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September's Featured Designer: Lisa Albinus

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be an illustrator.

It’s funny, I was always that “artsy” kid. I loved to create from a very early age. I can remember in middle school, our task was to create our own books. We would get to write them, illustrate them, and bind them. My heart sang through the entire process. To bring the words to life through visuals and color, something I barely understood, fueled me. I threw myself into it at 1000% (My extreme Type A personality was still developing 😊 Now I work at a minimum of 10,000%) 😂. I can remember my mom looking over my shoulder and saying, “You drew that?”. That wonder continued in my classmates as student after student came to me asking me to illustrate their books. In my little middle schooler mind, I knew I was loving the process but didn’t realize I had found my passion.

Fast forward to high school, and you would always find me in the art hallway. I focused on art in college…until I started listening to that little voice in my head that had been calling me out since middle school. You know the voice? That voice that tells you you’re not good enough and that you are an IMPOSTER. That voice took me out for 20 years. I packed my entire creative being away and believed every lie it whispered into my being.

It took my kids, and their crayons, to coax “Middle School Lisa” out again. When she showed up, she colored longer than the kids and loved to shade and highlight within the pages of their coloring books, coaxing the crayons to do her bidding. Those crayons are responsible for waking me up. “Middle School Lisa” is now “Middle-Age Lisa” who stares down imposter syndrome in herself, in her children, and in other artists that she meets. If the calling is there, the talent will follow. Believe in yourself!

What influences your art the most?

I draw inspiration from so many places. When I was younger, I would copy a lot of work that I saw online and in print. In searching for your own style, you must draw a lot! If you don’t claim the work as your own, then this exercise serves to improve muscle memory, anatomy understanding, value, and so many perks!

I have also taught art for so many years, from ages six to ninety-one. In all the years of teaching others, I have learned to turn on a dime and create lessons to reach my students where they are. This has afforded me the opportunity to try out so many different styles and techniques. All of this has been rolled into my individual voice.

Now, I find that I seem to live my life through the lens of a canvas asking “How would I capture that?”. The sunlight dappling through the trees, “How would I capture that?”. Paintings in museums, “How would I capture that?”. Intricate patterns on walls and tile, “How would I capture that?”. Life becomes the inspiration that fuels creativity.

What mediums do you use to create your art?

I have had my day with just about all the mediums, except oil paints. It seems I fall in love with a medium and settle in for a bit. Mixed media captured me for a while as it allowed a little bit of everything, all at once. Watercolors and gouache are still my favorite “traditional” mediums.

I have currently moved over to 100% digital illustration. For me, creating digitally created a smoother workflow that saves vast amounts of time. Long gone are the hard copies, scanned in, converted, tweaked, and ready to go to print.

I love that with digital art, I can bring in that love of mixed media. Digitally, I can recreate all of the mediums, with no mess and absolute versatility in where I work. My mother had two strokes last summer and I am now her full-time caregiver. The iPad gives me absolute freedom to work wherever we are. Next to her bed, in the doctor’s office, in the hospital, I just take my office with me. 😊

Does your style of artwork lend itself to any particular area of illustration?

I seem to fall in love with the piece that is presently on my desk. I remember reading something a while back when a mother was asked who her favorite child was, she replied, “My favorite child is the one who needs me the most at this moment. The one who is sick, the one who is scared, the one who is sad. That one is my favorite. That’s the one I will hold closest to my heart today”.

My illustrations are like this. In the moment, there is always one that is pressing and needs my attention the most. I love creating children’s illustrations and taking my time, allowing them to whisper their secrets to my pen as their story unfolds in color around them. I love getting lost in the detail work of shading, texture, and light, affording them the accessories and background needed to tell their story.

On the other hand, I love getting lost in fine art pieces that I submit to open gallery calls. Each one makes my heart sing as I am creating it. I get lost in the details of a piece, always pressing down for more shading, texture, and light.

You have created artwork for several children's books. Were you able to secure these opportunities on your own or did you work with an agent?

I have secured my illustration jobs on my own, mostly through word of mouth- but would love to chat with an agent 😊 .

You also offer publishing services for those who want to create a book. Tell us a little about that process.

I would love to! I remember what it was like when I had a manuscript and I took it to shows and pitched it to publishing companies and agents. It was ---TERRIFYING. I think it is one of the most vulnerable places we can walk through. I was offered a deal, but when I looked at the profit margin, I was going to make the least amount of money from all my hard work with writing and illustrations! I started looking at doing it myself and felt so fulfilled in the process. I created my own book, as I wanted it, and held all the profits.

Today, I offer this service to others. I take my authors from manuscript to print, one step at a time, making their story a printed reality. I offer soup to nuts - editing, interior/cover design, illustrations, marketing, and social media as well as a chance to list in major trade magazines! At the end of the process, the author maintains their own distribution and royalties, sells on major online retailers, can list in major trade magazines, and I am only paid for my creative services.

Do you have a favorite project you've worked on or a favorite author you have worked with?

As noted above, I work with authors who are looking to self-publish, so we work hand-in-hand getting their vision out into the printed form. I guide, but always allow the author the final say in what they want. When working with an author, and they require illustrations, it is a gift when you find someone that is willing to let you explore the characters and bring them to life as you see in your mind and as they whisper their secrets to your pen. I am now working on my second book with Sherry Kepley. Sherry is a dream, and we work so well together. I respect her art form through her written words and she respects that I can bring those words to life. She trusts me to capture her critters and offers me a blank canvas to create on. We both get so excited as they emerge and come to life. It is simply wonderful!

Do you have any dream companies you'd like to work with in the near future? Pottery Barn Kids, Crate and Kids, Moda, and well, heck, if we are talking dreams, why not Target! What's next for you in your artistic endeavors? When my mom had her strokes last summer, I found that I could no longer teach live, online classes. In an instant my income stream was gone, and I got to reimagine my career once again. Years of teaching and drawing have given me a plethora of work that is marketable. I am working hard at creating the infrastructure needed to license my work, begin pitching, and see where the road takes me!


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