Catapult Artist The Challenges of Distilling Metaphor into Art: Kim Salt, Catapult Artist for November 2019
“Always meet your deadlines, do good work, and be easy to get along with.”
As part of our Catapult Artist program, Nicole Caputo, Catapult ’ s creative director, sits with November’s #CatapultArtist for a conversation on art, creativity, and the artist’s life.
We were delighted to have Kim Salt as our Catapult Artist for November, marking our thirteenth month of the program! One of the things that attracted me to Kim’s work, beyond the rich palette selections, was the dimensionality that she creates. This is actually something I am seeing a lot of on the books side of Catapult, perhaps inspired by the flat surfaces of screens—but how perfect for our magazines pieces, which this month explore with such depth topics like family heritage, race, coping with intense feelings of anxiety, claiming space, and more.
Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult; as featured in John Paul Brammer’s “The Moon’s Navel”
Nicole Caputo: Please tell me about your desired medium(s) and how you use them together to get the effect you’d like.
Kim Salt: I use a combo of my iPad, Procreate, Photoshop, and my Cintiq for client work. If I’m just out in the world sketching, I’ll either bring my iPad or sketchbook (and some mechanical pencils) along.
Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult; as featured in Cinelle Barnes’ “What I Found When I Searched for My Long-Lost Sister”
Can you tell us a bit about your process from start to finish?
Conceptually, it starts with closely reading a brief or analyzing an idea, taking notes, and making word associations. Visual research can also help with this, and rough thumbnails will start to take shape in my brain and sometimes transfer to paper or screen. Distilling the central theme or idea into a visual metaphor, while communicating tone and context, is the most challenging part.
Typically, when working on client projects, I start with sketches on an iPad using an Apple Pencil and the Procreate app. Once those sketches have reached the desired level of finesse, I send them over to the client for review. Whichever one is chosen to move forward with, I’ll use Photoshop and my Cintiq to recreate the sketch using layers, shapes, textures, and a color palette. If there’s time, I’ll walk away from the piece, digest a little, then come back to it to see if anything jumps out as needing tweaks.
Photo courtesy of Kim Salt
We love the pieces you created for the magazine. What did you enjoy about the process? Was there a particular piece you felt a real connection to that you’d like to speak about?
I felt creatively super-charged after reading all of the essays and stories I read, which I think lent well to creating the illustrations. My favorite part was brainstorming after having read each work. Probably the piece I felt most connected to was the one that accompanied Nicole Clark’s essay . Not only did I identify with the essay, but despite the simplicity of the illustration, finding the right colors and the right balance of textures was way more of a struggle than I expected it to be. Ultimately, I’m happy with the result and I think I grew a little bit along the way.
Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult; as featured in Nicole Clark’s “Finding My Inner Piece: How Puzzles Ease My Anxiety”
How do you refill the creative tank? What practices, rituals, outings, sights etc. do you partake in?
A few tried and true methods for me include watching and reading new films and books, going for walks, visiting botanical gardens and museums, as well as having meaningful or absurd conversations with friends. My absolute favorite thing to do is take a sketchbook to a coffee shop and people watch from the window.
Photo courtesy of Kim Salt
What/who inspired you to become an illustrator?
As a kid, my mom would secure plenty of films for me to watch. I loved watching animation, but my absolute favorites were directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The sense of movement, fantastical world building, understanding of humanity, and the integration of universally mundane observations inexplicably drew me in and caused me to want to create worlds of my own. Looking back, these are things that have always interested me and kept me curious enough to keep drawing despite whatever doubts I had in myself or my craft.
Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult; as featured in Alex Leslie’s “Eagle Son”
For those looking to get into the field of illustration what are your recommendations based in your experience?
On a general note, draw the things that excite and spark curiosity in you. Despite all of the wonderful things that other artists make, others will be drawn to you based on your own individual take, something that exists nowhere else in this universe.
If you can start off with a decent, consistent portfolio, email or contact as many art directors as you can with a short paragraph about you and the kind of work that you’re passionate about, as well as a link to your website and two or three pieces of yours that fit the kind of organization this AD is working for. Whenever an AD takes a chance on you at the beginning of your career, do your best to reward them and work with them to make an illustration that you’re proud of. The more often you can manage to do this, the more work will start to snowball. Use the resulting work to promote yourself on social media and after a while you may find that you don’t need to cold email anymore.
I think it was Neil Gaiman that said that the best way to keep getting work was to always meet your deadlines, do good work, and be easy to get along with. If you could do two out of three you were solid, and to meet all three was golden. Throughout my brief career, this advice has yet to steer me wrong.
Photo courtesy of Kim Salt
Describe a typical work day for you:
A typical day entails waking at eight-thirty making coffee or tea and sitting down at my desk to make a list of all the things I need to do throughout the day. I’ll also review a spreadsheet of the jobs I have open to track deadlines. Then I’ll either go to a cafe to do sketches, or work on any outstanding finals on my Cintiq. Throughout the day, I may take breaks to work out, bug my cat, or tend my houseplants. I usually end my day anywhere between six to eight in the evening, after which I’ll either meet friends, read or watch a film.
Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult; as featured in Julie Moon’s “What My Grandmother’s Eyes Have Seen”
What illustrators/artists/books/insert anything else here, are exciting you and inspiring you right now?
Right now, I’m obsessed with Kadhja Bonet’s music. Her voice is completely hypnotic and transports me to a seemingly different time and space. I recently read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower for the first time, and the connections between the world we live in now and the world she painted has left an indelible mark on me.
Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult; as featured in Christine H. Lee’s “When My Marriage Ended, I Learned to Relish the Space I Was Given”