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The Creative Process of Illustrator Jordan Kim

The Creative Process of Illustrator Jordan Kim

Join Guest Blogger Jordan Kim as she discusses her creative process for creating illustrations for I AM THE THIRSTY DESERT.

Children's Book Illustrator Jordan Kim Creates Collages

children's book illustrator jordan kimWhen people see my art, I watch a quizzical look pass over their faces.  This has become a familiar response to my work, as most people say they’re not quite sure what they are looking at.  They can identify the subject matter, of course, but it’s the medium that stumps them.  So, I’m delighted to get to shed some light on my process. 

I almost always start with a spark of an idea – often inspired by nature or a particular project.  I look for reference images online or take photos myself that I study.  Then I start sketching – usually digitally – to solidify my ideas for the subject matter and the rough compositional layout.  Next, I print the key components of my sketches out on paper. 

I often do an underpainting on the printed sketch with acrylic paint to get an idea of the colors and values I want to use.  While that dries, I look through my vast collection of re-purposed papers – comprised of magazines, junk mail, painted papers, packaging materials, old maps, labels, etc.  I select papers and textures that align with the subject matter.  I often look for text or stories that I can use with a related topic.  Then I dive into doing a traditional paper collage over the underpainting. 

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Next, I scan my collaged components into my computer and use Photoshop to digitally assemble the composition.  I have an equally vast digital library of papers and textures that I have created.  So, I often draw from those items to add background layers, words, and textures.  I can also clean up my collages and adjust values where needed.  The final piece is largely a traditional collage, but with added digital components. 

I still do collages that are just a traditional collage with cut paper and glue.  But I love the flexibility that digitizing my collages gives me.  When working on books like “I am the Thirsty Desert,” I was able to easily adapt the artwork to match the layout of the text and make other small adjustments as needed. 

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Jordan Kim' Inspiration

My process was inspired initially by my grandmother, Martha Vinograd.  She was also a collage artist and I have fond memories of exploring her studio as a child.  She would share the rich stories behind all the little scraps of materials she used in her artwork and I was instantly smitten with the process.  I love using repurposed materials and weaving the stories of all these items together in a new way.  They almost always create their own serendipitous magic.  The perfect pattern will emerge or words from an old article will create new meaning in the context of the composition.  I usually feel honored and amazed with what emerges.  I love how the dialog between the viewer and the collage can carry on for some time.  Collectors often tell me that they are still discovering new things in collages they have had in their homes for years.

Collage also appeals to my great passion for nature and environmental conservation.  I am giving materials new life in my artwork, keeping them out of the landfill for now.  As an ecologist, this feels like a small service that I can do for the earth.  And my process connects me more deeply to the natural life cycle of materials and how we engage with them.  I hope it does so for those that enjoy my work as well.   


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These stories are the inspiration for my business name, Found & Rewound.  I find materials and rewind them in my work – giving us both new life and meaning.  You can learn more about me, my art, and inspiration on my website:  Watch a time lapse video of my process below. If it's not visible, CLICK HERE


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About Darcy Pattison

Children’s book author and indie publisher DARCY PATTISON writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction books for children. Five books have received starred PW, Kirkus, or BCCB reviews. Awards include the Irma Black Honor award, five NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books, two Eureka! Nonfiction Honor book, two Junior Library Guild selections, two NCTE Notable Children’s Book in Language Arts, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, an Arkansiana Award, and the Susannah DeBlack Arkansas Children’s History Book
award. She’s the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for Individual Artist for her work in children’s literature. Her books have been translated into ten languages.

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