Interview with Becca Stadtlander
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person etc.?
All of the above! I usually tell people that I am an Illustrator when they ask what I do, but I think all of those titles apply to what I do on the daily. I think the term artist is the most important and I don’t see any difference between illustration and fine art. I also enjoy making lots of things that have nothing to do with my job. As a business person, I run my online shop and perform all of the boring bits of freelance work like invoicing, contracts, etc.
Who helped you “become” who you are?
Sometimes I can’t believe where I am in my own life and I think about all the decisions I made and things that had to happen to get me here. I’m not done with becoming who I want to be, but for now, I think my family, my husband, myself and a little bit of luck helped me become who I am.
Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do?
Yes and no. I feel completely at peace with the career I’ve chosen, but there are still a lot of things I want to achieve within this career. I’m always looking toward that next thing, and working on getting better and better for the next project. Of course it’s all in my head, but I prefer feeling like there is always more to do.
What more would you like to “become”?
I want to write and illustrate my own books, be the best version of an artist and person I can be, and I want to become completely comfortable in my own skin.
Where did you study, and what did you study?
I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where I got my degree in Illustration.
How did you get started doing illustration?
After I graduated college, I did a lot of work for free. I also posted my work online everywhere I could. I submitted work to every blog, website, magazine, and art director I could think of. Work trickled in very slowly. I took a long time before I could be comfortable working as an Illustrator full time.
When did you discover your love for illustration?
I was very into art and the idea of becoming an artist since I can remember. I always loved children’s books, which I looked at primarily for the art. My first real love affair was with Lisa Frank! The crazy colors and patterns really appealed to me. I was very art focused all though my childhood and teenage years but I didn’t think of Illustration as a career until I graduated high school.
Were you scared when you first started looking for jobs? How did you overcome this?
Yes of course! I wanted to be a working illustrator so bad, it was all I thought about. I was terrified that no one would ever hire me and that I had made a big mistake going to art school. I just kept my focus and tried not to think about the “what if’s”. I just told myself that it would happen and I made up assignments as if I already had my dream job. I think it helped that I got excited and stayed motivated about everything that came my way even things that were so small. I didn’t want to put anything out there that I wasn’t proud of.
What’s your dream job?
I would love to write and illustrate my own book that is crazy and wonderful.
What’s your goal with your work?
I want everything I do to be successful on its own. If you were to take it away from the text it’s next, it still communicates what it needs to. I try to think of that, especially for children’s books where it can get tricky. I want everything to be beautiful all the time which is probably not the best thing. I’m trying to introduce more room for looseness. I want there always to be a good balance between detailed and painterly.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m most proud of the children’s books I’ve illustrated. I get nervous for every project and with every manuscript I think, “how an I going to come up with all these paintings?”. But ideas come and time passes and before I know it all the work turns into a bound book in the bookshop. It still shocks me to see it in print.
How did your childhood influence what you have become?
I think that my parents and my grandmother (who was my nanny for the most part) were supportive and they let me do my own thing. I was always one to entertain myself and I was usually drawing or painting or making something. I was encouraged to be different and made to believe that I could do whatever I wanted when I grew up. My family also has a love of art and interiors and I think that had a huge influence on my aesthetic.
Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path?
I feel very lucky that I always knew I wanted to be an artist and everybody was okay with that.
Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life?
My grandmother was very special to me and probably the biggest influence on my life. She died when I was in my twenties and living away from home. She helped raise me so I spent a lot of time with her. Her house was beautiful and filled with old things that I was fascinated with. She was fiercely independent, graceful, stylish and very warm. Everyone always commented on how elegant she was and how much they loved her. I try to be more like her every day.
What’s your work space like?
My studio is at the top of the stairs on the second floor of my house. It’s situated right at the peak of the roof so it has an angled ceiling. I have a double window over my desk that looks out over the entire city. I use an old farm table from the flea market as a desk and I love that it’s covered in my paint marks from the past 10 years. I read somewhere that purple is supposed to promote creativity so I painted the room a pale lavender pink.
What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?
“Fake it till you make it” I don’t remember where it came from but I bet everyone has heard it. It’s great advice! It’s gotten me through a lot.
What does your dream retirement look like?
Doing huge abstract paintings with a cup of coffee in some crazy over the top pajama robe.
What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present
Edward Gorey, Grandma Moses, Daid Hockney, and Van Gogh are some of my all time favorites.
How has social media influenced your work?
I have seen a lot of things that inspire me on social media and I also use it as a tool for my own work to be seen. I think there are ways to make it work for you, but at the same time I hate feeling obligated to post things, and I don’t like the nagging feeling I get to check my Instagram. It’s a fine line for me between enjoying it and feeling like a slave to it. It can also be intimidating and discouraging to see other people doing what you do and doing it better. It has done good things for my career but I don’t always like what it does to my mentally.
Who is your work intended for?
I want my work to be for everyone all the time. I want people to get something out of it whatever that may be.
What’s inspiring you lately?
Lately I have been very into portrait paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries, also this book “The Shortest Day” illustrated by Carson Ellis and written by Susan Cooper. It’s gorgeous and perfect.
What did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?
I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t even consider anything else!
You can find Becca:
Website of Becca