Illustrator Interview with Deborah Hocking
Get to know Deborah…
Deborah Hocking recently resettled in her lovely hometown of Portland, Oregon, after several years of living in Indiana and France. She shares a cozy little apartment with her husband and their kombucha scoby. For more info, visit her website.
If you could own a store, what kind would it be?
A workshop/store full of handmade items, all made by me, but following no particular theme. Whatever struck my fancy each day, that’s what I’d make! Jewelry, pottery, felt-making, hand-spun yarn, wooden peg dolls, paintings and drawings and prints of all kinds…it’d be my own little wonderland of quirky creativity.
What do you waste time doing?
Dreaming! House design, starting an alpaca farm, or living in France or Africa are some of my favorite topics to dream about! Pinterest is my best friend…and my nemesis.
Whose ideas totally conflict with yours?
C. Montgomery Burns. I’m not actually a huge Simpson’s watcher, but I love to hate this character.
What’s the biggest inconvenience about where you live?
We live in a small apartment in the city, so there’s no room for a garden or chickens or goats or dogs… or alpacas! Sad!
What book (either because of its length or subject) intimidates you?
Les Miserables, unabridged. I’m quite embarrassed by this, but I started it in 2006 and haven’t finished it yet. I keep plugging away, bit by bit…Hope to finish by 2016!
What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?
Dutch Baby Pancakes…especially the parts with melted butter pooled on top.
What do you do every day, without fail?
Eat butter. Sometimes all by itself.
What is something you wish you did every day, without fail?
If you could dis-invent one thing, what would it be?
Disposable plastic shopping bags.
What makes you want to throw up?
Skim milk, cola, vegan cheese, and artificial coffee creamer (especially flavored).
What compliment do you wish someone would give you?
This is the most amazing kombucha I’ve ever tasted! (Just made our very first batch, and I think it turned out pretty stellar!)
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
I love to soak up other people’s artwork and see how others have dealt with certain visual problems, so I’ll look through books or peruse online. If I really am having difficulty focusing, going for a walk helps me re-align.
Did you choose your passion or did it choose you?
I really think it’s both. I’ve loved being creative and making pictures since I was a little kid, and through the years the desire to make children’s illustrations kept coming back to me without me trying or “choosing” it, even though I had to put it on hold as a career for a long time. When the time was right, there was definitely a specific moment where I chose to pursue children’s illustration as my passion and vocation, over all my other interests and enjoyments…and I’m loving this path.
Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?
Paradoxically, both in big, bustling, sophisticated cities, where amazing design is front-and-center, and the creative energy is just buzzing all around, and also out in nature or in gardens, which are also places of amazing design. But in order to really get down to creative work, I definitely do the best at my desk in my little corner-of-the-living room studio. I love that place!
Who has helped you persevere through the challenges?
My husband! His unwavering belief pushes me past my doubt and insecurity, and his pragmaticism helps me get through practical obstacles. Nearly every day I have thought: “Wow, I totally couldn’t do this without him!”
If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?
My artsy-craftsy shop, previously mentioned, where I would create a myriad of different things, as well as a great big garden that was designed for the eye as much as for the table, and also house design.
What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the illustrator you are today?
I love being creative in so many different ways, and can imagine a many different scenarios for my life and work. But choosing to focus on illustration and setting other creative pursuits aside while I develop as an illustrator has been crucial. I have a lot of creative energy, and I have to hone in, rather than letting it spin in a million different directions. I miss all those other art forms, (and I still do other things for fun here and there), but I’ve found a lot of peace, enjoyment, and increased productivity by choosing illustration as my focus.
How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?
That is super tricky for me. I’m really trying to keep specific work hours so that I have time when I feel completely focused on work, and also time when I can freely focus on the people in my life. I have the tendency to let things get blurred, and then I feel frustrated in both areas rather than free. It’s a constant struggle.
What is your typical day like?
My IDEAL typical day is as follows:
Wake with the dawn.
Breakfast on toast with butter and tea with milk and honey.
Go for a walk/jog.
Catch up on fave internet doodads (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Remodelista, Pinterest, FB, email, news)
Work like the dickens all day: sketching, working on final artwork, more email, planning new projects, experimenting, writing, research and reading-up.
Evening could include: hanging out with people I love, going for a bike ride or walk, cooking, eating yummy food, exploring city or country, reading, doing personal artwork, watching some Parks and Rec, Downton Abbey or Arrested Development (or Battlestar Gallactica to make my husband happy).
REALITY is somewhat similar to my ideal, save for a thousand and one interruptions and distractions and errands—and the fact that I’m not exceptionally disciplined so that morning stuff often doesn’t happen!
How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?
I think that each of us has a different thing to offer, simply because we’re all unique individuals. I’m trying not to stress out about finding a unique style just for the sake of being different…but trust that the more I work and experience life, the more my own artistic voice will become distinctly “me.” The other day I saw an old friend, and he shared his encaustic process with me, and I began thinking about ways I could incorporate encaustic into my illustration work because it’s so beautiful and fascinating. An experience like that can send your work in such a new direction, not necessarily because you’re looking to define yourself, but because things come across your path that shape you, intrigue you, and in a natural way become a part of your experience and creative voice. I want to make art that fills me with joy and excitement, and let that drive what I do and how I do it…and I believe a unique voice will result.
When do you feel the most energized?
When I’m exposed to really great art or craft that other people are making. It makes me so excited and happy and makes me want to go make great things, too!
Does your illustrating reflect your personality?
Children’s illustration lets me be creative in a whimsical, fun, simple way that feels very different to me than creating more “serious” artwork. The subject matter makes me happy and is satisfying in a way that I haven’t found in other art forms. So in that way I would say, yes, it does reflect my personality, but even more than that, I think it fulfills and enriches me as a person.
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