Flexibility, Distillation, and Immersion: Ellen Weinstein, Catapult Artist for March 2019
Filling that blank space is a mix of excitement and agony.
Recipes for Good Luck The Atlantic The New York Times
Can you tell us a bit about your process from start to final execution?
I start every project with pencil and paper thumbnails, including personal projects. If I am working with text, I like to distill down to one sentence what I want to convey in an image. Once I know what I want to say and the feeling I want to create, I sketch many thumbnails. I need to see an idea on paper to know if it is going to work or not. I paint in gouache and compose the final art in Photoshop.
“waiting and wading in a pool of red.”
And for “How to Move Through the Dark,” it was“mother’s arms at water’s edge.”
Can you tell us a bit about your book Recipes for Good Luckand what inspired you to write and illustrate on this topic?
I was working on an assignment a few years ago on superstitions and noticed a lot of familiar behavior in the piece, since I am superstitious myself. The subject resonated with me and I wanted to follow my curiosity on it and explore it further. I began with a few personal pieces, decided to package the idea as a book pitch, and sold it to Chronicle Books.
Working on the book gave me time to investigate and research a topic and see where I could take it. I established parameters for the subjects (diversity of people, practices, and professions—no addictive behavior or anything that spoke to mental illness or self-harming) and the art (a number of background colors, iconic images) in the beginning. Then I had complete freedom to do anything within those boundaries.
How do you refill the creative tank? What kind of practices, rituals, outings, sights, etc. do you engage with?
Physical activity is an important counterpart to a practice that requires a lot of time sitting or standing. I find it the best way to recharge and clear my head. Living in New York City, it is easy to take for granted the ability to go out and see a great museum or gallery exhibition or performance, or to attend a book reading, which I do at least a few times a month. Getting together with friends is important! I am fortunate to have opportunities to travel for speaking and teaching engagements and greatly enjoy the people I get to meet and the new experiences it brings.
For those looking to get into the field of illustration what are your recommendations based on your experience?
I encourage anyone looking to get into illustration is to fully immerse yourself in it, and develop work that you feel passionate about. Being excited about making art and learning something new will be the fuel that keeps you going for the long run. Find what can sustain you monetarily while you build up enough work to earn a living at it. Many people have day jobs or work in a couple of careers at once. I encourage students to embrace diversifying and working in multiple markets (comics, editorial, publishing, etc.). Everyone has their own path to success.
Do you have different approaches to editorial, books or personal pieces? How do you come up with ideas for each?
I have had assignments that inspired a personal or book project and work for exhibitions and in my sketchbooks feed back into my commissioned work. They all inform each other. But staring down a blank sheet of paper is always my starting point for anything. Filling that blank space is a mix of excitement and agony.
Nicole is the Creative Director of Catapult, Counterpoint Press and Soft Skull Press. She is also the co-founder of She Designs Books, an organization that celebrates women in book design. She was formerly VP, Creative Director at Hachette Book Group.
Awards include a Silver Cube from the Art Director's Club/The One Show for Creativity, Communication Arts, Type Director's Club, AIGA/NY, HOW International Design, PRINT Regional Design, the New York Book Show, the National Gold Ink Awards, London International Creative Competition, STEP Design Magazine, and the Publishing Professionals Network.