Interview by Assistant Professor Scott Bakal
We had a wonderful guest speaker, Becca Stadtlander come visit a few classes to talk about her work, her start as an illustrator and also do a demo of her painting process. Now living in Rhode Island, at such a young age and only a few years since she’s graduated from MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) she has quickly grown her business in a way that would make the most seasoned illustrators jealous.
Becca has worked for The New York Times, American Greetings, HarperCollins, Hodder & Soughton, Clarion, Jamie Oliver Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, O – The Oprah Magazine, Brown Publishing, Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle and many more. You can also find her awarded works in the 3×3 Illustration Annual and the Society of Illustrators Annual.
You can find her work at: www.beccastadtlander.com
After her presentation, I sat down with her to have a brief conversation for our blog about what it is like, in her experience, to be an illustrator.
Scott Bakal: Hello Becca! Thank you for visiting MassArt! It is always a treat to have guests come in and speak with our students. You were very generous with sharing your relatively short yet very full career with the students as well as giving a demo of your painting technique. Your work is unique and has attracted some wonderful clients such as the Saturday Evening Post, the New York Times and Candlewick Press. Can you talk about how you got to where you are now with your work and personal voice as an illustrator?
Becca Stadtlander: Hello! Thanks again for having me! It was a great experience getting to hang out with you and the wonderful students of MassArt. My work is still evolving, and it’s gone through many stages since my time in school. I struggled, in the beginning- trying to figure out what I liked/disliked and how I wanted my work to represent who I was. I tried all different techniques (and made a mess of most of them), but it wasn’t until I embraced my mistakes and intuition, that I began to find my voice.
Scott: You found your visual voice while you were still in school, which you noted during your lectures. Once that was settled and your felt confident in your work, I want to ask about the steps you took to begin a life as a working artist. It’s an interesting topic because everyone generally has different methods of promotion and running a business. When you were about to graduate, what are some of the actions you took in the beginning and what are you doing now to promote and maintain your business? Are there any day-to-day things you do? Are there things you do in the long term?
Becca: The first thing I did was created and maintained a presence online. Today’s tech savvy world makes it nearly impossible to be proactive about entrepreneurship without the internet. I made a blog and slowly learned how to create a smart looking portfolio website that I could maintain myself. Once I was satisfied with my professional image, I started sending out emails and postcards to art directors. I also submitted to any illustration competition, annual, and directory that I could think of. Now that I’ve found my footing, I try my best to post new work weekly and keep professional, positive relationships with the clients I work with in the hopes of getting hired again.
Scott: You’re obviously keeping yourself busy with your work but what do you do that is outside of your illustration work that keeps you inspired – even if it is another art form? What do you enjoy doing?
Becca: Most of my free time is spent reading books and fashion magazines, cooking, shopping, listening to music, watching movies, and browsing the internet. I always have an audiobook, podcast or YouTube video playing. I also enjoy some handcrafts when I have the time (mostly knitting) because it’s really relaxing to me. I get inspiration from all these things! It’s an important part of my process to know what I like and why I like it.
Scott: Yes! Having other forms of inspiration has certainly been key to have the continued drive to keep working and attempting/achieving goals. In the future, let’s say 5 year’s from now – where would you like to see yourself? Do you have a long range plan or have goals that you want to attempt? What are some of your dreams?
Becca: Like I touched upon the previous question, I would like to teach eventually, so I hope that the opportunity comes along. I would also like to be working as a children’s book illustrator because I think it’s amazing and fun, but I know that will require me to work on my style more. My dream is to work as illustrator for my entire life, so in 5 years I hope to be working at healthy pace with hopefully better work in my portfolio and more clients. I hope to move back to Kentucky and get reacquainted with my hometown, being happy and healthy, doing what I love.