Maggie Rudy’s Studio Tour

I’m a sucker for picture books that go beyond traditional illustration, so I was blown away when I saw Maggie Rudy’s fantastical mouse environments that make you want to jump into the pages of the book. Maggie started creating these little creatures as a project to help incoming kindergartners make the transition to school, giving them an object to connect with, and from there it’s turned into a empire she calls Mouseland. Maggie’s first book The House That Mouse Built is a takeoff of The House That Jack Built. Her newest book, I Wish I Had A Pet, places her mice into contact with other animals, as they offer their advice on pet care. Maggie’s illustrations in both of these books have the ability to turn me into a kid, trying to see all the little things in the pages and reminding me of when I was young and could very easily imagine worlds of wild creatures creating little homes out of discarded human material.


Maggie Rudy authorpic

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Illustrating children’s books has been an unexpected career for me. I worked for years in pastels and acrylics, and I showed at Mark Woolley Gallery in Portland, Oregon, where I still live. I also made little felt mice to entertain myself, and later as a project with my sons’ school. I began taking photos of the mice, and to think about using them as illustrations. My second book was published in July. To make the mice I only need a few things…grey felt, pipe cleaners, cotton and beads. But their environments require lots of materials to choose from, so much of my studio is taken up with bins of fabric, paper, wooden boxes, cloth flowers, old books and miscellaneous salvage.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?

I set up my studio in 2010, in a room over our garage. I call it Mouseland. Having a home studio means that I can work anytime I want, without having to get in the car. I love being able to go up at night and look at what I’m working on, so it’s in my mind before I go to sleep. I’ve gotten a lot of ideas that way.
I need to have my materials and tools out where I can see them, otherwise I’ll forget what I have. Plus I’ll often get an idea when my eye falls on some random object.
Another bonus is that we live in the woods, so I can go outside and collect materials easily.

drawersDescribe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I usually get in the studio by 9:00. I do my best work in the late morning, so that’s when I’ll work on things that are particularly small or detailed. I break for lunch at noon and then go back up. If I’m shooting that day I’ll figure out the lighting and take pictures, or clean things up in Photoshop. Otherwise, I’ll just keep making stuff.
I try to remember to get up and walk around every hour, and I’ll take my dog for a walk most afternoons. The only ritual I have is turning on the heater at 8:30, because the studio isn’t heated! Plus I use it to dry things that I’ve glued or painted.


serenade copy
Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.

The most fun time is when I stumble onto a new technique or idea, which usually happens when I bollix something up. Then I get a huge surge of creative energy.potato forest

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?

Music helps keep the flow going. I have an eclectic mix on my ipod. Radiohead, Amalia, Iris Dement, & Beck are some of the latest things that played. I also listen to Desert Island Discs, on BBC 4. They have an archive going back to the forties, and the interviews are fascinating.

Sam's drawing

Drawing by Maggie’s son Sam.

What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?

My best inspiration is the natural world. I also have a drawing that my son made for me, of this little creature sitting under a tree, holding a steaming cup. It’s hanging in my studio and it always makes me feel encouraged.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Any drink I take into Mouseland ends up with a paintbrush in it, so I’ve learned not to do it!

cardgamepostcard copy

What are the three best things about your studio?
It looks out into the trees, it’s a 10 second walk away, and I don’t pay rent.

studio tools

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
I have more tools than I need..what I’d really like is a storage space or a ceiling that doesn’t slope, so I would stop whacking my head!

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
Since my workspace doubles as a photography studio, I keep the walls and ceiling white.

studio dog
What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?

A big, beautiful studio is every artist’s dream, but we don’t usually get them right away. It’s a big step to graduate from the kitchen table! So you may just start out with a dedicated corner of the living room that you can screen off. Have a window if possible, and spend some money on great lighting. Start calling it “my studio” and make it off limits to anyone but the artist (you). Sit there every day, even if you don’t know what to do. You can make great art there, just as you will someday make great art in your big beautiful studio!
mice skating 

reading petsWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My latest book is called I Wish I Had A Pet. I post new Mouseland pictures every week at my blog, MousesHouses.

Thank you, Maggie! It was a delight getting to peak into your studio. Just like your illustrations, your studio is a feast for the eyes, with so many things to look at. Best of luck with I Wish I Had A Pet! It’s adorable!

Join us next week when we’ll get the chance to visit the studio of Milwaukee painter and art educator Tia Richardson.

Scott Campbell’s Studio Tour

On this week’s Tuesday Tours Scott’s Campbell takes us inside his Brooklyn studio where he creates his hilarious illustrations. I feel like the best way to introduce Scott is to share this video he made to advertise his new book Hug Machine.

