Eliza Wheeler’s Studio Tour

Eliza Wheeler Today on Tuesday Tours I’m delighted to welcome Eliza Wheeler, an amazing illustrator and author who’s penned the New York Times Bestseller Miss Maple’s Seeds and illustrated award-wining books like Doll Bones by Holly Black and Wherever You’ll Go by Pat Zietlow Miller. Eliza offers illustrators incredible advice on her blog about preparing a portfolio and she has one of the best blog posts I’ve read recently—The I Suck Dilemma, which addresses how to roll with the continual self-doubt that creators have. Eliza is as delightful as the beautiful worlds she paints, and I’m excited to see what she’ll do when she teams up with Pat Zietlow Miller again on a book called Brave.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logoPainting table
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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I grew up in a small northern Wisconsin town, and went to school for graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. While in school, it was the drawing and painting classes that I loved, rather than the computer work that my major consisted of. I didn’t really think that drawing (in any form) could be a viable career option for me, so I finished school with the design degree. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles in 2007 so that he could pursue film work, and I found in-house and freelance design jobs, and drew whenever I could on the side. In 2009 I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference for the first time and it felt like the stars aligning for me. I focused on building and refining an illustration portfolio over the next few years, and in 2013 my first book, Miss Maple’s Seeds was published by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Books (which debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List!). Since then, I’ve been working full time to create illustrations for both picture books and middle grade novels. I work with dip pens in India Ink, paired with watercolor paints on Arches paper.
Studio pic
How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?

I’ve been living in and working out of a small studio apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles since 2011. My bedroom, living room, and studio are all in one space – and all shared with my husband, Adam. Some people wonder how we don’t go crazy (admittedly, sometimes we do), but being both artists pursuing creative fields, we had to make a choice between having more space and less time (getting jobs to support the space), or living in a smaller way. We decided on the latter.

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work_doll bonesHaving a small space can be restricting to the creative process, and I try (and usually fail) to be as organized as I can. When I’m sketching or inking, things stay cleaner, but once I start painting, the whole process sort of explodes all over the place. The biggest sacrifice in a small space is having surface space on which to spread out. I often fantasize about the day I might have a large studio space apart from my living space – with tables and storage galore! That said, my current space has taught me the art of being able to make things work; to be flexible and roll with the punches in limiting circumstances. Adam built a little lap-table for computer work or sketching on the couch (isn’t it the cutest?), which is a nice break from the drawing table and we can use while watching TV. I also bring work to coffee-shops and the library when possible.

Painting tools

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
The past two years I’ve had heavy project loads, and I usually work from about 10am10pm. Ideally I would try to keep a more normal schedule. My mornings start quiet and unplugged – my two rituals are 1) lighting a candle when I start working, 2) setting a timer every 45 minutes to meditate, stretch or read. If I’m doing something that needs mental focus I listen to music, otherwise I listen to lectures, podcasts, radio, audiobooks and as the day goes along I end up watching (mostly terrible) TV. It has to be entertaining enough, but not too good so as to be distracting!

Drawing with Jen Rofe

Drawing with Jen Rofe


When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
When I first got my agent, Jen Rofe, she came for a visit and asked me to give her a drawing lesson. I didn’t know her well at this point, and I was nervous! I thought maybe she was expecting me to prepare a lesson, but right away she started asking about how to draw a box, so I showed her two-point perspective. That blew her away! It was a hoot. She was so enthusiastic and excited to learn—the dream student.

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If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”― A.A. Milne

Inspiration Board

What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
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Social interactions are by far the biggest distractions. I’m unfortunately the kind of introvert that gets drained by any amount of interaction; face-to-face, by phone, and online. I’ve had to be really diligent and intentional about staying unplugged most of the time in order to allow the kind of creative mental space that I need. I check work email twice a day, and personal email far less. I look at social media one day a week. I found an app (CritiCall) that only allows calls from my husband and my agent. Someday I’m sure I’ll whittle things back down to a land-line and P.O. Box!
Our Baby painting

If you could live inside the world of one of the picture books you’ve illustrated, which one would it be and why?
I love this question! When I illustrated Wherever You Go I decided I was going to draw the world that I wanted to live in – but I do also prefer the quiet country lifestyle of Miss Maple, so it’s a toss-up. So maybe, I would live in Miss Maple’s treehouse, INSIDE the world of Wherever You Go!

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What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on a picture book biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, so I’m steeped in both his real world and story world. It’s been a bottomless well of inspiration! I’m also referencing Harry Clarke, Sidney Sime, Franklin Booth, and as always, Lisbeth Zwerger.

