Becoming Hallie Bateman

Meet Hallie Bateman

Hallie Bateman is a 32-year-old writer and illustrator. She is the author of 3 books, Brave New Work (MoMA, 2016), What To Do When I’m Gone (Bloomsbury, 2018) and Directions (Workman, 2021). She and her husband Jack have a dog named Spinelli.

comic illustration in four panels of a couple hugging and talking. In the first panel they say "I love you" and "I love you so much." The second panel has them looking happy and surprised. The third panel has one person saying "wait-" and in the fourth panel one figure says "are we old enough to get married?!"

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?

The term I use most is “artist” because it feels most freeing. But I also say “illustwriter” sometimes because it’s silly and accurate. 

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?

I grew up on a mountain outside a former gold rush town in Northern California called Sonora. Most people haven’t heard of it unless they went gold panning there on a field trip in 3rd grade.

Growing up on a mountain really rewarded creativity. There weren’t any other kids around, so my brothers and I had to make our own fun. For me, making art was how I played. I wrote, drew, took photos and made movies. My brother and I invented languages and drew comics together. 

I still think making art is the most fun way to spend time. It still feels like play. 

A painting of a moth dancing under a spotlight.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

I wanted to be a veterinarian for my whole childhood. We had lots of animals (llamas, pigs, emus) and I was obsessed with them. I drew, photographed and wrote about them. But I didn’t enjoy math or science in school, so the veterinarian dream faded. 

I was pretty uncertain about what I wanted to be until my junior year of college, when I started drawing more and I realized illustration was a career I could pursue. I’d never known any professional artists so this felt like a wild realization to me at the time. 

painting of a woman sitting on a bench in a museum.

Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path?

Lynda Barry is my north star. I discovered her work around the time I realized I wanted to make comics. Her work totally opened my eyes to what was possible with comics. 

Three panel comic celebrating Lynda Barry

The rawness of her work is part of what makes it so powerful. Seeing that made me realize there weren’t any rules, I didn’t need to go to art school to be an artist, and the imperfections in my work could be part of its power. 

ink illustration of a man crawling through the desert saying "paper..."

What inspired you to become an artist?

Even though I didn’t realize I wanted to be an artist until college, looking back, I’ve always been an artist. It doesn’t feel like a choice. It’s who I am. I care about making art more than almost anything else, so I’m going to try to make art for the rest of my life. 

illustration of a person pushing up their sleeves at a table in front of an empty book. It's in blue, and there's text that reads "I don't know what I'm going to write. I don't need to know. Right now I'm just rolling up my sleeves."

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

I’m proud of the book I made with my mom, What To Do When I’m Gone. It feels like an unbelievable triumph to have collaborated with my mom the way we did. And we’ve gotten so many messages from so many readers who said the book touched them deeply. So I feel especially proud of that. To have chipped away at human suffering a bit.

Photo of a book, What to Do When I'm Gone, on a white background

Where do you find inspiration for new creations?

I don’t have to look too hard. It usually comes down to just paying attention. A few months ago I was sitting in a hammock in my backyard, and I heard a rustling noise. I looked around and spotted a baby mouse on the ground nearby. He was barely breathing. In his little hand was a bougainvillea flower. 

I lost my mind trying to figure out how to help him. I paced the house, googled furiously, but couldn’t figure out how to help or what to do. I sobbed uncontrollably until my husband came home and consoled me. We decided to place the mouse somewhere his mom might find him. I’m almost positive he died, but we couldn’t admit that to ourselves at the time. 

Later, I drew the mouse. I had to. 

That’s usually how it works. 

painting of a mouse holding a bougainvillea flower in a gloved human hand.

How do you make social connections in the creative realm?

Again, paying attention! I pay attention to who’s around me, both in virtual and physical spaces. Being an artist is pretty great for making friends, because people are expressing themselves. It feels easier to find friends. Everyone has their little beacon shining. 

Illustration of people and a dog walking in paths across a white background. There are red, white, and blue lines trailing behind each of them. Text in the middle reads "It's a miracle we ever met."

What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?

Books: I’m currently reading Sister Helen Prejean’s 1993 book Dead Man Walking. It’s about her experience as a spiritual advisor to men on death row. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking. I’m trying to learn more about the criminal justice system in this country. 

Movies: I recently saw The Parking Lot Movie and have been telling everyone to watch it. 

