FEATURED ILLUSTRATOR FOR FEBRUARY 2020
Morgan Hutcherson is a 28-year-old female illustrator, graphic designer, and author proudly from St. Louis who is currently enjoying first-time-homeownership in Maplewood. She graduated with a degree in Visual Communications from the University of Kansas in 2013 and has since worked as a graphic designer for the Missouri Botanical Garden and then Heartland Coca-Cola. When she isn’t working on various freelance and personal projects, she can be found hanging out with her rescue Corgi, Scout, and her long-time boyfriend, Rutger. She enjoys such hobbies as hoarding books, drinking too much tea, nerding out over things like d&d, killing her house plants slowly, and spending much-treasured time with family and friends, especially her new niece. Although she chronically worries about everything, children’s books are one of the things that have never failed to dispel her concerns and bring her immense joy.
How did you get started in illustration? What is your background?
I have a degree in Visual Communications/Illustration from the University of Kansas with minors in English and Art History and did my foundations year at the Kansas City Art Institute. I’ve known since I was a child that I wanted to work in Children’s literature. I was developmentally delayed and couldn’t read until 3rd . Reading picture books and illustrated chapter books daily with my parents and teachers helped me to go from sounding it out to a high school reading level in a few short years; plus, I was always drawing, so it just seemed like the logical conclusion to all of my passions. I’ve been primarily supporting myself through Graphic Design since college, first at the Missouri Botanical Garden and more recently at Heartland Coca-Cola in their print shop. I love having a creative day job that allows me to practice my skills regularly so I stay sharp for my freelance illustration career.
What is your preferred medium, method of working?
I love to oil paint when I get the chance but also enjoy to mix pen, watercolor, and digital as they’re portable and still allow for a lot of expression with a controllable medium. My favorite way of working is to sketch and ink by hand, scan in my drawing, then color using pre-saved watercolor textures in Photoshop and Illustrator. When I have more time, I love water coloring the old-fashioned way by hand. On Herbs A to Z, I set up a watercolor-to-go portfolio case that I could bring with me to coffee houses and wouldn’t take up much room or make any mess. This allowed me to work in my spare time between two part time jobs as a graphic designer and nanny.
How did your style and technique develop?
I’ve never been good at working abstractly and nstead have developed a realistic based style that still draws upon whimsy and playfulness. I am inspired by my collection of vintage fairy tales and primary readers that come from the Golden Age of Illustration. I feel like this kind of artwork is comforting yet has a kind of magic to it. In school, you’re pushed to try other styles, which is important, but ultimately, I believe that this is just a way to hone and grow the style you are born with. I think it’s best to embrace and enhance your innate style because that’s your unique edge that can’t be duplicated.
Can you describe a typical work day for us?
I am still new to the published game and wish I could illustrate all day, but currently I juggle freelance/personal projects with full-time graphic design and homemaking my first home. Before, I juggled part-time jobs and freelance by knowing all the local places that don’t mind you working awhile after you order. I would drop in and out all day between jobs until 9 or 10 at night. Now that I have my evenings free, I work from my dining room table as often as I can while I work on setting up a permanent studio space in my basement. A dedicated art space is such a dream come true after having lived in a one-bedroom apartment for years!
What do you find the most challenging in your work?
I always find difficulty in pricing and valuing my artwork. I’ve really had to learn and relearn both estimating the time it will take to complete a project and then translating that into a quote. I second guess myself and my skill so I am often my biggest challenge. The other problem comes with getting into a focused place, but again, self-doubt causes this procrastination. My advice is to keep your accomplishments close as a reminder of your successes and the legitimacy of your skill. Knowing you have means you can again! Your learned skill has incredible value and power.
What would you love to try?
I’ve never worked with gouache or airbrushing and would love to try those materials, especially considering how traditional of a medium gouache is to illustrators. Along those lines, I’ve been dying to take a day off and try my hand at plein air oil painting. Sometimes you have to work in mediums unrelated to your daily work just for a mental/creative break!
Do you have a favorite book(s) from your childhood?
How about more recently? Books from childhood are so hard to choose since there are so many that mean so much to me due to the struggle I had with learning to read. The struggle endeared me to so many classic characters like Madeline, Curious George, Peter Rabbit, and Amelia Bedelia and author/illustrators like Silverstein, Sendak, Scarry, and Seuss. I have recently been revisiting anything written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake. The expressive, messy charm of Sir Blake’s drawings are something I’ve always envied. Currently, I’m in love with words and/or pictures by Sophie Blackall, Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, and Peter Brown, but that’s mostly because I’ve heard all of them speak at various events and loved their passion and process. It’s hard to choose when you have a children’s book hoarding obsession; there’s so much talent out today!
What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?
I think at this point in my career, I’d just love to have more control over content so both writing and illustrating a book is definitely my favorite project in the works. I would love my next book to be with a traditional publishing house and maybe a book that harkens to fairy tales and/or has a strong female protagonist.
Any words of advice for folks just starting out in illustration? What do you wish you would have known sooner in your author/illustrator career?
Go easy on yourself and allow for mental breaks when needed. The work may be hard at times and sometimes you have to sacrifice every last bit of free time to your artwork, but try your best to plan ahead realistically so that you have breathing space. Your creativity will suffer when you overwork yourself, believe me! Advocates and mentors are hugely helpful and I’m still learning to reach out for advice and help. And always remember that no matter how hard you work yourself, we have one of the best jobs in the world – to create something beautiful that can affect change in people, and above all, children!
What’s next for you? Any upcoming book releases we should be on the lookout for?
This year has been full of changes for me so I’ve been taking it “easy” and just working on selective freelance projects. However, I have a couple dummies in the wing that I’m very excited to get back to so I hope you will all see a new published book from me in the near future. Thank you for your interest in my work and good luck on your future projects!