I haven’t personally met Scott yet, but after watching his promotional video and admiring all of his amazing illustrations (which often make me laugh out loud) I can tell he’d be a pretty fun person to share a studio with. The lucky folks at the Pencil Factory in Brooklyn get to do just that, as his studio is part of the well known building that houses a diverse group of creative people. In addition to just releasing his first book as author/illustrator, Scott is also the illustrator of the Zombie in Love books, written by Kelly DiPucchio and East Dragon,West Dragon, written by Robyn Eversole. He has a witty illustration series called Great Showdowns, and he’s art directed a number of video games (not for children), including Psychonauts and Brutal Legend



Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
My name is Scott and I paint pictures of pleasant creatures, usually enjoying themselves. Sometimes they do not get along, but most of the time they are buddies. I have been painting in watercolor for the past 10 years or so for gallery shows, comic books and magazines, and most recently children’s picture books. I have also created concepts and art directed a number of video games for Double Fine and Lucas. I am known for good vibes depictions of things because I myself am a fairly good natured fellow.


How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have worked out of my studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for about a year and a half. Before that I worked out of my house and before that I worked in a games studio in San Francisco. I very much enjoyed working at home, I felt I could get so much more work done than when I was in the games studio. But I did begin to miss being surrounded by creative people. I was recently blessed with the opportunity to join up with a space in a building in Greenpoint that is sort of legendary in the illustration world because of the array of incredibly talented artists that work there. It is called the Pencil Factory. It was an actual factory that made pencils way back in the day. You can even see number 2 pencils in the molding on the outside of the building! It is a pretty exciting place to work. There are not just illustrators in the building, there are production companies, music companies, design blogs, carpenters, all kinds of cool things go on in there. IMG_0695I share my particular space with a typeface designer, book jacket designer, and an illustrator/fine artist. I absolutely love being around such talented people. It really gets me so pumped to make cool things. And I feel like I am finally in touch with things going on in the illustration world. There is a camaraderie at the Pencil Factory that I just love so much. I enjoy talking with everyone and getting their opinions on business things as well as creative endeavors.


Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Once I had moved to New York about 6 years ago and started to work at home, I began to very much enjoy that moment when I step outside my front door into the morning air for the first time each day. I am a morning person, so I scramble to get out of my house as soon as possible in the morning and head to a local coffee shop to relax and read and come up with ideas. I do not usually come up with ideas and brainstorm in my house or studio. I do that out amongst people I do not know in a coffee shop or library. IMG_0636I enjoy being around other people working on their own things with whatever music and chatter is going on. I begin my day by reading whatever book I am reading, to relax my mind a bit and take it elsewhere. Give it some time to collect itself. Then I start scrawling notes and drawings all over my pieces of copy paper. I spend about an hour or two working on whatever I need to work on at the time then I look at my to do list and make a little list for the day of goals to meet. I journey into the studio in the late morning and that is when I begin to check my email. I paint whatever I need to paint that morning or in the late afternoon. I know that my golden hour of working is about 9 – 11am and then about 4 – 7pm. That middle zone is a no-man’s land of distractions! But I let myself have that time to do other random stuff. I can sometimes riff on ideas later in the day on my computer if I am feeling in the zone. I think I get stuff done at the end of the day because it is like extra credit stuff. Whatever I can get done is just an added gift to the day.

zombi 2 coverDescribe a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
When I hit my stride on a project and am just painting everything up over the course of a few weeks, I am just super happy. The most recent zone like that was when I was painting the pages for the next Zombie In Love book called Zombie In Love 2 +1.  I enjoy listening to podcasts and books on tape when I am in that homestretch zone and this particular time, I got addicted to Mark Maron interviews. I learned about comedians creative processes and just interesting life experiences for a few weeks. It was great. And I forced myself to take lunch breaks and coffee breaks with my studio mates.
zombie 2 inside
Who are some of the picture book illustrators that have had an influence on your work?
Well, the book that inspired me to actually become a picture book illustrator was Stinky Cheeseman by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. That was the first time I realized how clever a book could be for the enjoyment of adults as well as children. I wanted to appeal to absolutely everyone after that. But some of the illustrators that have directly influenced the look and feel of my stuff through the years are Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, the Provensons, Arnold Lobel, J. Otto Seibold, and my friend Jon Klassen!

What’s your music of choice while you work?
When I need to use my brain, I usually listen to silence or real repetitive electronic music.  Music that acts like a brain massage.  But when I am in my zone, I listen to all kinds of things!  80’s music, new indie sorts of jams, soul music, ska and rocksteady, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Velvet Underground, the Ramones, The Smiths, all kinds of things.


Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Honestly, not really! I have been using the same little plate as a paint palette for the last 8 years, so I suppose that holds some sort of superstitious value to me. Most recently, my friend gave me a hand carved wooden dude that looks like he is eating a hamburger and holding a beverage.IMG_0721 I have that guy next to my keyboard looking right at me as I work on the computer. Oh, and I love my flat file. It is my favorite thing in my studio. I have always fantasized about having one and once I moved into this space, I found a couple in a warehouse scavenged from an old Chrysler plant that had closed down.


If you could add a new tool, piece of furniture, or machine to your studio, what would it be?
A hammock would be nice. But I have no place to put it.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I would recommend creating a space that is not next to your bed. IMG_0668Get out of the bedroom and out of the house if you can. But really it is all relative to the person. Do whatever makes you cozy and relaxed. Pack your area with stuff if that makes you feel good. Make it super sparse if that clears your mind. Put stuff all over the walls if you want. I would just try a bunch of stuff out. I am sort of superstitious about creativity, so if something goes particularly well for awhile and ideas flow nicely, then I examine all of the aspects of what I went through and try to maintain that until I need to find a new way to get inspired.


What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?Interesting. I don’t really have one particular color that inspires me. There is lots of white and black around me in my space. I like the warmth of old wooden furniture, but I am not really surrounded by that in my space. So who knows.

Hug MachineWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
Hug Machine is the first picture book that I have written as well as illustrated and that is in stores now. Zombie In Love 2 +1 (written my Kelly DiPuchhio) comes out at the end of the year. Everything else I am working on is top secret! I update my site as regularly as I can and I now have a new shop where people can buy my prints and books directly from me! And I am still updating my Great Showdowns site, but not as regularly.

Thanks, Scott! Your space, and especially how you describe working in it is so inspiring! Can’t wait for Zombie In Love 2 + 1 and I absolutely adore Hug Machine!

Maggie Rudy's 'I Wish I Had A Pet'

Maggie Rudy’s ‘I Wish I Had A Pet’

I’m excited for next week’s guest, artist Maggie Rudy. We’ll get to explore the curious and creative space that she uses when creating her three-dimensional characters and sets that illustrate her picture books!


Unicorn Thinks (S)he’s Pretty Great!

I love Halloween and every year I get out my glue gun and go to town on my kids’ costumes. This year Evey wanted to be a Goat or Satyr & Celia wanted to be a Unicorn. I thought it was kinda fun that they unknowingly picked characters from one of my newest favorite books Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea. They even won a costume contest and received a fabulous prize—new books!




Molly Idle’s Studio Tour

On this week’s Tuesday Tours we get to see inside the Arizona workshop of Caldecott honor recipient Molly Idle. Her studio, which she shares with her husband, sons, and parents is a very creative space, which at times might have theatrical rehearsals, woodworking, prop making, kids improvising, and of course Molly hard at work illustrating something in her go-to medium of color pencils. Molly’s books are beautiful works of art, and it’s not so surprising to find out she worked for DreamWorks Feature Animation Studios before she began her career in children’s picture books. The movement, action, and pacing that occur throughout the pages of her books are a beautifully orchestrated dance between the artist and reader.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Let’s see…Along with my husband, our boys, my folks, and three cats, I live in a comfy-cozy house in Tempe, Arizona. Arizona, is hot, just plain hot, for about half of the year. But it is precisely because it is so darn hot here, that I found a new way to work with my favorite medium…

I keep my desk by the window, and one sweltering summer day I came into the studio and noticed that the prismacolor pencils on my desk were beading up… sweating wax! At first I thought- ACK! I’ve killed them! But, when I started to draw with them, the softened pencils went onto the paper as smooth as butter- and they blended more completely than they ever had. As Bob Ross would’ve said, it was a “happy accident”. So now, whether the weather is hot or not, I keep my pencils under a lamp to warm them up.

What a nifty trick!



How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We’ve had our workshop for just over eight years now. And having built it, we who share it are at a loss to think of how we ever got along without it! Every member of our family has a portion of the space set aside for their personal pursuits. There’s really something to be said for having a separate space for work apart from our home. For starters… There’s a door. And that may not sound like a pivotal feature, but it truly is. For years, in our last house, I worked in a room off our kitchen that was a sort of pass through to the backyard. The only way in and out was past my desk. So there were a lot of distractions with my two kiddos running happily amok. So, to be able to shut the door behind me now, and enter this great big, quiet, creative space is at once freeing and focusing. I rarely go in the workshop just to putter or pass the time of day. If I’m in there, I’m working. Just being in the space makes me want to make something. I love it. Most everybody who comes over and spends time here says the same thing—“I would love to have a space like this!” I sure do.

