Meet the Artist: Nathan Walker

Nathan WalkerNathan Walker is one of the artists whose work is currently showing in our stair tower gallery. The paintings on display are from his work as an illustrator and include works that were featured in Highlights Magazine and the new children’s book Floaty Feet. I wanted to interview Nate to learn the difference between an artist and an illustrator (and stumbled upon a story about a missing mustache!).

Chris: What is the difference between an Illustrator and an artist?

Nathan: Well, an illustrator is an artist. And an artist can be an illustrator. They are often both, one and the same. The main difference between an artist and an illustrator is that an illustrator works with a client, somebody who has hired them to make a specific piece of art. For example, an illustrator will be hired by a greeting card company to make a funny picture of a frog eating birthday cake to use on a birthday card. Being an illustrator means you have to work with certain limitations and requirements on your artwork, while an artist can make whatever they choose.

Chris: What is your medium?

Nathan: My medium tends to be paint. I like to work with acrylic paint every chance I get. However, sometimes I use the computer to color my images, especially if I need to make my illustrations really quickly. But I always start with a pencil drawing first.

Chris: What inspired you to create your own children’s book?

Nathan: I have always loved reading picture books, even as an adult. So I thought it would be a lot of fun and very rewarding to make my own book so other people could enjoy it.

Chris: What interested you about working at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine?

Nathan: I love the Children’s Museum! It’s such a fun place to visit – there are so many cool things to see and do, and I wanted to be part of that!chameleon illustration by nathan walker

Chris: What motivates you to keep making art?

Nathan: I have always loved to make art, and I’m sure I always will. It’s something that I never get tired of doing. But I often get motivation to make new artwork when I see other people making art. When I go to a museum, or a gallery, or even when I see an animated movie or someone’s artwork online, it’s really exciting to me and it makes me want to make something for myself!

Chris: Do you, by any chance, have a curly mustache?

Nathan: It’s funny you should ask…I used to have a curly mustache. In fact I had the curliest mustache in all fifty states. I actually won many contests and prestigious awards for not only the amount of curls in my mustache, but also for the size of the curls! It was so curly that people would travel from all around the world just to catch a glimpse of it! They would tell stories of my mustache back in their own countries about the man from New Hampshire with the curliest mustache. In fact, I’ve even heard that astronauts in space once caught a glimpse of my mustache when they were outside washing their space shuttle. Unfortunately, one day I decided that I wanted to go surfing way up in Alaska. So I took off my mustache and laid it down on the beach, just to keep it dry – you can imagine how long it takes to blow dry a giant curly mustache. Well, when I got done surfing, I came back to shore and discovered my mustache was missing. I looked for it for several years, but I was never able to discern its location. And to this very day, I still have no idea where it ended up. Although, I did recently hear from a fisherman who said that he had spotted a big blue whale swimming off the coast of New Zealand with a rather large and bushy set of eyebrows!

Nathan’s artwork will be on display in our stairwell gallery through April 3, 2012; her work appears alongside the illustrations of Rebecca Q Yankes in the exhibition Drawn Together.

Meet the Artist: Rebecca Q Yankes

meet Rebecca Q YankesRebecca Q Yankes is a freelance illustrator and artist who currently has work up in our stair tower gallery. The work she is exhibiting highlights her interest in natural science. Recently I asked her about her process and what inspires her, and learned that the creative process is as much analytical as it is aesthetic.

Chris: What is your medium?

Rebecca: I work in a lot of mediums. When I was a kid, I was all about colored pencils and acrylic paints, which I still use a lot of now. When I was in art school, I did a lot with pencils and gouache (a sort of obscure paint that can act like both acrylics and watercolors). Currently I do a lot of digital art, acrylic paintings, and ballpoint pen drawings.  I try to experiment with all sorts of mediums and see how they each allow me to make different types of art. There’s definitely a lot of play in my work!

Tiger illustrationChris: What are the themes in your art?

Rebecca: When it comes to my digital art, I really focus on animals. I’ve always been an animal person, and I’m really fascinated by the natural world. When I was little, I’d always slow my family down when we were out taking walks, because I was curious about every little rock and leaf I found on the sidewalk! I still feel that way when I’m outside. There are just so many great animals to keep learning about. Every time I see a new type of animal that I hadn’t seen before, I think about making it into a piece of art. You should see me at the zoo…I take lots of pictures, make sketches, write down every name of every creature, then go home or to the library and do tons of research to find out more about every animal!

Chris: When did you start making art?

Rebecca: I’ve been making art for my whole life. It started with drawings–lots of drawings! My parents have kept every sketchbook I filled when I was a kid. The oldest sketchbooks are full of drawings of my family, our pets, my imaginary monster friends, and things around the home. When I was around ten, I started to make paintings and draw things that I found outside. And the rest is history! I still draw every day. I don’t think I’ll ever stop drawing. Even though I paint a lot, my paintings always start out as drawings.

Chris: What is your favorite color?

Rebecca: On its own? Bright orange, like an orange bell pepper. But there are lots of colors and combinations that I’m also in love with…Chinese lacquer red, grey and daffodil yellow, kingfisher teal, eggplant purple and sky blue…there is just so much color out there to love! Color makes life beautiful.

Chris: What are the great influences on your art?

Rebecca: My digital animals are really heavily influenced by a lot of traditional arts I’ve seen from other cultures around the world. I spent some time studying in Japan, and you can really see the Asian influence in a lot of the smooth, calligraphic lines that I use (especially in the Tiger, Crane, and Dragon). I’m also really inspired by the incredible sculptures of Western Africa, the masks of the Yupik and Inuit Eskimos, and the decorative art of the Pacific Northwestern native Americans. The digital animals rely on my realist training, but they are absolutely inspired by other cultures’ interpretations of animal life. I never made animals like the ones in “Drawn Together” until one of my teachers introduced me to traditional arts from around the world.

Chris: What interests you about working with the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine?

Rebecca visits the Drawn Together exhibitionRebecca: The Children’s Museum has a really incredible atmosphere. It places an enormous emphasis on learning through play, which is important to me, because I feel that studying can be a form of play for the rest of your life as long as you get into it early. That’s how I always got good grades! The museum also encourages kids to get out there and express themselves through theater, which is a really valuable experience. Knowing how to present yourself, how to speak up, and how to be confident in front of a crowd is the type of skill set that stays with you for your whole life. The people who run the museum also really like to introduce kids to art and the many forms it can take, and I’m honored to be one of the artists who could ultimately have a positive impact on a young person through the museum.

Chris: What motivates you to keep making art?

Rebecca: There are lots of things that motivate me to make art. Making art allows me to deeply investigate and understand things that captivate me. In turn, after the art is finished, I have something to show to others and get them interested too. I have a big interest in communicating and sharing with others through art. I love the opportunity to teach and to learn. Then there’s the art community as a whole. Seeing art by other people is so inspiring! I had a teacher once who said that good art makes its viewers see the world in a new way…I think that’s true. Every artist has a different style and a different interpretation of what he or she sees. Looking at the way one artist draws a hand or paints a flower can change the way you look at hands and flowers. I love that. It’s so fascinating. The art community keeps me inspired and motivated!

Rebecca’s artwork will be on display in our stairwell gallery through April 3, 2012; her work appears alongside the illustrations of Nathan Walker in the exhibition Drawn Together.