Kathryn did an MFA in Set Design at the University of Wisconsin but was always drawing on the side, sometimes accepting commissions from newspapers and magazines. Eventually she flipped things around and made her illustration work a full-time profession and set design became her hobby.
Kathryn does everything digitally in Photoshop and Illustrator using a Cintiq screen by Wacom.
If she’s doing portraiture work, she draws her subject many times over from different angles. This way she learns about the most important features of their face and can draw it in a way that makes it instantly recognisable.
The line is core to Kathryn’s style and her work is very fluid. Expressive and calligraphic, there’s a unique sense of gesture in her illustrations. She also uses crosshatching to develop surfaces in her images, using layers of lines of varying thickness to build up a texture.
AI-AP Award 2005
Communication Arts Award of Excellence 2010
AI-AP Award 2012
Question: What drew you to illustration/design? Kathryn: I have always drawn, ever since I could hold a pencil in my wee little hand, and discovered early on that I was very good at representing what I was seeing. Question: Do you have any formal design training? Kathryn: I earned an MFA in scenographic design from the University of Wisconsin. I had set out on a career in designing sets for theatre, but realized a few years into it that I really preferred illustration. Question: Where are you originally from? Kathryn: Rockford, Illinois. Question: Where do you live now & what drew you there? Kathryn: I headed west, like any adventure-seeking American, partly to escape the midwest climate, and partly because Seattle was looking to be a very promising city. It was right on the cusp of great developments there; Starbucks, Microsoft, and Nirvana were all still in their infancy. It is a beautiful and progressive city and 20 years on I am absolutely happy here. Question: Where is your studio and can you describe it for me? Kathryn: My studio is in my house. I do nearly all of my work on a Wacom tablet, so it is for the most part a fairly unpicturesque set-up I’m afraid, except for my rotund one-eyed cat sleeping in the corner. Question: Who or What is your biggest inspiration? Kathryn: Sometimes to get inspired I look through my 1966 -1969 Graphis Annuals. I particularly enjoy the Polish Posters. They are incredibly thoughtful and mysterious. German and British theatre continue to fascinate me. In April I flew all the way to L.A. to see a fascinating staging of Gotterdammerung by the insanely great director, Achim Freyer. Question: Do you collect anything? Kathryn: I do collect Polish Theatre posters. I picked up a whole lot in Krakow, they were all so brilliant I could hardly bear to say no to any of them.
Question: Tell us about a favourite project you’ve recently completed. Kathryn: The one I am most proud of is my recent cover for the NY Observer. The art director contacted me in the summer to get acquainted, see if I was comfortable with three day turnarounds, etc. Then a week later the phone rang at 7am. George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees baseball team, had just died, and they wanted a portrait of him for their cover, and needed it by 5pm NY time (2pm my time)!!! The time constraints and the fact that it was my first cover for them lent enormous pressure to the project, but I got it done an hour early and was really pleased with it. I am not really a sports fan and don’t know much about the man, but people tell me I caught his aura of lovable bully. Question: What would be your dream job/commission? Kathryn: A series of portraits of my favourite British authors and playwrights, which would include Evelyn Waugh, Samuel Beckett, Dame Edith Sitwell, and Martin Amis. Question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Kathryn: Not really advice, but one of my favourite quotes that goes through my mind often; "The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not." - G.B. Shaw. Question: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Kathryn: I love Berlin. I need a Babelfish for my ear, so that I can understand the theatre. Or I would visit London every three weeks, to take in the marvellous theatre. Derek Jacobi as Lear?! - swoon!!! Venezuela is also on our near-future list. Question: If you could travel back in time, who would be the one person you would want to meet? Kathryn: Theodore Roosevelt. I just read a great biography on him and I’d love to hear him speak. Or Abraham Lincoln; I’ve always had a huge crush on him.