Meet Illustrator Katie Mazeika

By Gloria G. Adams

This month, we welcome illustrator Katie Mazeika to the Six Pens blog!  Katie writes:

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and grew up in Wyoming, Ohio (A small suburb of Cincy). I was lucky enough to grow up in the same neighborhood as the illustrator Chris Payne. My brother and his friends modeled for his Boys' Life illustrations. He spoke to my high school art classes. After hearing Chris speak, I knew I wanted to be an illustrator. I started college at Miami University of Ohio but at that time they only offered Fine Art or Graphic Design, so I transferred to, and graduated from The Columbus College of Art and Design. After college I moved north and eventually settled in my husband's hometown, Mentor, Ohio. We're about a half an hour east of Cleveland on Lake Erie. I live with my husband, two kids and two dogs and a cat. 

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I was an illustration major in college, but it wasn’t until my last year that I fell in love with children’s book illustration.

Who are some children’s book illustrators that you admire?

That changes daily--there are so many amazing artists. Eugene Yelchin, Julie Morstad, and Beatrice Alemagna are my latest illustrator crushes.

Why do you use Photoshop? Are there other mediums in which you like to work?

In college my favorite medium was pastels but after I had kids, I looked for other options that were less toxic (there is a lot of dust and sprays with pastels.) I tried watercolor, color pencil and finally digital illustration. I started with Corel Painter. As Photoshop became more of a painting program, I gradually started working with it and never looked back.

What are your goals as a children’s book illustrator?

I have one eye. I wore an eye patch as a kid and there were never any kids with an eye patch in the books I read growing up. So, when I illustrate, I try to make my characters diverse and hope kids can find themselves when they look at books I’ve illustrated.

How did you get into children’s publishing? What was your first published work?

I illustrated some books for a vanity press when I first started out. It was a good way to gain some experience and confidence.

What other types of work do you do as an artist?

Occasionally I grab time to do some personal pieces or experiment with new techniques. My other creative outlet is my garden.

What artist has influenced you the most?

When I was in college, I studied Degas and his pastels. Later it was Norman Rockwell. But as for direct influence I don’t know that I could put my finger on one artist.

Describe your creative process for us, from idea to finished product.

1. Sketches--sometimes I’ll do sketches for a specific project or idea sometimes I’ll flip through my sketchbooks and find a sketch that I want to develop.
2. I’ll polish my sketches so I have clean line drawing.
3. I’ll pick a color palette and block it in and change it around until I like it.
4. I’ll lay in the color.
5. I’ll add light/shadow.
6. I’ll add details and clean everything (any edges that aren’t clear or important details that aren’t popping.) 

Then it’s “done”- (but I can always find something a week later I’ll want to change; nothing is ever really done.)

What inspires you? What about illustrating makes you happy?

Starting a new project and creating new characters always makes me happy.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

 Learn from your mistakes and keep trying. But don’t give up.

Short and Sweet:

Pantser or Plotter?  Depends on the deadline.

Guilty Food Pleasure?  Dark chocolate.

Favorite Hobby? Gardening.

Dog or Cat person? Dog, I have both-but I only like my cat because she thinks she’s a dog.

Who would you like to have dinner with (living or dead)? My grandmother, Jean.

Do you do your best work in the morning, afternoon, or evening? I definitely focus better later in the day and evening.

Check out Katie's website:

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