Today I’m pleased to welcome Kansas City-based artist, illustrator, and hand letterer Sarah Walsh to Alphabet Soup!
Pictured above is a collage she created this past summer called “Aqua Daydreams.” I loved it the moment I saw it — mermaids, jellyfish, the different shapes, lines, colors, and overall composition of the piece with its touches of whimsy and playfulness. It feels childlike and sophisticated at the same time, definitely invites a closer look, and much like the rest of her work, elicits unabashed joy and happiness.
A graphic design major, Sarah worked at Hallmark for 12 years, has also illustrated for other card lines, helped Crayola create a character-based tween girl brand (Pop Art Pixies), and has designed typefaces and surface patterns (client list includes Usborne, Peaceable Kingdom, Land of Nod, Perseus, Red Rooster Fabrics). She and her artist husband Colin (love that name!) share a basement studio in their home and sell prints and other goodies via their Etsy shop Petit Reve.
Most recently, Sarah published three awesome coloring books for Rockport’s Just Add Color Series: Day of the Dead, Carnival, and Circus. (Have you read the recent HuffPo article about how coloring books help adults combat stress? I think we should all order Sarah’s coloring books ASAP! ):)
I know you’ll enjoy learning more about Sarah and feasting your eyes on her charmingly quirky, fun and vibrant creations. She counts among her major influences 50’s and 60’s illustration, family, friends and love in general. It’s so easy to see the ♥ in her work. 🙂
* * *
♥ MEET SARAH WALSH ♥
Name of shop or business: Sarah Walsh/ Petit Reve
Year established: I started my etsy in January 2010 and my freelance illustration career December 2013
Items you make: art prints, buttons, magnets, brooches and coloring books
Studio Location: my home [Kansas City, Kansas]
Three words that best describe your art: quirky, happy and thoughtful
Self taught or formal training? formally trained in design, self taught in illustration
Tools of the Trade: the mighty pencil or pen, gouache, cut paper, scissors, glue, and photoshop
Inspirations and influences: Mary Blair, The Provensens, J.P. Miller, Ben Shahn, Frida Kahlo, Alexander Girard, Jim Henson, Wes Anderson, Andy Warhol, Margaret Killgallen, and Paul Rand
Three significant milestones in your career:
1. Getting my first job out of school with Hallmark Cards-it was an amazing experience that I will always cherish.
2. When I received the e-mail that Lilla Rogers would become my agent.
3. is yet to come!
Food that inspires your best work: coffee and a toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese!
Bestseller: L’ Ananas print (a girl with a pineapple hat)
What is your earliest memory of being creative?
Maybe when I was 4? I’d draw on the floor with my grandmother’s office scrap paper from work.
What is the first thing you ever made as an “artist”?
I was obsessed with horses and the Kentucky Derby. Ruffian was the horse I drew for her and she framed it with matte board and everything. It became real to me!
Which vintage children’s books have had the most influence on your work?
I Can Fly [by Ruth Krauss and Mary Blair] and a fave book I loved when I was little was Dean’s Mother Goose Book of Rhymes illustrated by Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone.
Any interest in writing and/or illustrating a children’s book?
Y E S!!!!! It would be a dream come true.
What was it like working for Hallmark Cards?
It was like going to graduate school. You learn sooooo much. The people that work there are from all over the country, even the world and they are some of the nicest, most talented bunch I’ve ever met. I’ve made life long friends with a few. I met my husband at Hallmark while on the kids team and even started an all girl band with my best friends there as well!
Tell us about a few of your favorite Hallmark projects.
Two illustrations for the first two wedding cards Hallmark had ever done geared toward lesbians and gays (collaborated with designer Lindsay Tippet), a pop up card and e-card about under the sea, and a brand I co-created with a talented writer buddy named Linda Morris, called Ultra GoGo about four girls with different interests and they had a talking cupcake pal named Jimmy.
I love typography and hand lettering. How does one go about designing an original typeface?
I always start with doodling a specific word that may convey the feeling of the actual typeface I’m trying to create.
Do you have a favorite letter of the alphabet to draw?
R’s are fun. And W’s. S’s are hard.
Please select a popular item from your shop and tell us what inspired it. What was your favorite part of making it?
I like the Siren Series I did awhile back. I always want to dye my hair but I’m too chicken. I also want to learn how to braid but it’s so hard. I guess I live vicariously through these girls with funky hair colors and different hairstyles!
You’ve just published three brand new coloring books for Rockport Publishers. How did you get that gig, what was your biggest challenge, and what did you learn from the experience?
My agent got this for me. I believe they approached the studio. [My biggest challenge was] that there was nooooo color!!!!! [I learned] that black and white line can have a color to it by adding texture, different line weights and pattern of different scales.
I’m a longtime Land of Nod fan. Tell us about the work you’ve done for them thus far.
Me too! Wall art for now. Two hedgehogs in love wall art, a unicorn growth chart and another wall art piece of a girl holding a boom box. [Click here to see Sarah’s Land of Nod designs currently available for purchase.]
Describe your studio.
My studio is in our home basement. We re-finished it last summer before our son was born. Very stressful but worth it! I like a lot of color and fun things around me — fave books, artwork, toys, my happy stuff, etc. — a big paper mache unicorn head is on the wall, drawings my daughter did when she was little.
How have you fashioned your work environment to enhance creativity and maximize productivity?
I love working to music. We space for specific projects. The flat files is where we cut etsy prints and make buttons. My drafting table is where I paint. I have a computer space and also a sewing table now.
How do you chart your growth as an artist?
I try not to judge my earlier work too hard but looking at my older pieces helps me see how far I’ve come. I like to keep sketchbooks because they are like little time capsules of my progress.
How do you define success?
Sometimes it’s tough. I try not to measure myself against other people. It’s challenging at times. I think we all do it in spite of ourselves. Focusing on the now and whether I’m excited to pick up a pencil and draw is how I try to measure success. If I’m excited about a current project then I’m successful. I’d like to make things until I’m old and grey!
What is your dream project?
Writing and illustrating a children’s book or collaborating with someone I admire, having a fabric collection, doing a huge kids focused collection with my husband. So many things!
What do you like best about the creative life?
I just love making things out of nothing. It’s very powerful.
Any new projects you’re especially excited about?
It’s a secret but it has to do with magical creatures 🙂 I’m also really excited to work on new patterns for printsource in January.
Do you like to cook? If so, please share a favorite recipe.
I love to cook very much. I like this recipe [Cajun Chicken and Rice] because it’s easy AND tasty. We mostly toggle between Indian, Asian, and Italian and are always up for something new. This recipe is Cajun and has a lot of flavor. We make it every other month. I always forget about it because it’s not Asian, Indian, Mexican or Italian!
THANKS SO MUCH FOR VISITING, SARAH!
* * *
♥ MORE MORE MORE ♥
- Visit Sarah Walsh Makes Things to see more of her delightful art.
- You can purchase Sarah’s and Colin’s prints at Petit Reve (Colin has done some cool bears!).
- Keep up with Sarah’s and Colin’s news at their blog Unicorn Poo.
- Check out Sarah’s Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and tumblr blog (where she posts her black and white work)
- Watch this video of Sarah doodling the last page of her Day of the Dead coloring book.
* * *
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.