Let’s Talk: Zoë Robison
Welcome to a brand new series dedicated to interviewing women illustrators and artists: Let’s Talk.
I’ve known Zoë for years and have actually interviewed her before (maybe twice) for other random projects? I never get tired of talking to her obviously. Her work is whimsical with delightful punches of color. Read below as she answers all my questions about her work, process, and more!
CC: Where are you from and where do you live currently?
I’ve lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana my whole life! I’m amazed at how much the creative community has grown in the past few years. I never would have imagined as a kid that Baton Rouge would become such an inspiring hub for young artists!
CC: You’ve got two sentences (short or as run-on as you want) to describe your art to your favorite historical figure. Who’s the historical figure and what do you tell that person?
If you’ve spent more than five minutes with me, you know my girl Marie Antoinette is number one. If I had to describe my art to her, it would something like this: Above all, my art is meant to evoke joy, encourage imagination, and appreciate the beauty in life. If you could peak inside my head, you’d see exactly what I paint – a vivid world in mostly pink, green, and blue that celebrates magic, love, strength, childlike curiosity…and corgis…lots of corgis.
CC: Who would you say has inspired your work?
Barbara Helen Berger is without a doubt a huge inspiration…her books (Grandfather Twilight, A Lot of Otters, Gwinna to name a few) were staples in my house. I’d say my love of rich color and soft lines stems from her work. Her illustrations almost glow they are so soft. Maurice Sendak is still a favorite to this day, as well as Disney legends Mary Blair, Glen Keane, Claire Keane, Brittney Lee, Lorelay Bové, Annette Marnat, and Steve Thompson. I’m also a huge French nerd, so I have a deep appreciation of 18th century Baroque and Rococo art, French Romantic art, and Impressionism. Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun (Marie Antoinette’s portrait painter among other things) is my hero.
CC: Your work has these gorgeous soft lines, incredible textures, and whimsical feelings. What do you find yourself paying attention to when you’re creating a piece?
When I’m working, I try to use as little outline as possible to achieve the soft textures. I want to make sure you’re never bored when looking at my work, that there’s something to catch your eye in every corner. I spend the most time thinking about color! I’m still learning color theory, but the challenge is fun – especially applied to a digital format like I use!
CC: As someone who would cry if she was forced to abandon her outline/line art, what advice would you give to artists who want to try more line-free styles?
In college, I took a figure drawing class that completely changed how I approach line. I had always outlined everything in my work before this class (usually with a BIC pen…cute, right?), so I struggled HARD to break the habit. But my teacher heavily encouraged us to look at the figure less as a series of lines and more as a series of values – start with the values and then use line to accentuate important points on the body (the curve of the shin, the dip of a collar bone, etc.).
CC: Tell me about your work process. What do you do: coffee and just start going?
I wish I could say I was super organized (I’m getting there!), but usually I can be a bit scatterbrained when it comes to creating. When I work on commissions (typically portraits), I’m pretty good about sitting down with a cup of coffee, putting on some music, and going. But if an idea strikes me for something cool, all hope is lost – I can easily be working on one thing and minutes later be completely distracted by an idea for something else. Probably not ideal. My ideal day would be getting up, making coffee, sitting down for some unstructured sketching, working for a few hours on client work, and then taking time for my own work. No matter what, music is a MUST. As you can tell, I’m easily distracted, so listening to music helps center me and keep me focused on the task at hand.
CC: What’s the best part about the creative process? What’s the worst?
The hardest part for me is seeing an idea so clearly in my mind but not being able to translate it to paper (or, in my case, tablet). I’m constantly having to remind myself that it’s okay to seek help – can’t get a pose right? Look up stock photos! Can’t get your brush texture right? Look up tutorials on YouTube! The best part of the process is the feeling of accomplishment, or the “aha” moment when you work on a piece and everything starts to fall into place. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it’s the moment when you can say “Yes! This is what I wanted to express.”
How do you find inspiration? Are you constantly cataloguing images that inspire you or do you have a “lightbulb” moment for your work?
I am definitely on the constant hunt for inspiration! You should see my Pinterest…and the stacks and stacks of art books I have in my house! I’m working on pulling images (usually nature-inspired) and translating that into my own work. For instance, I’m working on a mermaid right now inspired by Louisiana Azaleas (azalea season is over now, but the idea came to me earlier last month while walking my pup in our azalaea-ridden neighborhood).
CC: What’s the best piece of art advice that you’ve gotten?
Everyone was a beginner at some point. It is SO hard not to compare yourself to others, especially on social media. I am constantly having to step back and remind myself that my work just isn’t going to look like, say, Glen Keane’s. The man’s been doing his thing for a LONG time now. And anyway, I don’t need my work to look just like his – I want it to look like mine!
CC: Where can we find you online and in person?
The best place to find me is on Instagram, but I’m working on getting my site back up to date!
Etsy Shop: www.etsy.com/shop/artbyzoerobison
And you can find me every month at the Mid City Makers’ Market in Baton Rouge!
P.S. Zoë’s last big project was a commissioned mural. Check out her gorgeous hard work below: