Inkerviews features the work of tattoo artists and collectors, as well as fine artists, in a series of interviews. With an exciting lineup already in place and endless more to come, I hope you will check back often to read about these incredible people and enjoy their visually stunning talents.
As a longtime fan of legendary illustrator and mosiac artist Mary Blair, I am always on the prowl for styles that are reminiscent of her delightful conceptual structure; and from time to time I get lucky enough to stumble on something that grabs my attention in the same way that Mary's characters always have.
Enter the whimsically wonderful artwork of Becky Dreistadt.
Herself a fan of Blair, Tom Wolf, Bill Peet, Kitty Bobo, Little Golden Books, and similar influences, Becky has taken these elements of inspiration and created a whole wonderland full of characters and designs that are completely her own. She has such a knack for capturing nostalgia and wrapping it up in a modern-day, fanciful package.
The first time I laid eyes on one of her creations (a bright blue owl that just POPPED through the screen at me), I loved it so much that within the week I had it tattooed on my back. How's THAT for instant appreciation?
As I delved deeper into her PocketOwl portfolio on deviantART, I soon realized that each piece that her pencil or paintbrush touched seemed to exude a magical air in their presentation.
With a charming Goldenbook entitled TigerButtah released earlier this year and a wildly popular collaborative website, Tiny Kitten Teeth, which she runs with her partner Frank (he writes the stories, while she illustrates), Becky's creative world is constantly flourishing, and delighting readers and collectors from around the globe.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to Becky about her life, artwork, and goals for the future. I hope you enjoy a peek inside of her playful and colorful world.
Where did you grow up? Were you always creative as a child? Did you think you would become an artist when you grew up?
I was born in Tennessee, but grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia. When I was little I wanted to be a fox, but when I realized that wasn't possible, I thought an artist would be the next best thing.
Were you a fan of Little Golden Books growing up or did this appreciation come later in life?
Yes! My favorites back then were Sesame Street series and the Poky Little Puppy. I got more of an appreciation for flat illustration styles later in life though.
Can you tell us about your time at Savannah College of Art & Design? Was it here that you developed your fantastic style?
SCAD was great because I had really great people in my classes and met a bunch of other really talented artists. Essentially, we worked together constantly. My painted style was just starting to develop as I left the school. I only took one painting class and it was more of a hobby.
What was your first job after graduating from SCAD? Did you go directly into an art career?
All through college I worked as a caricature artist at Busch Gardens during the summer. After graduating, I moved to New Zealand and had a job at a boutique vinyl toy store for a couple of months until it went bankrupt.
After that, I realized I would earn more money by staying at home and doing commissions, so I did that for awhile as we began working on Tiny Kitten Teeth.
What artists have you been influenced and inspired by?
Mary Blair, Tom Wolf, Russian animation, Old TOEI animation (like Miyazaki's early work), most Disney artists such as Bill Peet.
How long have you lived in New Zealand? How did you find your way there and how do you like dwelling in NZ?
I've lived there for almost three years now, but we traveled the USA for six months of this year.
How did Frank and you first meet and how did you decide to collaborate your talents?
We met through a mutual friend who suggested I partner with Frank for a short manga project. A few months later I took over art duties on his old online comic, then we met at the San Diego Comic Con. From there, we had a long distance relationship when I was in college, but we'd both travel back and forth between Savannah and New Zealand. When I graduated I moved to New Zealand. Now we are moving back to the US, we just got engaged in the Spring!
How is it working side-by-side? You must get along extremely well. Do you work in the same studio or do you each have your own space?
We work side-by-side. Most of the time we share a desk. It totally works for us, for other folks maybe not as well, but we really like being around each other.
The animals and creatures you design are so whimsical and fun. Where do you get the ideas for your drawings and paintings?
Old architecture, animals, cartoons, old kid’s books, folk art (Mexican, Pennsylvania Dutch, Polish). Lately I've been enjoying Dalahast (Swedish Horse Folk Art).
Can you tell us about Mewsli and Tigerbuttah? What were the inspirations behind both characters?
We got a cat! Tigerbuttah was a series of tiger paintings based on Golden Books styles that I did for a craft fair. People liked it, so we kept on doing them. Mewsli is the name of our actual cat, their personalities are pretty different at this point though. It was the jumping off point.
What are your favorite mediums to work with? Is any of your artwork digital?
I don't do a lot of digital work, sometimes I do just digital coloring. I love working with gouache on watercolor paper.
You were extremely busy this year with traveling to conventions (Comic Con, DragonCon, SPX, and I’m sure I’m missing others) and several gallery shows. Did you enjoy your time abroad and were you happy with the outcome? Do you hope to keep up this pace (in terms of travel) next year?
We will be traveling more next year, but for shorter periods of time. We're going to have a base to travel from in LA next year. I'm really happy with how it is going. Every career opportunity we've ever had has come from travel. It'll be nice to have a house to come back to after each trip though, rather than stay on the road. We love it though and love hanging out with all the different artists at conventions.
You have a great array of goodies available for sale in your Tiny Kitten Teeth store. Can you tell us about some of the items offered? How often do you feature original artwork on the site that is available for purchase?
When I'm not touring I try to put up one painted piece a week on my store. I mostly do t-shirts right now and I've been trying out a bunch of different merchandise at conventions. We do a lot of short-run merchandise, like plush toys, in the store.
In 2011, we're going to try expand our online offerings to toys and necklaces and other little trinkets.
Do you do commissioned pieces? If so, how can a collector go about ordering?
I do take commissions from time to time. The way that happens is you just e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Can you tell us about your wonderful Tigerbuttah book? Did you always know that you wanted it in the Golden Book style? Was it difficult to accomplish this retro-style design?
The book was a great project. The folks at Kickstarter were really supportive and that is the only way it could have happened. The actual work on the project was VERY fast though, as we had a printer deadline. I painted it in about two weeks.
You and Frank seem to be big music lovers! What might a typical mixed tape (or play list) playing in your studio include? Do you always have music playing while you are working?
We play a lot of music! If we're working late it is French Electro-like Justice, Danger and Daft Punk. During the day it is all sorts of stuff, ranging from loud indie stuff to 1960s girl groups, to silly contemporary pop.
We have a range of mix tapes folks can download from us here: http://8tracks.com/tapes
What shows or events do you have coming up that readers can look forward to?
Next year we have at least 10 shows. The first few are Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle), WonderCon (San Francisco), MoCCA (New York City) and Phoenix Comic Con.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
We want to get a Tiny Kitten Teeth book and a new Tigerbuttah Golden Book, as well as start on a new graphic novel about teen girl detectives.
What one word best describes you?
What one word best describes your artwork?
What is your favorite sweet treat?
All types! Last night I had a tiny red velvet cupcake pop on a stick. However, the lava cake that you can get at Doubletree Hotels is great. Also the Mickey Mouse beignets (with vanilla bean dipping sauce) from Cafe Orleans in Disneyland.
Be sure to visit Becky and Frank at TinyKittenTeeth.com and keep up with the many adventures of their delightful characters, as well as browse their goodies available in the Tiny Kitten Teeth store.
Last updated on January 19, 2011 by Jinxi Boo