This is part of our ongoing series where we featured inspiring artists and illustrators from the Maker Mentors community. Today we are featuring an interview with Karen Greenberg, a Freelance Illustrator and Professional Designer from New York City.
What is the name of your business? And what do you do?
I’m an illustrator and designer. I don’t have an official or formal name of my business, I just go by Karen Greenberg.
What kind of art do you make? How would you describe your art?
I’d describe much of my work as minimal and mid-century influenced and a mix between
retro and primitive. Much of my work is more layered, combining paint textures with line work and flat color.
When did you start your career as an illustrator? How did you get started?
My illustration career started 20+ years ago, while running my design firm, Greenberg Kingsley. With many clients in the music and entertainment industry, we commissioned a good deal of illustration which planted the seed for me. I’d always been a huge fan of illustration, and started working in cut paper and scratchboard. Intially more for fun, but it soon took over…. As a Designer and Art Director, it wasn’t something I had set out to do early on.
One day, “out of the blue”, a thought popped into my mind to try my hand at illustration and put a small portfolio together to show to a couple of clients for feedback. At the time, I was working with MTV quite a bit and asked the Creative Director, Jeffrey Keaton, if he’d indulge me and have a look at the work. On the day I went to show him my small collection of pieces, he sent me to see Cheri Dorr, the Creative Director at VH1, who gave me a project on the spot – a poster for a James Taylor/ VH1 event. That was my first comissioned piece. Very soon after, I met my first agent, Jill Peterson.
Are you professionally trained or self-taught?
I’m self taught, which in the beginning caused a good bit of insecurity for me. I found myself surrounded by many super talented artists who’d all been to art school. But, I soon came to see that being self taught also meant that I had no pre-conceived ideologies or others paramaters to go by, giving me a clean slate to work from. That being said, there are many things one gets with a formal education that perhaps I’d missed out on. I also realized it was ultimatley about the work and that success was not dependent on schooling.
Where are you currently based?
I currently live in New York City.
How many hours per day or week do you spend creating art? Or how many pieces of art do you create on a weekly basis?
It varies greatly, depending on what projects I have going on, both commissioned and personal. I tend to be a ‘work horse’ but when things are slow, I take advantage of that to re-energize by looking at art and film or getting out into nature, which is a huge inspration and a necessity for me.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration comes from so many places, from nature to architecture, design and all things mid-century as well as Southern Folk Art. I’m very drawn to the primitive child-like aspect of the old Southern artists. But really, it can come from anywhere… You never know where it will come from, something just clicks and you feel it internally on a visceral level.
Can you describe your creative process?
For client work, I first spend a some time thinking about the project, i.e. what the client is looking for and how do I want to appraoch it and how to make everyone happy. I spend a good amount of time doing due diligence, looking for visual references, and information that pertains to the job. Then, it’s the sitting and doing. I don’t do rough pencil sketches… My work is all vector based, so I go right into color and tight sketches.
What project are you most proud of?
It’s so hard to say… On a commercial level, I’m proud of the work I did for the Gevalia Coffee. It lead me into pattern design and stretched some boundaries for me. Early on, I did a 3 part series for Chronicle Books, each with 60 illustrations, cover, and end pages and was completed in 2 months. I’ve always been proud of that accomplishment! In terms of personal work, I’m quite proud of my Animal Alphabet and my Valentine’s Haiku series.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working with Publix Supermarkets on their pet “PAWS” campaign and looking forward to more work with Vogue x Mercedes, Japan in 2018. I’m also getting back to some personal projects including a childrens book and further explorations into surface/textile
Where can people find you on social media?
What is your website?
My website is www.karengreenberg.com