Words with Katie Carberry: Where the Magic Happens

Puddle Jump Collective (PJ): Hi Katie! Ooh! Do we get a peek at your studio today?

Katie: Here it is, Puddle Jump!

Prior to living in California I had a second bedroom to use as my workspace. Now that we’re in a small one-bedroom apartment, downsizing forced us to make many adjustments and simplify our lives. I’ve commandeered our dining room to use as my painting/crafting area and have set up our computer desk in the living room. It’s actually quite cozy and allows my husband and I to talk while I’m working so it never gets lonely.

​PJ: Tidy use of space! Plus, you're closer to the coffee maker, right? And while we're at it, are you more of a coffee or tea person?

Katie: I used to be crazy addicted to coffee for a long time but over the last couple of years I've embraced 'clean eating' and now I pretty much drink only tea or water with lemon.

PJ: Nice! By the way, we hear you make a pretty fabulous unicorn frappuccino. Is it true?

Katie: Healthy *and* delicious. It's made with - mango, banana, dragon fruit, coconut milk, orange juice and topped with dairy free whipped cream!

Katie's mermaid drink

PJ: Ooh la la! That's impressive! {Recipe found here}

So, Katie, we hear you have a day job. How do you keep yourself going when you're not actively at work on illustration pursuits?

Katie: While at my office job, I try to surround myself with things I love and illustrations I’ve done to keep me inspired even when I can’t be doing creative work.

PJ: Great idea, Katie. A happy heart makes for creative magic, right? And speaking of creative magic, what do you aspire to do with your art?

Katie: I hope to illustrate picture books as well as middle grade and chapter books. My dream is to someday write and illustrate my own picture books as well. I would also love an opportunity to illustrate a children’s board game, I think that would be such fun!

PJ: Excellent! Here's to all of those aspirations coming together soon. What made you want to become an illustrator?

Katie: I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself as anything other than an artist.

As a child I spent a lot of time outside, running around the farm with our family dog, talking to the animals, and making up adventures. When I couldn’t be outside all I wanted to do was color and draw and look through all of my books of fairy tales filled with beautiful illustrations. That's where it all began. I wanted to tell my own stories and create pictures as beautiful as the ones in my books.

Throughout school I never stopped making art, and my enjoyment for drawing and painting just increased over time. When I came across Lane Smith’s illustrations in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and Dave McKean’s illustrations in The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish I was never the same. I knew that illustrating children’s books was what I wanted to do.

PJ: Perfect! And how did we not know that bit about you being a farm girl? Was is a dairy farm? Some of us are wondering if that's why you liked the Stinky Cheese Man especially, aside from the Lane Smith brilliance.

Katie: Actually, I grew up on a Thoroughbred Horse farm. As well as being surrounded by many horses, we of course had dogs, cats and even goats and sheep occasionally. I definitely have a soft spot for children's stories that take place on farms.

PJ: Every artist has a different process from the seed of an idea to its finished work. Can we see a bit of how your magic happens?

Katie: I begin by working out ideas in my sketchbook. Once I have something I like, I scan the sketch into Photoshop. There I can resize things and move them around and make sure to get the characters and composition just right. Then I bring the opacity way down and print it onto card stock. (Sometimes this step will be done multiple times before I get it right). Then I do the final drawing on the card stock including my shading and values all done in pencil. This is then scanned again into Photoshop where I place my drawing on a multiply layer and do all of the color digitally.

PJ: Gorgeous! It's such a treat to see your work as it progresses. We're sure you never end up with Artist's block, right? But, if you did know the secret remedy to cure artistic brain freeze, what would it be?

Katie: As much as I hate to admit it, I do get artists block every now and then. (it always sneaks up on you when you're least expecting it).

I find the best cure is to get outside, get some fresh air, and go for a walk. My husband and I enjoy going to the L.A. Zoo, and I find that’s always a good way to unwind and get my creative juices flowing again.

I also try to make it a habit to do yoga and meditation. Since I work during the week my illustration time is in the evenings and weekends so I rely on my yoga practice to help me unwind from my day and switch gears from left brain to right brain.

PJ: Left brain or right, those sound like joyful ways to re-juice. We all need creative juicing and re-juicing, yeah? Plus your secret unicorn tonic - that helps with creative juicing, right? So, juices aside, what's the best advice you've ever gotten?

Katie: I don’t know that I have any specific advice but there is one book that has made a huge impact on me. It is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I often turn to this book when I’m feeling down about myself and the challenges of pursuing a creative career. One of the best things I’ve taken from this book is the idea that “done is better than good”. I often get stuck in a rut trying to get an illustration just right. I drag my feet and feel frustrated that a piece isn’t turning out as I had imagined it. This idea always helps me to push through and get it done. Only once a piece is completed can I truly see what can be improved upon, and often times once it is finished and I can then step away and come back to it with a new appreciation and am able to see the good in it rather than dwelling on all of the problems. Sometimes just finishing things can be the biggest accomplishment.

PJ: That is a beautiful perspective. It sounds like a book to hunt down and keep close! What are your favorite kinds of stories?

Katie: I’ve always been drawn to folk tales, fairy tales, and tall tales. Stories with strange creatures and adventures in which people find strength in themselves that they never knew was there. I love stories with a quirky sense of humor and unexpected heros. I do have a side that enjoys a good ghost story and a bit of a scare.

PJ: Ooh! Maybe there's a humorous, ghost-centric fairy tale in your future! Here's a quick one -

what's the last book you read?

Katie: The last book I read was The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau and Illustrated by Jen Hill. This has everything I love in a story, action, adventure and unlikely heroes. This is the first book in the series and I can’t wait for more!

PJ: It looks like a jolly swashbuckler, to be sure!

Katie, thank you so much for interviewing with us today. The crew at Puddle Jump is lucky to have you as a cohort and friend.

Here's to great joy and fulfillment in your author/illustrator journey.


See more of Katie's beauteous work at katiecarberry.com.

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