Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Sarah King

Sarah King is among the many I know through Hollins University. More about her and her incredible art can be found at her website. As you will see, she is a talented artist. Her picture book about a guinea pig is wonderful, and she even reveals a little about her upcoming picture book!

  • Tell us about your journey of becoming an artist and an author.

Throughout my entire life I have always been an art maker. I come from a long line of really creative individuals who always encouraged me to draw and paint. I was a music kid throughout most of high school and I didn’t pursue art seriously until I went to college, at Hollins University. There I met a very important mentor, Bill White, who really challenged me to tackle art seriously and helped support me on my path I find myself on today. I still find it challenging to call myself an author, basically it came down to the fact I had a story to tell and no one else could tell it for me. Like my paintings, my stories often stem from real experiences, and both my first and second books are a product of that.

  • Where do you find the inspirations for your paintings?

The inspiration for my work comes from a variety of sources but my experiences are what drive the paintings. Whether it’s my illustrations or fine arts paintings I always look to life as my ultimate source. Currently a lot of the work I am doing has been inspired by my pregnancy and approaching realities of parenthood. I have been thinking a lot about what visual language I want my son to be exposed to early on and how that language can show concepts like love, dreaming, and imagination.

  • What techniques do you use for your paintings?

The majority of my illustrations are done in watercolor, pen, and ink; however recently I have been playing with collage and some printmaking. I experiment a lot with my personal work and I want to apply it more to my illustrations. My personal work is often done in oil paint, gauche and I work a lot with large scale charcoal drawings. I don’t have a specific technique however the majority of my work is often done from life, or is inspired by it.

  • Who are your favorite artists and authors? Do you draw any inspiration from them?

My ultimate art crush is Richard Diebenkorn and Reubens who I go back to time and time again for my personal work. Recently I have been looking at a lot of classic illustrators like Edward Gory and Arthur Rackham, who are darker and a bit twisty which I really love. Some contemporary illustrators that I find really incredible are Brian Collier and the husband and wife collaborative artists, Selina Alko and Sean Qualls. I saw these illustrators speak at the most recent SCBWI conference and now I am obsessed with their work

  • From your resume, you have a Bachelor of Arts in Painting from Hollins University, a Master of Arts and Liberal Studies in Children’s Illustration from Hollins University, and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from the New York Studio School of Painting and Sculpture. How do you believe this background has helped you with your journey?

I believe each part of my education has been integral in my Journey. I have been extremely blessed in terms of mentors, who have really encouraged me throughout my development. Bill White was really who set me on my path, Ruth Sanderson and Ashley Wolffe from my MALS helped show me all the endless possibilities of creating imagery for kids books; and Graham Nickson, who helped me develop and mature as a painter. What has been really helpful now is that I have been out of school for almost two years, and I have been able to find out what interests me and what keeps me motivated to create. I also find that teaching has been great because it helps me clarify and simplify ideas that have been swirling around in my brain.

This story in a large part actually happened. My cousin Catie, who was with me at Hollins, had a Peruvian Guinea Pig named Piggy. He used to go sailing with her and attend classes with her and he looked a lot like a mop head. He was really funny. We lived with my mom during the summers inside the Battlefield park of Manassas. We used to take him into the yard while we gardened so he could eat grass and hangout and one day he went missing. After three weeks of sadness and angst we found out he had made it a mile down the road and he was living under a neighbor’s porch and chasing their dog around. So he survived! I decided that would make a great story and I originally wrote it just for her and then I rewrote it and created the images for my thesis Project for my MALS.

  • As an author and an illustrator, what is your process of creating a picture book?

It depends on the project. Most of the time the Writing comes first. I write and rewrite until I get a real feel for the pacing of the story. Then, after I begin to create my illustrations. This usually takes a lot of time, I have to do a lot of research and I take a ton of photographs. Sometimes my imagery is driven by an idea and sometimes I let the situation lend itself to a potential illustration. I often use my friends’ kiddos as models for the projects. Usually something sporadic and hilarious happens that I can’t make up and those are the moments I draw from when I work.

  • What advice do you have for authors and illustrators who wish to be published and make a name for themselves?

There is no one way to get a book published. You have to put the work in and don’t get overwhelmed, take deep breathes. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. The process sometimes feels endless and what has been my biggest challenge is the amount of promoting you have to do after you finish the book. Self promoting is a very hard thing to do and you have to do it or no one will see all the work you did.

  • Give us a sneak peek of the picture book you will be publishing in the fall.

My next Book is entitled, “Cowboy Grandma,” and it’s a book I co-created with my mother, based on her life story of becoming a cowboy and a grandma at 65. I am really excited because I feel very passionately about this story and the message which is, “it’s never too late to follow your dreams.” I think it will be a great book for parents, grandparents, and kids alike. I will have authors copies available in June and the book will be released store-wide Feb 13, 2018!

  • Tell us something interesting about yourself!

I was a nationally ranked fencer and fenced from elementary school to college. I had to give it up on account of an injury but I miss it every day.

What are your thoughts?