Shows: My husband and I are pretty deep into the Up series right now. It’s a British documentary series begun in 1964. The filmmakers follow 10 men and 4 women through their lives, beginning when they’re just 7 years old and checking in with them every 7 years. Right now, the subjects are in their 60s. It’s a mindblowing work of art and I can’t believe it exists. In addition to giving me so much to think about for my own life, it’s given me a deeper understanding of my parents’ generation. 

Music: I’m really into Green-House these days. I put it on when I’m drawing or writing and just get in the zone. It’s so soothing and beautiful. 

Painting of a person jumping on a trampoline in a green backyard

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?

My cartoonist pal Corinne Mucha gave me amazing business advice years ago. She said she judges a job by asking herself the following questions: 

  • Will it be fun? 
  • Does it pay well? 
  • Will it advance my career? 

If it’s all three, take it. If it’s two out of three, take it. If it’s only one, turn it down. 

Black and white ink painting of three figures standing on a hill and singing to the moon

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?

My advice would be to really treat it like a business. If you’re like me, that won’t come naturally to you. So ask for all the help you need. 

I am fortunate that my older brother Ben pulled me aside in my mid-twenties and very politely told me to get my shit together. And offered to help me do that. At the time, I didn’t treat art like work. I had no boundaries. I planned poorly and pulled all-nighters frequently. I was underpaid and overworked and still treating my job like it was a fluke, and I’d be found out any day. So I hadn’t figured out a lot of logistics. 

Ben taught me how to ask for more money, how to organize my finances and to value my own time. He taught me to quote clients accurately. If something was going to take me 8 hours, shouldn’t I be paid more than if it would only take me 3? He taught me how to keep a schedule and (mostly) stick to it. 

Since his intervention, I’ve been a lot happier. I still call him frequently with questions. I’ve always been bummed about not having an artist mentor, but I think most artists need business mentors more, anyway. Someone needs to show us how to make money. 

a pink piece of paper with the following written in ink: directions when it's good, try, try to enjoy it. Things are allowed to be good.

Is there anything more you would like to “become?”

Although it kinda terrifies me, I want to become a parent. I hope that’ll happen in the next few years. 

painting of a car moving down a dark forest road with bright yellow headlights beaming ahead.

What is your long-term goal?

This is a hard question for me to answer right now. For years I’ve obsessed about the future and forced myself to set big, scary, ambitious goals. I’ve pushed myself to run towards what scares me creatively and professionally.  

The pandemic has shaken some of that drive out of me. My art is too busy being my coping mechanism for me to ask much more of it. 

Plus, I’m a little sick of striving, of never being satisfied with anything because a bigger goal always falls into place. Recently I had to admit I’m currently living the dream my former self worked really hard to make real, and it’s incredible. I work with brilliant people, doing work I truly enjoy doing. I am alive. I am married to someone I adore. We have a cute dog. For once, I’m not planning and plotting. 

I want to give this moment its due by actually experiencing it. 

an ink painting of someone sitting on another person's shoulders picking a grapefruit on a sidewalk

Find Hallie Online

You can find more of Hallie Bateman’s work on her website and on her Instagram @hallithbates. Don’t forget to check out her books Brave New WorkWhat to Do When I’m Gone, Love Voltaire Us Apart, and Directions, as well as other writings.

You can read about more inspiring artists in our Becoming series. If you’re especially interested in reading about artists, check out our interviews of Michelle Franzoni Thorley, Rachel Kiser Smith, Tricia Paoluccio, Lynne Millar, Julie Marabelle, and more!

all images included in this article are courtesy of Hallie Bateman.

Becoming Katie Kortman

Katie Kortman wearing bright prink and blue pands and a blouse standing by the ocean.

Meet Katie Kortman

Katie Kortman is a fashion designer, fabric designer, painter, teacher and dancing queen. She creates abstract paintings which she turns into fabric, sews into fabulous clothes, and then dances in them around her living room (and now sells them!). She is originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, but currently resides with her husband and 4 children in Japan. Katie is one of 16 designers competing on Season 19 of Project Runway. 

Editorial photo of women modeling Katie Kortman's vibrant designs.

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?

I consider myself an artist who loved fashion so much that she became a Fashion ARTIST! I guess at this point I’m a designer. My careers and creative avenues have changed and morphed over the years from Fine Artist to teacher, but I guess now I’m a designer! 

