This week we got to interview the very talented Valerie Bean aka @valdraws as our artist spotlight of the week.
Please can you give us a brief little introduction about yourself?
Hello! I’m Valerie and I live in Northern California with my husband, daughter, a super-energetic dog, and a not-so-energetic bearded dragon.
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and am largely self-taught. I took a few art and design classes in college and worked as a graphic designer for a while, but illustration, especially for children, is my true love. To that end, I’ve also taken a bunch of online illustration classes through Make Art That Sells, Society of Visual Storytelling, Storyteller Academy, and more. I’m so grateful for all the amazing resources available online these days; they’ve made me a much better artist.
What inspires you?
I love funny children’s books with great illustrations. I’ve acquired quite a collection, including some that I bought for their illustrations but that I can’t actually read. They’re in Spanish, French, Italian, and Polish and I only speak and read English. I just can’t resist beautifully illustrated books even if I can’t read them!
I’m also inspired by learning new things, or noticing something for the first time, even if it seems trivial. Not long ago, it occurred to me that October should be the eighth month of the year, not the tenth (OCTOber?! How had I never noticed that?), which led me to read up on the history of the calendar, and subsequently to illustrate a zine about it.
What is your favourite thing to draw?
Anything with a face. I love drawing children and animals, and if something doesn’t have a face, I’ll draw one on anyway. I recently did a series of illustrations of food and I put faces on everything from kale to chocolate. Turning things into characters and adding humor makes drawing more fun for me.
I’ve also recently realized I really like illustrating non-fiction, as long as I can add humorous elements to it, like mountains with faces, or snowboarding Roman emperors.
What art goals do you have for this year?
I’m writing several picture book manuscripts right now and one of my goals is to finish those, make sample art, and send them out to agents.
I also want to figure out how to replicate the look of my favorite traditional materials in Procreate and establish a digital art-making process that I feel totally comfortable with.
Of course, portfolio updates are always an ongoing process, and I’d like to update mine with all new art this year.
What techniques/supplies do you use?
I’ve started relying more on my iPad and Procreate recently, but colored pencils are my absolute favorite art material. I love Prismacolor Premier, but I also have an inexpensive set of June Gold mechanical colored pencils that are fun to use; I love not having to stop and sharpen them all the time. Sometimes I add water-soluble Neocolor II wax pastels, Tombow dual brush pens, and occasionally a bit of chalk pastel to the colored pencils. I usually use Canson XL Mix Media pads with these materials because they’re inexpensive and hold up well to the markers and water-soluble pastels. I like to use the back of the paper; it’s slightly smoother than the front and I think the texture works better with colored pencil.
Replicating the look of real colored pencil in Procreate has been a challenge, but I’ve started using a brush set by TipTop brushes that I like a bit better than the built-in brushes, and sometimes I put a scanned paper texture in the background to add to the effect.
What advice would you give to another doodler/artist?
Make a lot of art! It won’t all be good, but that’s okay; you’ll learn from the bad pieces as well as the good and it will all make you a better artist. I started this year by participating in a 21-day “illustration party” on Instagram with a different prompt for each day. I set perfectionism aside and focused on finishing a piece for each prompt, instead of endlessly tweaking the details. At the end, it was helpful to look back and analyze what I liked and didn’t about each piece. I felt like I had leveled-up my art skills after producing a lot in a short time, even though it wasn’t all great work. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
Where can people go to learn more about you or see more of your work?