The DART Interview: Kathleen Marcotte

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday May 23, 2019

Peggy Roalf: Which came first, the pen or the brush?

Kathleen Marcotte: I’d have to say the pen. While I tend to think in shapes rather than lines, I usually have to draw everything out first. It was a real turning point in finding my style as an illustrator when I started printmaking. It influences my work whether I’m working traditionally or digitally.

PR: Please describe your work process—is most of your work done directly, or do you also use digital media? 

KM: It can vary depending on the project, but I usually start with pencil and paper and then scan in my drawing. I then color and add texture digitally. I’ve also started experimenting with the iPad Pro. I find it a great tool for sketching as well. 


PR: What are some of your creative inspirations—artists, music, literature, culture in general—that you draw from in your work?

KM: One of my biggest inspirations in finding my style in school was the American printmaker David Weidman. I find his mid-century prints really inspiring. I also turn to designers and children’s book illustrators such as Miroslav Sasek, Mary Blair, Dahlov Ipcar, Olle Eksell, and Alexander Girard for inspiration. I like to look at vintage children’s books and design for their limited color and texture.

A visit to the art museum can also be a great source of inspiration. I just took a trip to the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh and was really inspired by their collection. 

PR: Do you keep a sketchbook? If yes, how does that contribute to your work process? If yes, does this figure in with your travels?

KM: I keep a sketchbook, or I should say multiple sketchbooks, but I’m sporadic in my use. I find the practice very helpful, and I wish I could be better at using it for experimentation more regularly. The past few international trips I’ve taken, I’ve kept a sketchbook to help remember my travels and inspire future projects. It’s a great way to preserve an experience and fully take in a new place.

PR: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work?

KM: I currently live just outside the city of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s inspiring to see the city and its artistic community grow. Living in a smaller, more affordable city has given me more financial freedom and opportunity to get involved in public art projects. I was lucky enough to create an illustrated piece for LAND studio, an organization that works to showcase public art throughout Cleveland. 

PR: Please describe your workspace and how it contributes to the illustrator’s basic condition of working alone.

KM: I’m fortunate to have a 9 to 5 creative job in that it gives me the support I might lack if I solely freelanced. I work with other illustrators, and we’re able to share what we’re working on and share feedback. Ultimately, we create the work on our own, but having that support aids me in my process. When I’m working on jobs at home for other clients, I have an office/studio that I hole up in. I need that time alone, away from distractions, to think and find inspiration.  

PR: What kind of breaks do you take when working to a deadline? 

KM: I like to go outside and get moving. Much of my job is sitting in front of a computer, so when I need a break I like to take my dog for a walk or go for a run. It clears my head and tires my legs, so I’m ready to get back to my desk.  

PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?

KM: I try to give myself enough time on projects with a deadline, so I can walk away from the piece when I think it’s done and come back to it later. Usually with fresh eyes I can see if I over0-worked something or if something needs more definition

PR: Do you use photographic reference materials very much? If yes, how do you avoid the pitfalls that can arise when working from reference? 

KM: If I’m using photo reference, I try to pull a lot of different images and draw different elements from different photos. I also try to be playful with any reference I use—changing up the species of animal, clothing, color, etc. 

PR: I noticed that you have a line of fun design items for sale under the name “Unibrow Society.” Could you tell the readers how you came up with this idea and how you and your collaborator work together?

KM: Yes! My friend and fellow illustrator Sara Bicknell and I came up with this idea together. We work at the same company and wanted an outlet outside of our 9 to 5 to create and sell our illustrations. We decided to start a business uniting under the name “Unibrow Society”. Both of our work has a playful quality and we wanted our name to reflect that. We also liked the idea of one metaphorical brow uniting us, and its feministic nod to Frida Kahlo. 

It has been a learning experience, forming this business together. We just got our online shop up and attended our first fair. Our collaboration thus far has just been on the business side of things. We create our works individually and sell them under the same online storefront. We’ve talked about collaborating on projects in the future, and I’m excited to see what challenges and new ideas that will bring.

PR: If you could live and work anywhere, where would that be—and why?

KM: Somewhere where I can escape to nature when I need it, but not too far from a city. I really loved visiting Japan, and I could see myself living there for a while. I love the country’s appreciation for design and good food. It’s also beautiful in its landscape and vegetation. I just need to learn the language first!

PR: What would be your dream job—the one thing you have always hoped for in an assignment? 

KM: I’d love to illustrate a children’s book. It would be great to have a big project like that to spend some time with and really develop the look of a world and its characters. 

Kathleen Marcotte is an illustrator from the Chicago area. She earned her BFA in illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland. She’s now based in Cleveland, Ohio. dart-interview

Kathleen loves to create playful illustrations that can appeal to both children and adults. She has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, and 3x3 magazine. When she’s not illustrating, she can be found running through the Metroparks, listening to too many podcasts, and howling at trains with her dog, Kuma.
Instagram and Twitter: @ktmarcotte
Represented by Lindgren & Smith


No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now