Naava Katz is an illustrator for brands that create great content and products for families and kids. Her art evokes the tender bond between parent and child, the colorful trends of children’s fashion, and the humorous narratives of modern parenthood.

Naava is not only an incredible artist, but an excellent marketer. Her savvy online marketing skills have allowed her to build a national audience around her illustrations. Naava’s illustrations have been featured on Pottery Barn Kids, Munchkin, Huffington Post, Cool Mom Picks, Ramshackle Glam and Kardashian Kids. Her art is in the private collection of Rachel Zoe, celebrity stylist and fashion designer.

In this interview, Naava gives us an inside look at how she built her illustration business, and shares some of her best marketing tips for illustrators.

 


?Naava Katz Illustration (@naavaonline) • Instagram photos and videos 2016-04-11 10-13-54
When did you know that you wanted to be an illustrator?

I’ve always been an illustrator at heart. I had a long career as a graphic designer and art teacher. But when I became a mother and decided to stay home with my girls, my own art-making passion was reignited. One night my sister introduced me to Instagram and showed me how artists are using social media to get their work out there. I was hooked. I then took Lilla Rogers class, Make Art That Sells, and visited Surtex for the first time. When I entered the Javitz Center and saw it full of artists connecting with top brands, I felt I had found my new direction.

I believe you have to pay attention to the stories in your heart. And my stories have always been about relationships, identity, and love. When I illustrate those themes, especially as it relates to family, I feel my voice is at its most unique.
When did you start focusing on family and children?
My favorite thing to draw has always been people and narratives. I tried to steer myself away from it because I thought, “flowers and foxes sell better”. But that didn’t last long. I believe you have to pay attention to the stories in your heart. And my stories have always been about relationships, identity, and love. When I illustrate those themes, especially as it relates to family, I feel my voice is at its most unique.
My style is at a point where I finally feel like I’m friends with it. It feels like home. The only way I can summarize how that happened is: Practice, practice, practice.
?Naava Katz Illustration (@naavaonline) • Instagram photos and videos 2016-04-11 10-14-18
What inspires your style of illustration?

My style is at a point where I finally feel like I’m friends with it. It feels like home. The only way I can summarize how that happened is: Practice, practice, practice.

I’ve also been inspired by late-night conversations I’ve had with other artist-mom-friends. Here I am, wiping down the highchairs from dinner while the kids are in bed, reflecting with a girlfriend on the phone about what it means to be an artist. Those conversations have had a deep impact on my career goals. And I love that I can do that in my kitchen. It’s an amazing gift to have creative people in your life you can talk to about these abstract topics.

?Naava Katz Illustration (@naavaonline) • Instagram photos and videos 2016-04-11 10-13-40

You have received some amazing media coverage of your work. Can you talk about how some of those opportunities came about? 

A big motivator for me is that I love this part of the process. Strategy. Connecting the dots. It’s genuinely fun for me. I’m fascinated by social media as a creative and community building tool.

Here are some specific strategies I use when sharing art on social media:

  1. Treat every post as though it’s the most important. You never know when you’re going to be featured somewhere, leading hundreds of people directly to your work. Be ready for them.
  2. Use hashtags that evoke the emotion of your art, rather than just the subject matter. It sets the stage for connecting to your audience in a meaningful way.
  3. Learn how to use a filter so that no one knows you’re using a filter.
  4. Tag your work clearly so when it travels through the interweb, it always leads back to you. I use an app called iwatermark on every single image I post.
But the most important:
The best way to get attention to your work is to get featured. Regrams, retweets, reshares. In the bios of big brands on Instagram, they almost always share a hashtag specific to them that you can use to tag your work if you want to be featured. I focused on parenting brands, celebrities with young kids, and art supply brands – all of whom I studied to determine what kind of content they loved.

My first big feature was with Munchkin. I drew an illustration of one of their products, and then wrote a sweet story about how we use them in our home. I tagged it, #munchkinmoments (their hashtag!) and a few days later, I was featured on their feed, and new followers poured in. I knew that those followers would be people who enjoyed content about parenting, since they came from Munchkin, and therefore would be the right fit for me. Big numbers are fun, but it’s really about finding the right audience. And that audience may very well include your next art director.

You need to be able to talk about your work authentically, and you need to discuss edits with a smile on your face. You learn by doing, and it takes time. Keep refining, take advice from others, and trust your gut.
Can you talk about how you work with clients and how you found clients when you first started your business? 
I’ve spent years as a designer and producer in corporate environments, so I’m respectful of my responsibilities in the artist/client relationship. It’s imperative to hone your creative process so you stay on deadline and to deliver more than they expect. You need to be able to talk about your work authentically, and you need to discuss edits with a smile on your face. You learn by doing, and it takes time. Keep refining, take advice from others (webinars are my new best friend), and trust your gut. I always tell my clients to trust their gut, too.

Here’s what’s really amazing, though. Primarily, I’m home with my kids full-time in the suburbs and I’m thrilled about that. But thanks to social media, a few babysitter hours a week and a supportive husband, I’ve made more progress in my art than I ever have.

It’s a whole new world for creative mothers who have big ideas they want to bring in to the world, while still taking care of their kids. Just because you’re at home, that doesn’t mean you’re invisible.

It’s a whole new world for creative mothers who have big ideas they want to bring in to the world, while still taking care of their kids. Just because you’re at home, that doesn’t mean you’re invisible.

 

Milk_Snob

What can we expect from you next?

I just finished a great project with Milk Snob, a terrific company that sells innovative and stylish infant seat covers. I created illustrations of mothers and babies using Milk Snob products. The drawings are now being released on instagram and across all branding and packaging. I’ve redesigned my portfolio to define my niche (children, motherhood and family brands). I decided that in order to get more of the kinds of jobs I want, I need to teach people how they can work with me. So, I started writing my own content and basically hiring myself to illustrate it. I even set up a page that lists specific ways brands can work with me. That’s my years as a teacher coming in to play, and I believe in it: Demonstrate.
What is one big huge goal you have for your illustration career?
My biggest goal is to work with Land of Nod. I have a steady stream of creative projects I’d love to develop with them.

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