Skip & Pip, Book Covers, Digital Art and more. An interview with Catherine Dair

Hello all! I’m sorry for my absence these past weeks, but I’ve come back with a giant peace offering: an interview with the wonderful and talented Catherine Dair! Give her a warm welcome!

Hello Catherine and welcome to BookWinked. Before we begin, can you introduce yourself and tell us something about your background?
Hi! I’m Catherine Dair and I am a graphic artist and illustrator. It’s an incredibly fun job. When I’m not making art I am a Mom to my teenagers and get constantly reminded by an adorable Corgi that she should never be ignored. I majored in art, worked in the corporate world, took time off to be a Mom and now I’m juggling running my business with reminding kids to finish their homework.

You are an artist and you have many (book related) projects. Will you share a bit about what all you create?
I love how no two days are the same. Being an illustrator allows me great flexibility on the types of projects I get to work on. At any given moment I might create a book cover, a tattoo, a logo and/or even character illustrations which turn into giveaways by authors at conventions. There are several historical and fantasy book series that I supply the maps for. And because I decided sleep was a waste of time I even started a webcomic.

You created the now famous Skip and Pip. How did they come into existence?
In Spring 2014 I started drawing “plot bunnies” in various outfits after authors threw ideas for different ones at me. When Pride Month came around in June 2014 I put the two of them together holding the rainbow flag and named them “The Pride Bunnies”. I ignored them until December 2014 when a friend suggested I give them more attention.  A comic sprang to mind of a conversation they could have revolving around Valentine’s Day.  A quick “Name the Bunnies” contest on my Facebook page gave me perfect names for them. Skipper and Pippin (who would come to be known as Skip and Pip) would debut with their first comic on February 14, 2015 and they decided one comic wasn’t enough.

What is the message behind Skip and Pip?
Right from the start I thought of them as my little ambassadors for “love is love”. My two little boy bunnies demonstrate that it doesn’t matter who you love but that you do it authentically and respectfully. What has warmed my heart the most is how kids have taken to them. If kids can so easily accept two characters of the same gender being in love with each other maybe there is hope for our next generation in acceptance for all.

Is there are project you are most proud of?
Wow, that’s like choosing between my children! The one that I thought would be easy and turned out to be anything but was a set of paperdolls that I created for Jordan L. Hawk’s “Whyborne & Griffin” universe. That was tricky because you are dealing with the clothes of a different time period and have to get them correct all the way down to the undergarments. Then the various outfits have to be historically accurate and fit the dolls correctly. I did four different characters with several outfit changes and it was fun but far harder than I anticipated.

For Skip and Pip, that would have to be their comic titled “Stars”. Grief is a tricky subject to deal with at the best of times. I had to take into account the children who follow them and how they would react to the storyline. It resonated with people deeply. Grief counseling centers contacted me and asked if they could get posters of it to put up in their children’s counseling rooms, which is something very special and humbling.

How does your process for making art work? Where do you find inspiration?
I always start with a sketch first to show clients after we have discussed what they are wanting. For more complicated projects like book covers and character art I have them fill out an information sheet, especially when multiple characters are involved. Skip and Pip conversations come from real life scenarios with my silly family members and fun online chats I have with the fabulous crew of Mischief Corner Books. (They are also some of my biggest supporters – thank you!)

When painting fantasy and scifi, Mother Nature on our own incredible planet can give you ideas around every corner. I think it’s just keeping an open mind when you walk into the world and allowing your brain to go with it.

Can you share with us something funny that happened while working on art?
I was working on the comic of Skip and Pip called “Photo Op”. Pip looks sad through the first few panels because he is disappointed about something. While I was drawing the first sad face on Pip my daughter enters the room and walks up behind me. She didn’t know the whole storyline and she starts yelling at the top of her voice, “What did you do? Pip isn’t supposed to be SAD! Mom, you’re a monster!” She says it every time she runs across that strip!

Do you have a personal vision for your artwork?
I did until two bunnies took over. side eyes them  I love working for clients and thought once my kids were both in college (next year!) I would move into full time work, balancing projects for them and working on two original graphic novels of my own whose stories have been outlined for about three years. Those have been postponed because Skip and Pip have demanded their time. They have two books coming out this year. I think it is great to have an idea of where you want to go, but be open to anything and everything so you don’t pass up an opportunity.

You have Skip and Pip, work for authors on covers and fan art, work on school projects. Can you work on different projects at the same time?
Sometimes? While I am great at multi-tasking, once I get started on a project I dig in and I usually like to stay with it until completion. What I have decided is currently working best is to devote different days of the week to different projects. Clients get four days a week, the bunnies two to three. I try to take a day off here and there, but it’s rare. I just like making art so much.

Can you tell us what you are working on now?
Currently open on my desktop is a map and two illustrations for a Roman historical romance. I have one more client project before I take a three month sabbatical to completely devote to Skip and Pip. Their first book (at the 75% completion stage) is a comic compilation for most of the comics that were posted in 2015 and 2016. Amazingly, it seems to be at around 80 pages. Then I dive into their backstory, which will be in graphic novel format. It’s outlined and ready to be drawn and painted. The working title for it will be “How Skip Met Pip: A Bunny Love Story”. I’m shooting to have it out in early Fall 2017.

For anyone who wants to be a digital artist for the LGBTQ-genre, do you have any advice for them?
Fanart is a great way to started and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I did fanart for Josh Lanyon’s “Adrien English Mysteries” and my dear friend Diana Copland badgered me until I finally mailed it to her. I worried it was a creepy thing to do but it is just the opposite. Authors are thrilled when somebody is so touched by the words they write that they feel the compulsion to create for them from sheer love of the stories. Josh offered me a project and it was the beginning of a wonderful career.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be illustrated art; photo art done well works too. If you go that route I’d use stock photos and not known actors/actresses.  I’m not guaranteeing that the first author you gift art to will give you a job (I got VERY lucky there) but I know other artists who have landed jobs this way. Create for the characters that move you. Do it well and show it to the world and people will notice.

Also be sure you have an active online presence. Make acquaintances in the genres you want to work in. Show the art you like to make. One author found me just because they liked the avatar I was using at the time, a red dragon I’d drawn. People pay attention.

~*~

About Catherine Dair

I am a fulltime Mom by day and spend my evenings as my alter egos, a ninja illustrator and a superhero. My children know all about it; both are usually putting in their two cents over my shoulder. It gives me giddy pleasure to make fun art for authors, bloggers and many cool people. In my spare time, I am the creator of the webcomic Skip and Pip (aka the Pride Bunnies). I gave up sleep due to lack of time.
What started out as a hobby quickly turned into something serious (and 1000% fun) when in March 2013 I emailed author Josh Lanyon with some fanart based on her book series The Adrien English Mysteries.  Several emails later a project was born between Josh and myself which would become Stranger Things Have Happened. It was a life changer. (thank you Josh!) Within six months other authors were searching me out for my unique takes on their beloved characters for cover art, trading cards and posters.
This has become my passionate business. Creating an author’s visual take on their worlds is an intense and satifsying feeling.  Yet so is helping those who just need something visual to work with, whether it be a photo based creation or an illustration. I love coming to the rescue and helping anyone who needs something artistically unique and personal. 

It’s all part of the superhero gig.

 

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