LA Library

LA Library


If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
Another fun question—I would choose a river house in the forest by the Brule River in Wisconsin, a river that my family canoed growing up. It’s a beautiful, magical place.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Get creative with your space. Don’t need perfect circumstances in order to work—be flexible and mobile when possible. Be solution-oriented when it comes to having housemates around and needing time to focus. My headphones have become a great tool for letting my husband know that I’m in the zone and shouldn’t be interrupted.

work_CodyWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My newest illustrations out are in Wherever You Goa picture book by Pat Zietlow Miller, as well as a middle grade, Cody and the Fountain of Happinessby Tricia Springstubb. Coming next spring and summer will be two picture books: Tell Me A Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee, and This is Our Baby Born Today, by Varsha Bajaj.
See more online at www.wheelerstudio.com.

Thank you so much, Eliza! The map of your apartment is an extra treat and I love seeing how you use your space to the max! Your advice to people for being flexible and solution-oriented when finding a place to work is fabulous. Looking forward to seeing your upcoming projects!

Join us on November 10th when the talented Matthew Cordell shares his Illinois studio with us.

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Jay Nolte’s Studio Tour

I’ve had people tell me how lucky I am to be able to travel around the world and take pictures of people’s studios and interview them. Oh how I wish that were true—I’d be jet-setting to Australia, England, Scotland, Mexico, New York, California, Oregon, and a couple territories in Canada, just to name a few. Usually I’m only able to visit these beautiful studios in the virtual world, just like all of my readers, but today I’m excited to say that I’ve had the chance to stand inside the studio of Jay Nolte, who works out of his home in Wisconsin. After I saw his space—ceiling tall shelves filled with figurines and books, a 3D printer, and a keg for homemade brew in the corner (Milwaukee is Brew City so it definitely seems reasonable), I knew it’d make a great feature on Tuesday Tours. Jay has had over twenty years experience in the design and gaming industries, working with clients such as Disney, Harley Davidson, Random House, and Nickelodeon. Currently, he is an illustrator who creates the webcomic The Zombie Office. He travels around the states showing and selling his work, and when he’s not doing that, he’s working on his new book project Gargoyles or experimenting with a new artistic medium, like gauche, water color, or even 3D printing.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
About sixteen years ago my wife and I were taking a leisurely stroll through an innocent looking suburb named Wauwatosa, when quite suddenly we were pounced on by a roguish band of dogs and cats and stolen away to their lair. Once there, we were forced to cater to their every whim and fancy; kibble, squeaky toys, dog treats, catnip. Their sadistic desires knew no bounds. We tried every form of escape imaginable, with each attempt ending in catastrophe.studio-tour-jay-7

Ten years ago we went so far as to have an offspring to see if possibly someone younger and faster could elude our captors and make a successful break, but this was yet another exercise in futility. The fiendish brutes licked and pawed at him with savage precision. We see now that he never stood a chance. Then fate showed me a glimmer of hope. As I was attempting to email a distress message, the cat (we think she is their leader) strolled across the keyboard of my laptop. Initially, she was evaluating my actions, but then the warmth of the computer and the soft glow of the screen put her into a kind of trance. She collapsed on the keys and began to make low, guttural noises. Seizing this chance, I began moving the cursor across the screen. This pleased her. Since that day, I have been creating computer graphics in the vain hope that one day my family may know the sweet taste of freedom.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?It all seemed harmless enough in the beginning. You know, a collectible vinyl figure here, a Pixar storyboard book there. No big deal, right? It’s just that the number of items has grown quite a bit since we moved in. Really, I don’t have a problem. I don’t NEED these items if that’s what you’re thinking. I simply draw inspiration from having them around. They’re nice to look at, but I can get rid of them anytime. Honest. Can we talk about something else please?

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
The first thing I do is get out of bed. Now, being an able bodied person you would think this would be a fairly easy task to accomplish. You would be mistaken. Sleep is essential for all creatures. It’s just that my body seems to require more of it than others, especially in the morning hours. Scientists are currently baffled and can offer not explanation as to why. But I can definitely say that I do get more done when I’m not asleep.

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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
Whenever my son joins me, we have a blast together. His talent far exceeds mine, and I love to watch him come up with amazing ideas. He reminds me to let go of control, have fun, and live in the moment.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I don’t think that I can reduce it down to any one piece or item. My studio is more like a warm cocoon of baubles, curios and novelties. I draw inspiration from the sum total of my hodgepodge. I obsessively collect books of other artist’s work. When I get stuck I browse through them randomly for inspiration.studio-tour-jay-10

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Oh look, the new Star Wars collectibles have been released! I’m sorry, what was the question?

What do you like to nibble/drink when you’re working?
Tea, iced tea to be more precise. I make my own and have a couple of favorite flavors. I never developed a taste for coffee, but I cannot work without caffeine. I do have a kegerator in my office. One of my passions is brewing my own beer. But I can absolutely guarantee you that no alcoholic beverages are consumed during the making of art. OK, maybe a little.

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Right now I’m obsessed with Mark Ryden. I’m blown away by his imagery and his technical talent.