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Having just gone on about loving the calm and quiet of our workshop, it feels a bit incongruous to tell you one of my happiest memories of working there was a time when it was bursting at the seams with noise and activity. But it’s true. A few years ago, I was busy working on both Tea Rex and Flora and the Flamingo, whist (and at the same time) my Mom and sister were directing a summer theatre workshop for kids, in our workshop. I was drawing while the kids rehearsed and played improv games. My boys would run in and want to play too… So the theatre kids would let my little guys improvise. During breaks all the kids would come hang round my desk and we’d talk about art and books we liked… and at the end of the day, my husband and my dad would come in and help build sets and props, and clean up for the next day,… It was this wonderful summertime mishmosh of family, friends and creativity. Good times.

A beautiful memory, one I’m sure comes back to you each time you read those books!


Some of your books include dancing. Do you dance in your studio? If so, what’s your music of choice?
I am not a dancer, but I do take the occasional happy dance break in the studio, yes. I’ve got pretty eclectic tastes—so on any given day you might catch me bee bopping to a mix of big band, bluegrass, baroque pop, or the Beach Boys. (I also listen to music that starts with letters other than “b”.)


Who are some of the picture book illustrators that have had an influence on your work?
Holly Hobbie, Lane Smith, and Mary Blair.

What a great list! Especially Holly Hobbie!


I know you love working with colored pencils, but if you had to chose another medium, what would be your second favorite?
I think that would be a toss up between chalk pastels and graphite.


Molly’s frog Stewart, handmade for her by her sister.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you? 
Stuart. My sister, Amanda, made Stuart for me when she was about 9 years old. I love him. I love the care she took in making him. He may be a bit battered and misshapen, but I think he’s beautiful. You can see every stitch she made by hand. He sits on my desk, keeping me company, and reminding me that the love we put into the things we make, shows in the finished product.

Beautifully put, and very true!


If you could add a new tool, piece of furniture, or machine to your studio, what would it be?
From a practical standpoint- I should probably answer something like, more bookshelves, or a larger scanner… But what springs to mind is this deep purple, velvet upholstered, chez lounge I once saw in a shop. An entirely unnecessary, but completely fabulous piece of furniture. Sometimes you need to choose form over function.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative? Do it!

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I love bright, rich, warm colors, and you’ll find a plethora of them throughout our house… but not in our workshop. We made a conscious choice to keep the colors in there pretty neutral, so that the reflected light in the space would also remain neutral. That’s important for me as I’m pinning up pieces in progress around my desk. I need to be able to see the colors in my work as they really are- not influenced by the colors of the walls or windows around them.

camp_rex_pgs_18_19_color_lowresWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
Flora and the Penguin (Chronicle Books) is in stores now, and Sea Rex (Viking Children’s Books) will be out next Summer! You can find out more about these books and the rest of my work on my site:

Thanks, Molly! What a creative family you have and what an excellent place to create art together. Best of luck on your upcoming book! 

Join us next week when Hug Machine’s author and illustrator Scott Campbell shares the place he creates his lovable work.

Kari Couture & Kim Loper’s Studio Tour

We’re in for a special  Tuesday Tours today, because we have not one, but two fabulous artists! Kari Couture and Kim Loper share their studio in the Walker’s Point area of Milwaukee. In addition to being an artist Kari, manages the Milwaukee Public Schools Partnership for the Arts and Humanities program. Kim, a collage artist, also works as an art educator with several non profits throughout the city. Both artists admit that working in the same space seems to influence one another’s work and it also makes for a playful work envioroment. Between the tarot card readings by Kari, the snack shelf full of mustard and pretzels, and Kim blasting Beyonce music, it seems it could be more of a party than a work space. But, this fun vibe ads to their art, giving real meaning to the belief that when you love what you do, it’s never really work.


Kari at workKARI COUTURE
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I moved from Eau Claire to Milwaukee in 2000 to go to school at MIAD where I studied printmaking. When I graduated, I entered the Public Allies program which validated my thoughts about and empowered me to start doing community, youth, and non-profit work. I have met and worked with some really amazing artists and arts organizations in this city that have all played a part in my formation as a socially conscious artist, community arts administrator and arts education advocate. My “day job” is managing the MPS Partnership for the Arts and Humanities and MPS Arts Internship programs, both related to engaging children and youth in out-of-school time arts experiences. In a lot of ways I consider this an art form just like my studio practice!

Kari’s corner

In the studio, I have moved away from printmaking and more toward drawing, collage, mixed media type of work. Since moving into this studio, I am really just getting back into a regular art-making practice so I’m enjoying doing things that are a bit more immediate. I use a variety of drawing materials and I like to layer and play with how they interact with each other both physically and visually.

