Instagram: @madelinekate_illustrates

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where I spent a lot of my childhood running barefoot through the woods, reading, or drawing. I always gravitated towards art from an early age and drawing was my favorite hobby all through school. I never went anywhere without a sketchbook, and my notes in science class were usually more doodles than words. I married my high school sweetheart, and in 2017 we packed up our lives and drove across the country with our dog to Portland, OR where we’ve both settled into creative careers.

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2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

I’m a big fan of intentionality and minimalism, which I think shows up in the simple, flat style of my illustrations. I’m not a true minimalist though – I love texture and greenery, both of which almost always make an appearance in my work. I think the simplicity of my subjects plays well with the warm, inky textures I love to layer on top, creating a sort of Scandinavian-bohemian mashup that’s also pretty reflective of my personality, too.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

Digital! I work primarily in a digital format for most of my illustrations. I’ve always loved the flexibility of digital art and how it allows me to draw intuitively – changing colors, adding textures, and working in layers just makes more sense in my brain, and I enjoy not feeling restricted by the permanent nature of traditional mediums. That being said, I also love working in pencil and gouache when the mood strikes!

4. What is your artistic process like?

I tend to work off of my “Aha!” moments when inspiration strikes (usually while browsing Pinterest or on one of my outdoor adventures) so I always start with a rough sketch just to get my idea down. Sometimes this is on paper, and sometimes on my iPad, depending on where I am and what I have in front of me! If I started on paper, I take a picture and load it into a canvas in Procreate. From there, I block in the color, playing with my palette until the mood feels right. When the composition is set and I’ve cleaned everything up, I ditch my sketch layer and start adding in textures – I achieve these with a combination of clipping masks and painting straight on the layers with wet brushes that I’ve set to various blending modes. If I need to work with the sizing or send a piece to print, I export to Photoshop and finalize the piece there.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work?

I’m a big daydreamer – I love getting lost in thought and letting my mind wander to the edge of reality. A lot of my illustrations are inspired by my daydreams, whether they’re realistic or not so much. I also majored in photography in college, so some of my biggest artistic inspirations are photographers – Sally Mann and Ansel Adams to name a few. I view these kinds of inspiration as kindling, and the spark that lights the fire is really just a moment or feeling that I experience – a sense of longing, passion, belonging, peace – the list goes on, but these passing moments of intense feeling are usually when my “aha!” moments strike, and I see all of my inspiration come together in my head to form an idea that speaks to me. That’s when I get out of my sketchbook!

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

I think that art is such a part of who I am that it’s almost impossible to separate it from the rest of my life. I think of my moods in terms of color, my thoughts become patterns and my personality is a shape (all my friends are shapes, too!) Once you get used to letting your mind work through life the same way it works across a canvas, it just becomes natural. While thinking like an artist isn’t always practical – taxes just aren’t an artistic endeavor – it allows for beauty and expression in the parts of life that might otherwise be pretty boring, and that’s something I’ll always be grateful for.

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7. Where did you study?

I studied Digital Media at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d love to have transitioned to full-time illustration in five years! While I love working in the graphic design industry, I think my illustration work could have a lot more room to grow if I had more headspace and more time to devote to it.

9. What about in ten?

To be honest, I don’t have a clue. I do know I’ll still have a pencil in my hand, and hopefully, I’ll be off enjoying life and new adventures with the people I love!

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

I hope my work helps transport people to a moment of deep feeling, even if just for a second. Those small moments of profound feeling make life meaningful and it makes me happy to share them with someone else.

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11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

This one is tough – my husband is a professional chef, so usually whatever he’s cooking becomes my favorite food! But if there was one thing I couldn’t live without, it would have to be chocolate.

12. Favourite book?

Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle. She truly paints with words.

13. Favourite genre of music?

I like eclectic folk music, but when I’m working, I typically choose lofi – I find music with a lot of words or strong beats distracting when I’m creating!

14. What are your hobbies?

I love to read fiction and fantasy novels and spend time outdoors with my dog! I’m also a houseplant aficionado and love to wander my local nurseries. If drinking coffee could be considered a hobby, then I’d have to add that to my list too.

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I’ve always been interested in biology and animal behavior – I wanted to be a Marine Biologist for a long time! But I think I’d still end up doing something with my hands and eye for visuals since it’s just such a big part of who I am.

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