Shari: K.C., I love your artwork. Please tell my readers how you got started professionally. What came first your paintings or book illustration?
K.C. I had been married six years when my husband, Fred, reminded me that I hadn’t been painting for quite awhile. So I searched for my supplies and started painting again. I started art school and joined an art group who asked me to show at one of their shows and found out my work would sell. It mushroomed from there. I started teaching at Lane Community College and I saw that my art would really sell after that. Although I intended to be an illustrator when I graduated (with honors) from art school, I had family obligations which precluded a career at that time. So I concentrated on my fine art pieces usually depicting Western life and was quite successful selling at art shows, in galleries and to private investors. I began illustrating four years ago as you will see in the answer below.
Shari: Will you tell us about some of your awards?
K.C.: I’ve won a number of awards during my career for my fine art pieces including the Snaffle Bit award, the Pioneer Award, and the Indian Heritage Award at the annual Winnemucca Western Arts Roundup where I show every year. I’ve shown in a number of other shows and fairs where I’ve received awards and my work is always well-received. But I am especially proud of my First Place Watercolors award at the 2008 Western Arts Roundup in Winnemucca for a triptych from Andy And Spirit Go To The Fair which now hangs in the Children’s Illustrated Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. That was the first award for my illustration work.
Shari: How did you get into illustrating children’s books? How many have you done?
K.C.: Mary Jean Kelso has been a friend for many years. Our daughters went to high school together and are still best friends. Mary started out writing children’s stories, but couldn’t get a publisher, so she was self-published with desktop publishing without much success. She began to write young adult western romances and mysteries and was successful at finding a publisher for those. However she still wanted to get her children’s books illustrated and published. So about four years ago, she asked me to illustrate The Christmas Angel. Her plan was to self-publish with a book printer. However after the illustrations were done, she submitted the manuscript to Guardian Angel Publishing unbeknownst to me. Well---success! Lynda accepted the book for publishing.
Shortly thereafter, Lynda asked me if I would be interested in illustrating The Magic Violin by Mayra Calvani. That was a very interesting project because at the time I didn’t even know how to open my email, let alone attach an image and send an email to Belgium. But with the help of my husband, Fred, I dove into the project and learned a lot. Mayra and I learned together. The results have been highly successful with lots of “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” for the illustrations.
From there my association with Guardian Angel Publishing has just taken off. I now have nine children’s books in publication with three authors, four more completed and awaiting publication and fourteen more planned, two of which I am working on currently, Baby Jesus Is Missing by Dixie Phillips and A Short Tale About A Long Tail by Marilee Crow. Along the way, I even persuaded my niece, Janie Robinson, to submit one of her children’s stories, Preston The Not-So-Perfect, which is now one of the books awaiting publishing due in August.
Shari: All of the paintings I have seen have a western horse and rider theme, but your illustrations are very different and cover many themes. How can you create in so many different styles?
K.C.: I’m a born artist with some training. When I was a child learning to draw and paint, I thought all artists drew people. So I drew horses, which I loved, and people. I made my spending money in high school drawing movie stars for other kids. I’d make $5 or $6 each which was quite a bit of money. Then my art instructor taught me that if you can draw and paint people you can draw anything. Being born and raised in Oregon, I love the Western life style and have found it a very rewarding subject for my art. There are a lot of buyers for Western art. However, I appreciate all kinds of art, especially Impressionism. Being a trained commercial artist, I know how to change subjects and styles easily and I can work in almost any medium. I am also a sculptor. You can see several examples of my sculptures on my website. I’m working on a piece now that will become a bronze someday.
Shari: Did you require a lot of schooling to get where you are today? What kind of education was necessary?
K.C.: I attended a two-year commercial art school course and graduated with honors, plus I have taken a few other classes here and there, but mainly it’s constantly working at my craft (almost eight hours a day, every day) that has honed my skills. In school, I learned to be quick and use shortcuts, so that was invaluable.
Shari: You do a lot of traveling to promote your books and I assume your paintings as well. Do you enjoy the travel? Do you think this is necessary for all illustrators to be successful?
K.C.: You have to travel with your art if you want to get anywhere. I’ve been all over the Western U.S. with my art. My art has even been sent to Hawaii! When I got to Colorado with my Western art, my sales just started snow-balling. If I can travel to promote a book and help promote an author, I’m helping myself. I’d love to go to Belgium and help Mayra promote her books, but that probably is not going to happen. The bottom line is I recognize that to be successful you’ve got to promote your work, period!
Shari: I love to hear where authors and illustrators work. Do you have a studio? Will you tell us about it, please?
K.C.: Yes, thanks to my husband, Fred, I do have a wonderful studio (attached to my home), with lots of natural light (and artificial), a great stereo sound system and a small kennel for Jack, my dachshund/whippet mix (nicknamed “Poop”). My daughter’s cat, McFatty, helps a lot too.
Shari: Which children’s books have you illustrated most recently?
K.C. Just published: Cart Wheel Annie. Alleycat written by Marilee Crow and Andy and Spirit In the Big Rescue (third in the Andy and The Albino horse series) written by Mary Jean Kelso. Awaiting publishing: Monster Maddie written by Susan Stephenson; Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind written by Margot Finke; RV Mouse written by Mary Jean Kelso; Preston The Not-So-Perfect Pig written by Janie Robinson.
For more about K.C. Snider.