Katie wears a pink, red, green, and cream dress with red clogs. She's standing with her arms raised to demonstrate the dress bodice and sleeve flowiness.

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?

I grew up in South Florida and attended a school for the arts from 7th to 12th grade. I got to be immersed in that creative environment during my formative years and it showed me that I am most happy when I am creating. I couldn’t have pursued any other path than a creative one. My mom always told me I could do “anything I put my mind to” and I think that has been in my subconscious all these years. I truly believe I can do anything if I work hard enough! 

Katie Kortman modeling one of her outfits: a vibrant pink overjacket and pink and green pants.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

I dreamt of being a fashion designer, product designer, or graphic designer. When I got to college though…. I studied PAINTING! 

Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path? 

I think the fact that my husband is in the Navy and we move every 1-3 years has caused me to constantly change what I do. If we’d lived a normal live-in-one-place life, I would probably still be a high school art teacher, because I really loved that! I like that living all over the world has caused me to try different things out and evolve so much.

A collaged photo of Katie in three different eclectic outfits with a painterly, bold background.

What sparked your interest in fashion? 

I subscribed to every teen fashion magazine in high school and ripped out ads for all my favorite colorful playful ads to inspire me. Over the years I found that the stores didn’t have quite what I wanted…Not enough color, not enough fun! So… I started sewing my own clothes. 

Katie Kortman modeling a vibrant dress and holding fabric plants in front of a pink wall

What are three words to describe your style?

Bright, Bold, Playful. 

A woman models a dress next to a red building. The dress is pink with large abstract shapes in magenta, blue, cobalt, and bright green.

What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?

I have a BFA degree in Drawing in Painting and a Master of Arts in teaching. I spent years studying color, and all the elements and principles of design. All of my art studying and training definitely influenced my entire career path! 

Katie works on a yellow jacket while standing by a dress model. Katie's wearing a pink, red, yellow, and green colorful dress.

Have you ever made a big career switch? If so, what prompted that? Are there aspects of a prior career that you incorporate into what you do now?

My main job has been my kids since I had my first 12 years ago, and I’ve had a bunch of different jobs while doing that! I was a display artist for Anthropologie straight out of my undergrad, sold paintings in art galleries, got a masters and taught high school art, owned my own hair accessories business, taught paint and sip classes out of my home while living in Bahrain, taught high school art again, became a fabric designer, and recently became a fashion designer! It’s been an evolution for sure. 

Editorial photo of women modeling Katie Kortman's vibrant designs.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

After years of sewing, and 3 years of exclusively sewing my own clothes, I went on Project Runway. In my youth I’d dreamed of being a fashion designer, but I hadn’t spoken that dream out loud in a very long time because I never thought It could happen without a fashion degree. After filming the show this summer, I was completely driven to pursue fashion, not just for myself.  I came home and immediately began working to get a line ready to launch in the fall! 

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

Just going on Project Runway. It was a DREAM come true!!!!

Katie stands by a dress model working on a green blazer design.

Where do you find inspiration for new creations? 

They come as I work. I pull out fabrics and play with them as I sew, seeing what they want to become. 

How do you make social connections in the creative realm?

I joined Instagram purely to connect to other creatives and to have conversations about the things I was making. I appreciate having that platform for this reason! 

Editorial photo of women modeling Katie Kortman's vibrant designs.

How has social media influenced your work?

If it weren’t for social media, I wouldn’t have ever been “discovered,” and therefore been compelled to learn fabric design, and the casting people for PR wouldn’t have reached out to me to try out for the show! I owe so much to social media! 

Katie on a beach wearing a pink and blue bathing suit she designed. It has two pieces, and the top is a 3/4 length sleeve tankini. The bottom is high waisted.

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?

Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, and Matthew Ritchie are some of my favorite artists, and I really admire Rachel Burke of @Imakestagram, Michelle Norris of @tropicophoto, and so many others.

What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?

Project Runway season 19 of course!!!!!!!! And I am part of a book club so we read all different things which I love. I would stick to similar types of books if it weren’t for book clubs that pushed me to read something else! And I love hip-hop music the very most, but when I need to get pumped up I often put on Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, or the Beatles (music my dad raised me on!). 

