An Interview with Artist and Illustrator Kirsten Sneath
One of the joys of being creative is having a plethora of tools at hand to produce a work of art.
Watercolours, colour pencils, ink, glass, wood and even plastic. Kirsten's creativity comes in many forms, and her wonderful artistry is plain to see, from her exquisitely detailed and beautiful pet and animal portraits.
Not only an artist, Kirsten has a beautifully illustrated children's book.
Her Etsy Shop
Please talk about where you are from and where you live now…
I was born and raised in England but my husband and I moved to Oregon, USA, 13 years ago. We now live on beautiful Bainbridge Island in Washington State with my two children, dog Tinker and Purrcy the cat.
How did you discover art?
I always loved drawing at school. Any project or activity involving drawing or making something would be my favourite, and I would often doodle in my school books. In secondary school, art lessons were where I could really shine. I was always a quiet student but through my art I could show myself more. After High school, I went to University to study illustration, but I really struggled with University life so I left and joined the world of work. I barely drew or painted anything for about 15 years. As soon as my daughter went to school full time I began painting again and now I can’t imagine my life without it.
How would you describe your artwork?
Right now I have so many different styles! My usual, and favourite subjects, are animals painted in acrylic. I love painting pets for people and I have completed many commissions. My portraits are fairly realistic but still clearly a painting. I have just started painting watercolour portraits too. I also create ink and watercolour illustrations, mixed media pieces using beach glass, random bits of plastic and metal on scrap wood.
What inspires you?
I would say nature mostly. Animals, birds, flowers and the sea. I love where we live right now. We have so much wildlife surrounding us. I try to use my own photography as references for my paintings, where possible. I keep a file on my laptop labeled “To Be Painted”, it is getting rather full! I have to say my fellow artist friends on social media inspire me everyday. I have found such an amazing supportive and encouraging group of people and for them I am always grateful.
What do you love most about creating art and is there anything you dislike about the process?
I love how I can lose myself in my art. I am never bored or stuck without something to do anymore. Even if I don’t have a commission I am quite happy creating for myself. I love that I have different ways of being creative. I can be focused and detailed or abstract and fun depending on my mood on that day and depending how much time I have to myself. I’m not sure I have much I dislike, I guess people portraits are something I definitely try to avoid. Cute animals are far more enjoyable to draw and paint!
Why do you enjoy working with mixed media?
I like working with mixed media because I find it very freeing and fun. There is no pressure for perfection and you never know how things will turn out. With all the glass I found on a local beach I like to create images using interesting shapes and textures, usually in the form of an animal or bird. With the plastic pieces, and other bits n bobs, I just like to see how they will appear once melted and then I paint them. These are always very abstract. The plastic and other pieces I try to save from going into landfill and make something interesting out of them.
What media do you enjoy working with most and why?
I love working with acrylics. I really like the details I can achieve and how you can thickly layer acrylic paint to create interesting textures. It’s also great that you can add water and use them like watercolours too.
Speaking about any media that you use, from inspiration to finished artwork, please describe your process…
When I start one of my animal paintings I always sketch straight on the canvas. I very rarely do lots of sketching before a painting. I can always see in my mind how a painting will turn out. I add my base colours then the background colour. Then I will work on the details, usually eyes and noses first followed by the fur.
Since when you started out, how has your artwork changed over the years?
I can see how my pet portraits have improved since I started out about 6 years ago. My paintings are smaller and more detailed. I started out going big, but I soon realised how much time and space they take up. I do a lot more ink and watercolour work now too. They are so fun to create and so much quicker to complete.
How did you approach creating and writing Cutie's Big Adventures?
My book, Cutie’s Big Adventures, began after I painted a little watercolour picture of our dear little guinea pig, Cutie, after she passed away. She was riding on a toy train. My kids and some of my social media friends made some suggestions of what else she could get up to. I started drawing all these ideas and ended up with a whole stack. I knew a little children’s book would be perfect for them. My kids always loved rhyming books so I came up with some text to go with the images. I thought it could be a good book to help children after the loss of a beloved pet. I then self-published on Blurb.com a couple of years ago.
What successes have you had marketing your artwork?
I’m not the most outgoing or confident artist. My commissions usually come from word of mouth or repeat business. I have had a couple of solo shows in Oregon and they went fairly well. I am due to be showing my work in November at a local coffee shop so hopefully that will help get me some exposure. I share my artwork on social media regularly, I have my own website and a new Etsy shop. I also have some of my artwork for sale as prints, t-shirts and many other products on various print on demand sites.
As an artist, what are your long-term goals?
My long term goals are to continue enjoying my creating time and to make more art! I would like to become more confident in my artistic abilities so I can try to display my art more in public and to promote myself more as a pet portrait artist. I really love illustrating and have just completed a commission to illustrate a lovely new book. I am excited to see how it turns out and hope to be able to illustrate more books in the future.