want to advertise though, I find attending comic-conventions with my portfolio and lots of nice business cards pointing to my website works very well. Being active on my blog, helps too.
8) Is your personal work particularly different from your professional work?
Yes. When working professionally, I often work on designs or draw subjects I might not otherwise. I think it's a good thing, it pushes me out of my comfort zone. My personal work usually revolves around stories I have on the go.
9) What's the best advice you would give a student aspiring to work as an illustrator?
Don't go looking for your style. The best kind of style is something that naturally comes into your work and you can't get rid of it even if you wanted to. That way, it's really, genuinely you, it will set you apart and it will be unique.
Never put limitations on yourself. Never tell yourself "this is as good as I will ever get" and feel frustrated. Sometimes it feels that way, but as long as you try to stay positive and keep trying to learn, you will always be improving throughout your career and new doors will open, which is exciting! :)
She's so nice! I felt more comfortable asking her random questions. She wrote such long, helpful replies! She also keeps a blog which is updated often with lots of fun things! (Here!)