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.

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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.
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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.


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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


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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.
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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!

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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.

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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!
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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.
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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!
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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

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!