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Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
Yes, I generally listen to music when I work. Usually it is the Grateful Dead. They’re the perfect background tunes to keep the left side of my brain occupied without overwhelming the right side.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Find what inspires you and surround yourself with it.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
You can read my webcomic The Zombie Office or get it delivered to you fresh at Facebook.com/TheZombieOffice. I’m also working on a new project called Gargoyles. It will be both a print and 3D printed project. You can view it soon at jaynolte.com or at Facebook.com/ArtofJayScottNolte.

Thank you for sharing your studio, Jay! Your space is like a cabinet of curiosities—I love it! I’ll have to come over for a home-brewed beer sometime and see how your newest project is coming along 🙂

i-dont-like-koala-9781481400688_lgJoin us on September 1st when we take a look inside illustrator Charles Santoso’s studio in Sydney, Australia.

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Korin Noelle Schneider’s Studio Tour

When I was curating for the Union Art Gallery I met an exceptional artist who was also a student at UWM. I purchased one of her beautiful clay sculptures titled Queen of Hearts, and it’s still on display in my living room–it’s one of my favorite pieces. Korin has since moved from Milwaukee to Portland, where she is currently taking over as the owner of Radius Art Studio. Working primarily in clay, Korin creates a variety of sculptures ranging from utilitarian flatware with an artistic edge to beautiful figurative work. She also quilts, designs clothing and costumes, works in collage and printmaking, and performs in drag shows.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Korin Schneider Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’ve had my hands in just about all the artsy crafty things you could imagine. Although I work in a variety of mediums, my greatest love is clay. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with my BFA in Ceramics in 2007. I currently do all of my clay work out of a studio in the Industrial Southeast neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. I have a private studio within a larger building known as Radius Community Art Studio. I also teach classes there and help fire the kilns. I am currently in the process of taking over the whole studio from the current owners.

IMG_4675 KS How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have been involved with Radius since shortly after I moved to Portland in 2008. I started as a monthly partner, which means working in the shared space and keeping all your tools and work on your designated shelf space. I am a bit of a space hog, so I moved into one of the private studios as soon as one opened up. I have much more room to work on multiple projects and can also store my books and everything I use for my class demos. I enjoy working in a community studio where I get to interact with other artists, but also enjoy having a private space within it that I can hide out if I need to.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating, like making a cup of tea, meditating, or going on a walk? 
IMG_4665It probably would be good to have tea or take a walk or meditate before I worked. But honestly, at this point, I just try and make sure I have a plan for exactly what I am going to work on while I am in the studio. My life is so hectic and full that I need to make the most efficient use of the time I have for art making. I keep a sketch book full of lists of projects to finish, things to stock for stores, etc. When making stuff starts to feel like “work”, I will allow myself a few studio sessions to just play and make things without intention or planning. This can be refreshing, and can also help me discover new directions I want to go with my art. But these days, more often than not, I’m working on things to fill etsy orders, commissions, and chugging along on a couple long term projects.

Korin's studio mate and best friend Laura Thompson.

Korin’s studio mate and best friend Laura Thompson.

Friends share the space with Korin, and sometimes serve as models for her figurative work.

Friends share the space with Korin, and sometimes serve as models for her figurative work.

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? 
Since the studio is a shared space, I often don’t get much say in what is on the radio while I’m there. I must say I hear more reggae and jam bands than I care to. I’ve gotten pretty good at just tuning things out and focusing on my work if I need to. When its my turn to choose the music, I usually listen to upbeat music that makes me feel energized and motivated to keep working. Especially if its late at night. Sometimes things get weird and there’s a lot of dancing and laughing and singing while we work. Occasionally, we have quiet hours without any music or radio, and this can be nice too.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have a few large photo collages on my wall. My friends and life outside the studio is what inspires my work. I often find myself working long hours alone, so it’s nice to bring a little reminder of my friends and family into the studio. Oh, and my dog is a really important part of my life in the studio. He is always by my side keeping me good company and acting like he owns the place. IMG_4669

What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
This sounds cliche, but my most valuable tools are my hands. Sure I use tools, but really I do a lot of work just with my hands and nothing more. When I do use tools, they aren’t even anything special, really. Some wooden sticks, a sponge, a few kitchen utensils and a couple dentist tools is basically what fills my entire toolbox. If i woke up in the middle of nowhere without anything but a bag of clay and my hands, I could still find a way to make work.

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I’d need a little bit more than a couple hundred, but one thing I really want to buy for our space is a pug mill (for recycling clay). Recycling clay by hand is kind of a pain.

IMG_4680 What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
You don’t need anything fancy. Just make space. Even if its in your house, your closet, or your backyard. Even if its only temporary. Set up your things there, and then dedicate some time to being there. If you are feeling stuck or uninspired, just sit there and read some books or artblogs or something. You don’t have to be making work to be working. Just sketching, brainstorming or researching is enough. In my experience, there is space everywhere, the hard part is making time.

Where can we find and purchase your work? Find me on Etsy at Bang Bang Crafts. And more info about the studio can be found at Radius Art Studio.

Thanks, Korin! Love the new work 🙂