Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday - Meet an Illustrator - Deb Hoeffner


Shari: I have visited your website and I must say, your work is beautiful. How long have you been doing this professionally?

Deb:
Thank you. I have been a freelance professional illustrator for almost 30 years.

Shari: I would imagine some of my younger readers might be interested in doing this kind of work. What kind of training have you had?

Deb:
I started out as an art education major but switched to a studio arts major when I had an opportunity to apprentice with an art director from a Madison Avenue Advertising Agency.
My formal education was a BA, and MA from Montclair State University with additional studies at The Art Students League, School of Visual Arts and Parsons. My work experience prior to freelancing was as a designer and assistant art director in advertising. I made the jump to illustration after taking a class at the New School with the Art Director of Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, as the instructor.

Shari: Please tell us how you work? Do you use a computer, charcoal, oil, acrylic?

Deb:
I use the computer for preliminary work. Once the sketch stage is completed, I work in pencil,
watercolors, pastel and oils.

Shari: I know you illustrate children’s books. Do you know what the characters will look like right away, or do you play with it until it feels right?

Deb:
Reading the manuscript gives me a good feel for what I am looking to create but playing in the computer and then finding the faces with pencil is how the character is developed.

Shari: What should writers know about the writer/illustrator relationship?

Deb:
It is always a partnership. Communication is very important. A good illustrator knows what questions to ask and is an expert listener. Once we have decided on a direction I create sketches that are very clear to give the author a good idea of what the final art will look like. At that stage, it’s very important that the writer looks closely and feels free to make changes and even criticisms. Changes are very easily made in the sketch stage. Usually I have very few tweaks in the final art because of this.

Shari: What is the best thing about being an illustrator?

Deb:
For me there are so many answers to this I don’t know where to start. I love the challenge of finding a visual image to express a thought or word. I enjoy researching new subjects and most importantly I love it when the concept is all worked out and I can sit at my drawing table with pencil and brush and create magic. I recently had an inquiry regarding a book cover that I had done many years ago. An 80 year old woman had fallen in love with the image of Christ that I created for the book and her friend wanted to get her a print so he tracked me down by the internet. That is perhaps the best thing about being an illustrator.

Shari: What is the worst thing about being an illustrator?

Deb:
It is difficult for the public to understand how much work goes into an illustration. The difference between clip art and custom illustration is not as appreciated in this digital age where images can be pulled off the web. Because of this I have had to put very large copyright notices on my website images. The good thing about this is that students contact me asking permission to use my work for their projects. It’s a good lesson for them and I’m always happy to grant this permission.

Shari: Thank you for doing this interview on the spur of the moment. Would you like to tell us what children’s books you have illustrated and what you are working on now?

Deb:
You’re very welcome! As you have seen from my website, my range of projects extends beyond children’s book illustration but over the years I have done covers for Simon & Schuster and interior illustrations for a number of the Stardust Classics, the Andi O’Malley chapter book series by Celeste Messer, “A Dog’s Guide to Life: Lessons from Moose” (really a gift book) and more recently my first real picture book “All You Want and Then Some” by Carolyn McWilliams Brown.

I have a new children’s book in the works now which will be set in the 1920’s and features the Essex Train Station in Connecticut. I am also working on a large commissioned painting and a logo illustration of a revolutionary war soldier for a new product.

Shari: I recommend everyone take a look a Deb's website to see her beautiful work.

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