Yes, you’re right. I think the community work is one of the best kinds of art forms!

by Kari Couture

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
Kim and I moved into this studio in February 2014 and it has been AMAZING. This is my first studio outside of my house. I consider it a great privilege to be able to have this space!  It has encouraged me to make art more regularly and allowed me to work much bigger and much messier than when I was working at home! I also LOVE that I don’t have to finish things in one sitting. At home I have two cats and my studio space didn’t have a door so if I left anything out and unfinished, they would walk on it, lick it, lay on it – you name it! So when I got to just leave my first few studio projects unfinished and lying out at the end of the day, I was so thrilled!!

Tarot Cards

Kari uses a set of tarot cards made by her artist friend Rebecca Schoenecker, which can be found at:

It also provides me with a place to just be. Sometimes I come here and just listen to music or relax on the couch or have friends over or read. I’ve also been practicing reading tarot a little and the studio has been a great space for that. My work is a lot about human interaction and relationships and how we navigate through knowing ourselves and each other. Tarot has an interesting way of opening up people’s stories.

That’s so interesting! I’m in the middle of writing a young adult novel that uses tarot as a way of telling stories. I find the cards to be an amazing tool for connection.  

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I’m actually a very social person so I love the buzz of having other people around. The times when I know I can spend all day at the studio are the best. I like to bring food and be around Kim or invite other people to stop in and visit. I love to talk about life or art or about what’s happening related to my work in the community. I really enjoy when others bring projects they are working on and we can just work simultaneously. Or when kids come and visit! This winter my nieces spent an afternoon there with me and we totally destroyed the place and danced—it was fantastic!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
What I listen to varies a lot depending on my mood and what I’m working on. When I know I’m going to be in the studio for several hours at a time, I like to settle in with some podcasts, usually Radio Lab or Savage Love. As far as music goes, I had a lot of friends ask me what I might want for “studio-warming” presents when I moved in and I said make me a music mix or playlist so I have a good variety! Left to my own devices, I’ve mostly been listening to Estelle, Common, Mos Def and Raphael Saadiq.

Kari's grandma's reproduction of 'The Gleaners'

Kari’s grandma’s reproduction of ‘The Gleaners’

What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
Honestly, I don’t know. I feel like I would have to just say the space itself. It is very empowering to be able to make a mess or not make a mess, to start something new before finishing something old, to hang stuff and take stuff down, to play loud music or just be quiet, to really push myself or give myself a break, to gather people or to just be alone – all these options really allow me to create exactly the kind of atmosphere I need in the moment.

Studio pets

Studio pets

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
We are snack-aholics! Seriously, I think the mini-fridge and the “snack shelf” where probably the first areas of the studio to get truly established. There are a lot of pretzels and mustards, nuts, anything spicy and always a little candy. Ginger beer and coconut LaCroix are staples.

What are the three best things about your studio?

Kari's desk

Kari’s desk

I love the big window! The southern sunlight is really nice, we’ve got a bunch of very happy plants and we have a great view of the Allen Bradley clock tower.

The location! We are right near the train tracks and I love to hear trains going by. At night I like to watch the Amtrak because if passengers have their lights on you can see in and it feels like you’re watching a movie (I hope that doesn’t sound creepy!). I also like that we’re within walking distance to an art supply store, coffee shops, frozen yogurt, great Indian food, some nice bars, and the lake—everything you could need.

The building. There are a lot of really cool artists in this building! Between my dear friends Val Tatera, Eric Koester and Mary Osmundsen down the hall, the musicians next to us, the Alphabang Collective, a photographer, woodworkers in the basement, Live Artist Studio upstairs and Continuum Architects (who I rarely see in the building but I have seen them out at meetings around the community), its just a really diverse and creative place to be.

It sounds like a very cool place to work!

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I think we could use better lighting, maybe a new table that isn’t so wobbly and a good stereo to bump our music on! But mostly any “extra” funds I might come across I would probably put into supplies!

Robes of Gold by Kari

Robes of Gold by Kari

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I am definitely going through a gold phase right now, well, I guess I have been for a couple of years. I can’t even think of a piece that I’ve made recently that doesn’t have gold or a golden yellow color in it. I just like its warmth and its reference to things that are sacred.

The main wall on my side was blue when we moved in and I really wanted to paint it red, but we spent a whole day priming it, going up and down this HUGE ladder and after that, we decided to just leave it white!

Kari's altar shelf also featuring work by Rebecca Schoenecker and Della Wells

Kari’s altar shelf also featuring work by Rebecca Schoenecker and Della Wells

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Do it!! Whether it is a corner of a room or a whole room in your house or a separate studio space—do it! Give yourself space where you can focus and be away from everything else. A place where you can make a mess and be free.

