When you illustrate, do you create images from your imagination or do you look at pictures of animals, people, landscapes or whatever you’re doing?
A good illustrator is informed with a huge visual library up in their heads. I hire models, build or sculpt almost everything that I paint. I want to fully understand the object in the lighting scenario I desire before I paint. Each time, I learn about how the light falls on it and store it in my brain for next time. Sometimes, these studies and gathering reference take longer than the paintings itself but to me, it's play.
Wow! I wasn’t expecting to hear this! You must have a large studio. Where do you work? What do you use for sculpting?
For a long time I worked out of my parents' basement, where I stained every inch of carpet they had. (Yes my parents have always been very supportive.) Recently, I bought a house and I have a bright space I occupy on the first floor that's tucked away from the rest of the house. I can't stand the thought of being too far away from my work. A surge of motivation can come at any moment and it's all the better when done in my pajamas.
When it comes to sculpting, I follow my high school art teachers mantra, "a tool is anything that works." All my sculptures and dioramas are purely for reference and usually end up in the trash when I'm done. I use cardboard, hot glue gun, clay and Styrofoam is great too. Not too long ago I built a snowdrift landscape out of powdered sugar
Kirbi caught the artist bug at an early age.
I knew I wanted to be an artist my whole life but I didn't discover what kind until college. In art school, I entered as a Graphic Design major and made the jump before the start of classes when I saw the work the illustration department was doing.
I attended Kendall College of Art and Design. Grand Rapids is a wonderful place to be an artist. KCAD was a really great fit for me. I learned techniques that I still use today. After school, I continued my education with programs like the Illustration Master Class.
What’s your favorite medium to work with? Do you combine computer technology with freehand drawing or painting?
To create my art, I use a combination of digital and traditional techniques. Each illustration has different needs and I use whatever it calls for to create the look I want.
What do you think about when you see the written words that you have to bring to visual life? Can you give us an example?
I like to draw people so usually when I read a text (IF I even get to read a text) the character always comes first. Usually, it’s more calculated than spontaneous inspiration. What exactly do I need to communicate? How can I make the image look as exciting as possible? How can I arrange the composition, color and values to make this image read clearly and quickly?
Can you tell us when you got your first big break?
The ladder I'm climbing is a tall one and I can't credit one job to getting me where I'm at. It's all these little jobs and a few big jobs adding up. I work at being consistent; treating each gig like it was my dream job. In tough times where work ran dry, I'd make up fake jobs for myself, keeping momentum. Some of the most important jobs in my development were projects that nobody has ever heard of. These jobs taught me how to collaborate with non-artists and create art that has a narrative and purpose. Working hard isn't about drawing till your hands develop carpal tunnel or pulling all nighters. It's about a steady production of work even when you’re not "inspired."
I think we all know by now that Kirbi is totally in love with her projects. Asking which book was the most interesting…her favorite… she replied:
Impossible question! I'm most interested in whatever I'm currently working on.
Thanks so much Kirbi. It’s been a joy getting to know you!
Check out one of her current projects that have just been announced!
You can get in touch with her: www.kirbiillustrations.com