Cool Women Doing Cool Things: Katie Turner

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Katie Turner is a Nashville based artist and illustrator known for creating bright, vibrant work. Though she specializes in children’s illustration, she’s created artwork for brands as varied as ASOS and The New York Times.

She spoke with us about her process and what brought her from New York to Tennessee.

Can you tell me a little about your background and what got you into illustration? Why did you decide to become an illustrator? Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

I always loved to draw (can’t really remember a time that I didn’t), so I knew even as far back as elementary school that I wanted to be an artist of some kind. It wasn’t until the end of high school, when I started applying for colleges, that I really thought about what kind of artist I wanted to be. The more I thought about it (and through some internet research), I found that illustration seemed like the right path for me. Something about words and pictures together makes me excited.

What brought you to Nashville? Does the work you do here differ from New York, and if so, in what ways?

I lived in New York for almost nine years, and I really loved it! I moved there in 2006 to study illustration at Parsons School of Design. But after living there so long, my boyfriend (now husband) felt like we needed a change. We made a list of cities we were considering moving to and decided to visit them. Nashville was first, and after we visited we were like, “This works!” We didn’t visit any other of the cities on the list and moved here six months later.

  Katie’s cover illustration for  Nashville Scene ’s 30th annual “You Are So Nashville If...” issue.

Katie’s cover illustration for Nashville Scene’s 30th annual “You Are So Nashville If...” issue.

The work I do now is much different than what I was doing in Brooklyn. For one, I worked as a server at a restaurant full time, so I had far less time to work on illustration in New York. I mean… the city is expensive! Since moving, I have had more time to cultivate my portfolio and figure out what area I really wanted to focus on. Rather than editorial illustration, which had before been the bulk of my work, I found that I really wanted to move into children’s illustration with a side of art licensing.

Do you have a dream client / collaborator?

One thing I want to do more than anything else is have my own children’s books published. So working with any publisher would be ideal! A few of my favorite publishers are Tundra Books, Flying Eye Books, and Chronicle Books. But really, there are SO many. On the art licensing side of things, I’d love to work with Hallmark or BlueQ.

Do you have any heroes in the industry?

So many! Three off the top of my head… Jillian Tamaki, Carson Ellis, and Dahlov Ipcar.

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People underestimate the power of design. When do you think your work is at its most powerful and has the greatest impact?

I don’t want to overestimate the power of my own work – there are many other amazingly talented illustrators who make powerful political work, and although I believe all work is political, it’s not something I really do overtly... I think my work does, however, have the power to make someone smile, to tell a story, or to depict people or groups that are not seen as often in the mainstream, and those are things that are important to me.

What’s the best part of your job?

Drawing everyday and getting to create my own hours. My husband is a musician, so it is nice that we are not usually set to a rigid schedule and can work weekends or take weekdays off. And of course, getting paid to be creative!

What inspires your work? What do you read/watch/check out for inspiration?

I live near Shelby Park and love nature, so I love to go for walks at the Greenway and see all the birds, bugs and other animals. That inspires me a lot. As for media, I read tons and tons of picture books (along with middle grade and some YA). Sometimes I’ll watch animated movies too – I’m a fan of Hayao Miyazaki films. I’m also frequently inspired by the work of my studiomates at The Warren, where I work.

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Do you have any resources / thoughts you’d like to share with any up-and-coming illustrators?

I think the only advice I feel really qualified to give new illustrators is to be patient! I’m still working on that. It’s OK if you’re not a huge overnight success. Working and succeeding in any creative industry usually takes lots of time and hard work. If you aren’t willing to be patient and persistent, and work through the rejection, it might not be the career path for you.

What’s next for you? Any cool projects coming up you want to share?

I’m currently pitching two new picture books to publishers – wish me luck!

Outside of work - what do you like to do? Any hobbies/interests/passions?

My favorite thing is going to the movies. I go A LOT! And I’ll see almost anything, but for some reason I just don’t like action movies. I find them boring.  Anything else, I’m game. When I’m not at the actual movie theater, I watch movies at home – my favorite genres being horror and romantic comedy. I also love to read (and I’m trying to make more time to read since I no longer have 1 hour of subway commuting time to do it). I also love to take nature walks and I’m pretty nerdy when it comes to learning about bugs and birds. My in-laws even bought me some binoculars to do bird watching with for my birthday last year!

You can check out Katie’s Etsy store and purchase her work here.