Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interview with Illustrators Cherish Flieder & Benjamin Hummel

Shari: I have never met an illustrating team. Have you been working together very long?

Cherish/Benjamin: We have been working together on illustration and design projects for about 11 years now, seven of those years as a married couple. However, our favorite joint projects are definitely children’s books. We met at Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design when Cherish was coming in as a Freshman and Benjamin was graduating as a Senior. We immediately became friends since we had so much in common from our Christian faith to our love for children’s book illustration.

Shari: Marriage is tough enough, so I would think working together would be difficult.

Cherish/Benjamin: It was a little challenging at first, but as we worked together as a team we learned ways to better communicate. We try to continually respect each other's professional opinions and not take things to heart. There is art and then there is business, when we work together we have a rule that “the best idea is boss,” no matter who came up with it. Marriage is not tough when both people make a decision to put their partner’s needs ahead of their own. When couples make an effort to serve one another, things flow more smoothly. We also have been through many life and death situations together, so when you look at the big picture, some things matter more than others. We always aim for excellence, but we don’t sweat the details, especially when doing so can create hurt and dissension.

Shari: How do you work together? Do you have the same vision for each work? Does one do the background and the other the characters, or what?

Cherish/Benjamin: When we approach a new assignment, we look at the entire challenge conceptually, ranging from a technical perspective and considering the target market as well. After we spend time brainstorming together, we each will start sketching out our ideas for particular scenes. When we come together to share our concepts, we will often look for ways to enhance each other’s idea. It is a fun way to start a project and is always full of energy and enthusiasm.

After our client approves the sketches, Benjamin will work on character development by creating model sheets based on the clues in the story. His ability to turn forms around in his head and draw them as well as his ability to create dynamic expressions, makes him the perfect artist for the job. In the meantime, Cherish will take the approved sketches to her drafting table and work up color arrangements using pastels. It is fast and to the point, although it can be dusty. After color compositions are complete, Benjamin will work with photo reference to create tight drawings to scale. Then we begin the process of transferring the drawings to watercolor paper. Cherish will be the first to start on the paintings, she has a very relaxed and colorful approach to watercolor that creates depth and beauty within each piece. She will do a first pass at the images blocking in a complete under-painting. After that, she paints all the characters, props, and everything else to the extent that watercolor medium allows. Once we are both satisfied with the watercolor paintings, Benjamin will go in on top with oils, acrylics and/or colored pencils to pull out the details and enhance the dark values that watercolor couldn’t express. We will continue the pass the paintings back and forth, working on them until we both feel that they are finished.

Shari: Is working together easier or more difficult than working alone? Have you ever illustrated children’s books alone?

A children’s book project is a monumental task, and it is nice to have someone with which we can share the responsibilities. When we met, Benjamin had already published his first children’s book, but since then we started illustrating children’s books together in this semi-realistic style. We also complete illustration assignments individually in our own unique styles. For example Cherish has a watercolor embroidery technique called Something to Cherish ® (http://www.somethingtocherish.com/) and Benjamin has a illustrative/cartoon style that can be seen at http://www.hummelillustration.com/.

Shari: What children’s books have you done together?

Cherish/Benjamin: Together we have illustrated two books, but we are excited to do more.

What Would You Like To Do Today? by Larry Grizzell and Prayer Posies by Barbee Lux, both can be ordered at http://www.paintingforlife.com/.

Shari: Tell us a little about your training?

Cherish/Benjamin: Other than our BFAs from Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, we continue to educate ourselves by interviewing other established artists, taking additional classes and seminars, visiting art shows and museums across the country, staying aware of current trends. We also both teach various illustration classes, as nothing refines one’s knowledge of a subject quite like teaching.

Shari: I am always curious about the workspace of creative people. Tell us about your workspace, please. Do you play music or do anything to get inspired?

Cherish/Benjamin: Our studio exists in an attic above our 1920’s Art Deco style cottage. We sacrifice space in order to live in the beautiful city of Golden, Colorado, leaving our combined living and working quarters very small. It is always a juggling act to decide who gets to use the drafting table or scanner, while the other the light box, easel or computer. But, we always manage to figure it out and everything always seems to come together.

We aspire to start every morning a good breakfast and a nice quiet time together as this is a key factor in getting us through our long days. Once we are both in the studio, we decide on a playlist or radio station (or not, which is when we break out the headphones) and crank up the volume to get us going. Taking breaks is really important as well with it comes to cultivating creativity. We will often walk to the creek, park, post office, bank and library to take in some culture, nature, exercise and inspiration while completing our errands at the same time.

Shari: Children’s books are not your only work. How did you get into illustrating children’s books?

Cherish/Benjamin: We actually started with the aim of illustrating children’s books since that was our focus in college. Also, we have always offered graphic design services as a part of our package and work with our clients to fine tune their marketing messages. When we started having increased demand for our artwork, we branched out into fine art, cards and gifts with a retail division called Painting for Life (http://www.paintingforlife.com/). In the last two years we began to more seriously pursue art licensing when Cherish developed the style for Something to Cherish ® (http://www.somethingtocherish.com/). Since then, she has started a group of over 1,000 professionals in the art licensing field, encouraging them to connect and network on LinkedIn (http://www.artoflicensing.com/).

Shari: What are you working on now?

Cherish/Benjamin: We actually just released and started promoting our children’s book with read-along audio CD, Prayer Posies. We are gearing up for a gallery show and book signing where we are going to showcase the children’s book illustrations along with a collection of Hawaiian themed fine art. We are also looking to take http://www.paintingforlife.com/ to the next level with a brand new shopping cart system, so it will be easier for our fans to order from us online. Hopefully this will be completed in time for the Christmas card rush!


Margot Finke said...

Fascinating interview, Shari.

What a lovely couple. Seems they have mastered the tricky art of working together - Good for them!!

Margot Finke

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Wow, that is so refreshing! Cherish & Benjamin, I admire your dedication to one another, to your Christian beliefs, and to your craft. My huband is an illustratot and I'm an author, so we have to work together as a team as well sometimes.
Be blessed and keep chasing your dream!

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

Mayra Calvani said...

Great interview, Shari!