Meet The Artist
Learn more about creativity and how to find your own inner artist in this interview with the delightful Michele Beckhardt-Lada, artist, graphic designer, and illustrator of Animooves: Yoga & Creativity Inspired by Animals.
*When did you first become interested in art and design?
I have enjoyed creating art all my life, as far back as I can remember, no matter what the medium. Experimenting, exploring color, materials, and always drawing.
*How has your relationship with animals influenced your work?
I always loved animals from horses to kittens, it didn't matter. During summers in the mountains I enjoyed collecting wild specimens and studying them from salamanders to snakes and turtles. I gravitated towards books about or with animals. My love of drawing animals comes from being exposed at a young age to Beatrix Potter, the author, illustrator, and natural scientist. My mother read to me, "Peter Rabbit", one of Beatrix Potter's beloved books. How I loved that story and it's illustrations with it's sweet outlined images filled with beautifully rendered watercolor. I think that is when I truly fell in love with rabbits and secretly vowed that one day I would have my own companion rabbit. I was also inspired by the "Little Bear" series by Maurice Sendak and "Frog and Toad" by Arnold Lobel. These are all books with outlined images and animal characters. Animals that took on human posturing, drawn beautifully, and always drawn with a tongue and cheek humorous attitude. The animals had a life and world of their own with plenty of antics to get involved in. I too wanted to draw like them and bought or took out from the library books on animals of all kinds to study and draw.
*What advice or activities would you suggest to others to help bring out their creativity and inner artist?
Always carry a small sketchbook with you. Either for jotting down suddenly inspired ideas for present or future projects or for drawing. Draw things that interest you and/or seem difficult. Practice leads to knowledge by creating a portfolio of experiences.
For example, I loved drawing and painting still life. I could set up a desired combination of items and it would stay there until I was done with them. But I had no or little experience drawing people, especially faces aside from my own self portraits. I knew this was something I must try to master. Therefore, I started carrying around a black inked pen and small sketchbook so I could be discrete. I started drawing classmates, teachers, people on buses and subways. People in parks as well as animals, birds and trees. I began to get a grasp on facial expressions and features, amazingly diverse. Body positioning also was important with proper proportioning whether for people or animals. At the beach I would draw sun worshippers and swimmers, an excellent place to study anatomy and get a grip on proportions as well as sea life, gulls and beach plants.
Everywhere I went I would carry my sketchbook and after a while could start drawing images without references in front of me due to the mind’s eye and the experience of drawing images over and over again. Once you have that technical experience at your finger tips you can create and combine whatever your imagination conjures up. It is always a thrill for me to go through the creative process, you never know what you can do until you try to do it.
*Tell us about how you created the illustrations and layout for the Animooves book.
Collaborating on Animooves was an incredible experience. It afforded me the opportunity to work for the first time with my cousin Jackie, a talented writer, yoga teacher, and passionate animal activist. Through her words and descriptions I was able to envision the positions of the animals and human figures. All artwork was done electronically on a Mac. Illustrated in Adobe Illustrator, the book was graphically designed and laid out in Adobe InDesign with photo-manipulation done in Adobe Photoshop. I created the illustrations by creating a specific brush that is oval and angled rather than circular to create a more undulating stroke imitating a calligraphy pen nib and creating more movement and interest in the illustrative line. Each illustration took time to get the right feel and critical positioning of body and limbs very important to doing yoga properly. Drawing the animals was a joy and were incorporated into their named yoga positions as much as possible. My ideal illustration mission was to create accurately posed images with a bit of whimsy.