Kari just messin’ around with marigold seeds

What are you working on now and where can we find out more?
I will have a piece in an upcoming show on November organized by the great Jeff Redmon! Along the lines of the recent Culture Jam MKE show, Easily Discarded will be a show of work that challenges dominant notions of the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment. One night only: Saturday November 22nd, 2014 from 7:00pm until 11:00pm at 228 S. 1st St, Milwaukee, WI.

I don’t have a website! Maybe that’s what I should spend my “couple hundred dollars” on!!

Thanks, Kari! Good luck with your upcoming show!

Kari and Kim

Kim Loper and Kari Couture

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I’m a youth worker and art instructor with several non profits in the city.I work with cheap materials that are easy to get ahold of—magazine and paper collage on large wood surfaces. There’s a very fine line between my work and my play, I learn things from my teaching practice that influence my personal fine art practice, and conversely, learn things from my fine art practices that influence my teaching.

Kim's corner

Kim’s corner

I’m a painter by trade and currently call myself a collage artist. And actually, the move from paint to collage happened accidentally. When I came back to Milwaukee after college, I didn’t have any space to paint in, so I literally just substituted magazine paper for paint. I map out my images on a wooden board, and fill in those parts, like a paint by numbers, with color coded swatches of paper. Currently I’m really interested in people, human anatomy and biological configurations and I explore this by cutting strips of paper and reassembling them to create muscular structures.IMG_6907

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
This studio came to me at the most perfect time, when I needed a space of my own to unload some emotional messes I was going through. It was new and sort of served as my creative fairy godmother. Consoling me, nudging me to go deeper into my practice, letting me know everything was going to be ok, giving me confidence and courage. The studio saved me. The work that I produced during this time was survivalist and is some of my most prominent and proud work to date.

What a great metaphor—I love the idea of a studio being a creative fairy godmother!

Kim's corner close up

Kim’s corner close up

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Most fun? I think it was when I first got the studio and was cranking out work that totally impressed me. For like the first time ever. That’s fun. Oh, and also, parties with Kari! She has the best food, best tunes, and best tarot card sessions.IMG_6904

Yeah, that sounds like fun!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
My work is really meticulous—cutting swatches/strips of color from magazines and working large scale on wooden boards often over 4×4 ft, so I listen to a lot of podcasts to pass the time. Lots of Savage Love, TED talks, Planet Money, The Read, This American Life. And when I really get serious is when the music comes out. Currently: the new Flying Lotus Album—You’re Dead and Kelis’s most recent album—Food; both have been playing exhaustively on repeat. Also, lots of SBTRKT, Kendrick Lamar, The Internet, etc.. and Beyonce. Always Beyonce. Always.

IMG_6910What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
Glue. Nothing would happen without the glue.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Kari has become recently obsessed with mustard and pretzels and so I always eat all of her food. We have a snack shelf that we try and keep stocked with delicious treats. What’s on there now…. Old popcorn, pretzels (what’d I tell you!), candy, sriracha cashews, chili lime pistachios… We eat pretty good in here. We’re also a big fan of whiskey gingers and wine ‘round these parts.

Kim books

What are the three best things about your studio?
Our beautiful plants (mine’s dying, but lets not talk about that).
The amazing nap couch that will swallow whole you in one bite. With no remorse.
My studio mates advice.

IMG_6905If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
Probably a bear skin rug (faux bear of course, Kari’s a vegetarian so I’m not too sure she’d be thrilled if I brought back dead animal skin).  Really, something to cover the floors because it feels a bit bare at times, especially when it’s cold.

Better shelving or organizational structures for my materials. I have lots of paper clippings and other small items that could use some discipline.

And actually, I’d buy as much glitter as I could afford. How much glitter do you think I could get for a couple hundred dollars? Enough to change my life I bet.

DSC_0401What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I’ve been working with bright colors—black, teal, peach/pink, red, and gold. Lots of flowers and patterns in my work. It’s pretty bubble gummy right now. Very playful and light.

Kari’s side has a different feel, with different colors and is reflective of the type of work she does. I guess one common strain in both of our work, is our use of profiled, bald figures. Subtly, I think I’m definitely influenced by having her work up. We both kind of explore human relationships and interactions but use totally different color palettes. There is a lot of gold in our studio though, throughout. It’s mysterious and magical in here.

IMG_6912What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Don’t get the internet. Create a space that have your studio be a mystical space that doesn’t look like anything else you’re forced to deal with in the outside world. Allow yourself to sit in it for hours, sans actual work. Make sure the nap conditions are optimal. Have other smart creative people in it often to talk about art and gossip. Oh, and probably get some books. Make it safe so you can play and explore as freely as possible.

Great advice! Especially about the napping conditions and the lack of internet. 

Kim's piece 3

Where can we find out more?

