Cartoons and social media creations: a Q&A with Kathleen Boudwin

Kathleen Boudwin has done everything from product packaging to event posters. While she started off drawing cartoons of friends, this Columbia College Chicago grad continues to follow her passions as an editorial illustrator for cosmetic giant, Sephora.

Doejo: Tell me more about the kind of work that you do and your creative process?
Boudwin: I’m an editorial illustrator, but a cartoonist at heart…I started at Sephora not knowing what to expect, but I started much more specific work unlike my style. I create illustrated pieces for the posts on their tumblr blog The Glossy, and also Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. My creative process in a commissioned environment, like Sephora, has changed through the constraints of end-of-day deadlines, constant edits, and change of direction. Before it was a lot of me watching Nickelodeon and constantly being exposed to cartoons, then drawing some weird stuff that I thought people would enjoy. I still try to practice my doodling ways, to keep them fresh and constantly evolving, but I’ve enjoyed the challenges of the corporate environment.

How did you get interested in illustration? Has this been something you’ve always wanted to do?
In middle school my first private art teacher was a high schooler at the time, Tim Lamb. He taught me and my sister how to copy from a photography and draw a still life. This kid would go to the Academy of Art of San Francisco, get hired by Dreamworks, and become the Art Director for Megamind. He is the reason I looked at San Francisco before Chicago for illustration. My mother was the person who actually dubbed me an illustrator, I guess. She based it off of Tim’s success and thought it was a good fit for what I was drawing at the time. … I really came into my own illustration and the community behind it in 2010 when I started cartooning a bunch. … I started drawing these caricatures of my friends and people loved it! … I eventually had to let my style continue to develop so I left the list behind and got much more serious. I stopped being so critical of what I planned to create, but rather just create for the sake of creating. I let it roll. Since then, I’ve illustrated like it’s my life, because it is.

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You mainly do illustration, but you are also doing design for Sephora. What is that like?
Sephora has been quite an adventure for me. I get to sit at a desk, haul my own scanner, tablet, and computer to work, and draw. From a quick blurb to a full animation, they have me illustrating in so many aspects of Sephora social. I’ve even crossed over into a product illustration. Considering the spontaneous arrival of this opportunity, the change of environment has been nice. I enjoy the pace of the process and how I’m pushed to be more versatile then I thought I was. … It’s a very honest and comfortable experience having joined this team. I get to contribute artistically to Sephora, a company of which I have always been the most loyal customer. It’s is a blessed learning experience and I feel like I can only make it better from here.

I saw the skateboard deck on your website; any plans for making more in the future?
The skateboard deck design on my webpage is a work in progress that I’ve been meaning to do for ages. ..When I thought of a context for my illustration, it was always product design for companies like K2, Quiksilver, and Burton. I wanted to own a pair of skis that displayed MY artwork. The culture behind skateboarding and snow sports is a community I’ve always wanted to work in forever… Ideally, I’ve always wanted to design campaigns for women’s specific boards and skis. I grew up with these horrible girl skis that were decked out in hearts and florals, which isn’t something that I’m against. It’s the poor execution of women’s board design that gets me all riled up. It’s my dream to design a wide varied of sick illustrations for women’s skis and snowboards. … I WILL create this amazing campaign I speak of. It’s all about finding the time to develop it.

What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve created and why?
The pieces that I cherish the most are the one’s that get such an overwhelming response. Never has my art been for anyone else other than myself, so it always surprises me once people are impacted by the things I’m illustrating. The silly people I drew for my friends had such an unexpected high demand that I was blown away. …Once my poster campaign for Manifest 2013 went up, I was shocked by how everyone responded. Those pieces are the ones that remind me that I have an outlet where my voice can be heard.

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During Columbia College Chicago’s Manifest art festival, your posters were plastered all around the South Loop. What’s it like knowing everyone who passes through Columbia’s campus has seen your work?
Manifest 2013 may have trumped my own graduating year. The chance as an alumna to do work for my school meant so much to me. I was so honored to be a part of the Mainstage campaign and the respond to those posters was not what I had expected. I regret 100% not being at the festival, but still states away I heard from everyone. It was absolutely overwhelming how many people noticed me that day. I was told about the kids who swarmed the windows and pillars for the posters once the shows were finished. It was exactly what I wanted to hear…This, of course, was the best project I ever jumped on and I have to thank the people of the Student Programming Board at Columbia.

What advice would you give other artists pursuing a career in illustration and design?

Always try to learn what you can and keep your fundamentals in check. I do this by figure drawing constantly. Other than that, my dear young illustrators, let things go. Create things for you, doodle constantly, and let your style always evolve. You have the funnest job on the planet, in my eyes. Enjoy the hell out of it. Don’t be scared to be inspired by little things. Whatever inspires you, indulge yourself in it. Get into that community of cartoonists at school and challenge each other to draw the weirdest things possible.

You’re working with Pop ‘stache on a project called “Mustache Music,” can you tell me about it?
Pop ‘Stache has always been a close friend of Boudwin Art, but we did just finish a collaborative piece that will be on its way to print as soon as kinks are fixed. I worked with Andy Keil to illustrate a very Boudwin Art original booklet combining our mutual love for music and mustaches… I can’t wait for people to see this amazing piece we came up with.