A model wears Katie's pink overjacket with a yellow top underneath and white pants with colorful details. The backdrop is pink with yellow and pink rectangles.

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?

My mom told me “You can do anything you put your mind to.” And I have carried that with me my whole life. It is so ingrained in my mind, that I have never even questioned that advice! There have been a few things in my life that I couldn’t MAKE happen just because I tried hard though, and that was very frustrating! Haha. 

What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year? 

I have a nice open studio space in my home, right off the living room and kitchen. I like to be able to work while also spending time with my family, so I always keep my space in a central locale. My creative space changes every time I move, and during the pandemic I moved a crossed the world to Japan. In my current space I have these pretty Shoji doors that let in translucent light, and I love them! I love my room to be neat and tidy, but when I’m knee-deep in projects it’s rarely that way!

Katie Kortman and her kids sit around a sewing machine and work on a project.

How do your surroundings influence your work?

My surroundings influence me only in how inspired I feel to create. Most of my inspiration comes from within, so I can be creative anywhere. But having a lot of natural light and space is really important for me to feel energized to create! 

Describe some habits that keep you motivated and productive. How do you climb out of a creative slump?

I love routines and I hate wasting time. I always have projects out and ready to be worked on, so that if a moment presents itself I can work on something. I usually have “to-go” projects ready, sewing projects, and phone projects. So you might catch me at a girl’s night sewing on buttons, at swim practice cutting out patterns, or at a kid’s doctor’s appointment editing photos on my phone. No time is wasted if I can help it! I also make sure I workout every morning. I work really hard for about an hour or so, and that really does provide the energy and fuel to get me through the day! 

Katie Kortman wearing rainbow striped pants, blue boots, and a blue blazer with lines and dots.

What is a typical day like for you? 

I am up at 6 to get my kids to school, then I workout for 60-75 minutes, shower, get dressed and get my youngest to Yochien. Then I work until I have to pick up the youngest from school , and I get about 30 more minutes to work before the rest come home. After that, I do bits and pieces of work in between homework and dinner time! I often work after they go to bed as well. I try to be in my bed by 10:30! 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?

The internet is your best friend right now! In-person classes are the best, but if that’s not an option, there are so many places to learn. I am self-taught at sewing, fashion design, and fabric design and some of those things I learned from internet classes! 

Katie wears a blue dress with painterly yellow marks and red details. Her earrings are yellow, her headband is blue with red splotches, and she's wearing blue and green wedge sandals with red and yellow socks underneath.

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?

I just did a sprint triathlon on a whim last weekend (we signed up less than a week before and didn’t have time to train for it), and I loved it SO MUCH that now I’m working to actually train for one! I am looking to get a road bike, which is NOT as easy as the Townie bike I rode for the triathlon! Haha. SO that will be a skill I’m working on! I also learned to knit during the pandemic and I’m continuing to work on that skill! 

Katie poses under a sheer magenta piece of clothing.

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?

I saved up money from all the blogging, IG “Influencer” gigs, and Fabric Designing and didn’t spend anything because I wanted to save it for something in the future. I wasn’t sure what it would be for, as I was saving it, but I knew I’d want to launch something in the future (I’d been saving for about 2 years). I used this money, plus some money from our family account, to fund my Fall 2021 Collection! 

A model wearing a green Katie Kortman blazer with a pink, white, and blue top underneath. She has a headdress made of fabric leaves and she's standing by a pink and yellow wall.

Is there anything more you would like to “become?” 

I feel like I’m just now becoming a Fashion Designer, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that would ever happen. I have so much to learn and so I would still like to work on becoming a legit Fashion Designer!!!

What is your long-term goal?

I have no idea. Umm….. I’d like to do a runway show at NYFW??? I’d like to expand my business to greater levels, and have it sold in Brick and Mortar stores… maybe even Anthropologie?

Katie Kortman modeling a vibrant dress she's designed.

More Inspiration

Make sure you follow Katie Kortman on Instagram @KatieKortmanArt and @KatieKortmanClothing so you can keep up with her exciting work. You can also sign up for her newsletter here to be among the first to see her new clothing line coming out this fall!

You can also read more Becoming interviews here. If you’re especially interested in fashion, you’ll love reading about Stacey Fraser, Romy-Krystal Cutler, and Whitney Lundeen.

A woman models one of Katie Kortman's designs – a blue and purple dress– while holding a plant.