Thanks, Kim for sharing your space!

Join us next Tuesday when Caldecott Honor-winning artist Molly Idle will share her lovely studio in Arizona!


Highlights from SCBWI Wisconsin Fall Conference


I just returned from the fall conference. This was my second year attending and it was amazing! I was so much in the moment that I didn’t take a single photo, which I’m definitely regretting now, but luckily I’m able to share a few that were taken by the SCBWI publicity coordinator Sandy Brehl. Here are my highlights—

cafebeneluxHaving lunch with Kekla Magoon and David LaRochelle at Benelux in Milwaukee before heading to the conference.

Seeing all the friends I met last year, including my fabulous roommate Amy Ward, and staying up way too late drinking wine and talking. I think we fell asleep mid sentence :)

Meeting many new friends. It’s so refreshing being immersed in a group of people who care as much about children’s books and art as I do.

Being dazzled by Andrea Tompa’s presentation, The Making of Ghetto Cowboy: An Inside Look at the Editorial Process. I learned so much about how she edits a book, which I know will advise my own revision process.

Faculty SCBWI Fall conference 2014

Faculty SCBWI Fall conference 2014: Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Martha Rago, Andrea Tompa, Kekla Magoon, David LaRochelle, Sharyn November (image courtesy of SCBWI-WI)

Capturing an abundance of quotes from Kekla Magoon’s presentation, Evasion of Privacy: A Series of Personal Questions. My favorite quote, which Kekla used but didn’t know where it came from was Authors are very private people who run around naked in public.

Playing for prizes, while learning about successful school visits at Christine Esser’s breakout session Cracking the School Visit Code.

SCBWI Sucsess table

SCBWI-WI Sucsess table featuring books published by members (photo courtesy of SCBWI-WI)

Talking hairstyles, books, art, and getting feedback on my YA manuscript with Sharyn November.

Hanging out with Martha Rago and Amy Ward in our suite enjoying a glass of wine, while discussing portfolios, children’s books, Italy, and children.

Attending the Diversity Meeting and discussing how we can make our SCBWI chapter more inviting and inclusive to all writers and illustrators.

Winning an honorable mention for my cover illustration of A Heap of Hexagons, written by Patricia Lessie during the SCBWI-WI Illustrators Challenge. I’ll receive half off of my conference next year!skyberg-heap-of-hex-web



Yuyi Morales’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to feature one of my favorite illustrators Yuyi Morales.  Yuyi is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books and has won the ALA’s Pura Belpré Gold award four separate times—the most times this award has ever been given to one artist. It’s exciting to see her winning awards for her work, which is filled with dream-like scenery, lovable characters, and sometimes, multimedia approaches. For her newest book Viva Frida, Yuyi created three dimensional characters and sets. She sculpted the figures, sewed their clothes, and even welded together props. Her husband, photographer Tim O’Meara photographed the scenes. This approach was used by Yuyi once before in My Abuelita, written by Tony Johnston. I’m a huge fan of artists who go beyond the traditional modes of illustration, experimenting with cutting edge ways to bring stories to children through art. My family’s all-time favorite book illustrated by Yuyi is Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng. My daughters ask for this book again and again and they’re captivated (as am I) by Yuyi’s ethereal illustrations that offer us a small entrance into the magical unknown.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I make children’s books. I dream them, write them, illustrate them, and love them. My most common medium for creating my illustrations is acrylics on paper, but I am very experimental. My latest book I created with 3-D illustrations utilizing puppets and figures.

I love how you experiment with art, and even when you create something with very different mediums, I can always tell it’s your work. 

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My current studio is pretty new to me, although it is a very old construction. It is in the city of Xalapa, Mexico, where I was born. I remodeled what is called in spanish as a casa antigua, or an antique house. It was in chambers. But now it is my favorite place in the world. I just began working in this space in February. ventana_rain

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Breakfast at my desk is how I start my work. I check emails and do most of my communication at this time. Then there is always african dance class, either in the morning or in the evening. The dance studio is only a few blocks away from my place, so I am quickly back at work after a shower. Most of my administrative work is done  during the first part of the day, I take several short breaks, mostly for meals. I go to the market just down the block and bring fresh produces for the day. I usually eat at my desk so that I can keep creating at any time. My studio is by the street and I have a large window where many visitors, sellers, and neighbors stop-by. The rest of the day I create, I draw, I paint, and do a lot of daydreaming until the evening. I might run errands, or see friends, or walk my dogs, but I usually go back to work for a few more hours until it is time to go to bed, never before midnight and almost always past that hour.

I’m a night owl as well, which isn’t always so easy when my daughters wake me up at six in the morning!


Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Since this studio space is new to me, I have had only a short experience working here, but I am in love with what happens at this place. Construction work is still happening these days, and I often sit work with the street-doors open so that material and workers can come in and out (my dogs tide to my side). During several afternoons, while I am distracted working, I realize that people have come inside my studio. They are usually staring at the books on the wall, holding them open, or looking around trying to figure out what this place is. It is my dogs who  alert me of a visitor. Mothers with children, old men, teenagers, kids coming from school, and all sorts of people are there when I lift my eyes from my work. What is this place? They always want to know. Is this a restaurant? Is it a cultural center? How much are the books? Do I have books about electricity work? Do I have puppies to sell? You name it! The questions are wonderful, I always make new friends, some of them come back next time.

'Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased' written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

‘Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased’ written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

That must offer you some great inspiration for future stories!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
Music is the beat of my work. The first thing I do when I get up from bed is to come to my computer to start the music. In my playlist right now is the Cuban musician Silvio Rodrigues, Alt-J with their album an Awesome Wave, The Colombian group Bomba Estereo, the local Son Jarocho group Ensamble Marinero, LCD Soundystem, Natalia LaFourcade, the California group Quetzal, and also my son with his creations at Wax Poetic.



What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My original source of inspiration was my son. He was just a little baby when I began dreaming of making books. He was my model, my audience, and my whole inspiration. I had a great desire to pass onto him all the stories I had brought with me when we immigrated to the USA. Nowadays, now a young man studying in NY, he is still my inspiration, but I am also very inspired by celebrations. And so I set up to start my day as if everyday is a fiesta. I celebrate the view from my bedroom window that looks at the rise of the sun, the lush wildness of my garden, the frolicking of my dogs as we start the day, the children who stop at the window to pet my dog Mojo, the sunlight coming trough the skylights in my studio, most days we celebrate the rain too. And surrounded by all this light and all these colors, I set to create.

estudioIs there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Oh, yes, I live off yogurt, pineapple, and peanuts. There is also a man who comes to my window and sells me fresh cheese. At the organic store around the corner they sell me tangy arugula which I ate by the bunch. These day we are in prickle-pear season, so I eat it while I work, sprinkled with chile powder and lemon.

What are the three best things about your studio?
The window to the street where a lot of my daily social life happens, the stone walls that make me feel like I am inside a castle, and the high ceiling with its giant wood beans and the skylights that let both the light and the rain drizzle in.library

Yuyi--use this image for ladder
‘Ladder to the Moon’ written by Maya Soetoro-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
A place and equipment to do fire. An oven, or a melting station. Until now, both here in Mexico and before in California, I have had my studio inside my home, simply occupying the living room and making it my working space; as you can imagine that creates limits of what I can actually do in those spaces. But what I want is to have a space where I can do all kinds of rough and messy work, and perhaps even bake ceramic or melt metal. I also want it to be a place where other people can come and join me to create. That is why I am in the process of building a new room in my backyard where I will be doing all kinds messy work.

I’ve also found that working out of a home can create limitations, but I love your plan for an outdoor space! If I lived in a warmer climate, I might give it a shot.closet

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?My favorite color is Mexican, hot pink, and yes, I incorporate it in my space as well as in almost anything I do.sirena

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
The very first studio I had was in my apartment in San Francisco where I lived with my husband and our son. For a long time my working space was the dining table, which needed to be cleaned and used in so many different ways during the day. I would put away my materials when we would eat and then when we were done I would bring them out again. Later, we moved to an slightly bigger apartment and my husband helped me to condition an small closet space with a drawing table and a stool. My first book, Harvesting Hope, was created in that tiny space. What I have learned from going from minimal working places to having the studio of my dreams is that what really maters is how I feel inhabiting such a space. And so, I would tell any one who wants to make a personal space where they can be creative, is to make sure that it is a functional space, but also an inspiring one. Have all what you need to create physically, your furniture, your tools, but also have the colors or even things that simply make you smile when you are in their presence. Creativity is already a place that we inhabit. No matter how tiny or limited it might be, make sure that such a place is the most amazing place in the world for you.

Great advice! Inspiration is a huge factor in creation, and having a space reflect that makes a tremendous difference.


Yuyi’s husband, photographer Tim O’Meara shoots a scene from Yuyi’s newest book ‘Viva Frida’.


What are you working on now and where can we find out more about you?
My latest book is Viva Frida, a picture book I illustrated with puppets, paintings, photographic work from my husband, and digital work. I would call it an ode to Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, because this is a book I created in admiration of her creativity and work. Right now at my table there are sketches for a book written by one of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexi. This is Sherman’s first picture book and I have the honor to create the illustrations for this story. You can find out more about me on my website.

Thanks for sharing your inspiring space with us, Yuyi! And best of luck with your upcoming book!