1. Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.
My name is Sarah Knight. I live just outside of Tecumseh, Michigan. I’ve been drawing my entire life. My mother says I started when I was 2… I guess I just have to believe her on that one. I was always doing artistic things as a child. I was a Brownie, and I was in 4-H, and have all those county fair ribbons to prove it… anyway, I took every art class available in high school. And eventually ended up getting a BFA (concentration: scientific illustration) from the School of Art & Design of the University of Michigan.
2. Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I have a full time job. Is it my dream job? No. Does it pay the bills and provide health insurance? Yes. So, when I’m not driving to or from work, at work, or working on pictures, I’m generally either sleeping or watching television. If you saw what Comcast is charging me, believe me, you’d understand my ability to passively watch television. “Bones”, “Criminal Minds”, “House”, “Leverage”, “The Daily Show”, “The Soup”, and “Supernatural” are some of my favorite shows. Thanks to Hulu I seem to becoming a fan of “Castle”. Otherwise, I occasionally go out and take photos or watch the birds in my backyard, depending on the season. I can also draw and watch tv, or sit in front of the computer working on illustrations while technically still ‘watching’ tv…
3. Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
Well, I usually end up being in the middle of a phase, like I’m drawing a bunch of birds on branches, so I’ll start with bluebirds, and end up drawing juncos, and summer tanagers… I occasionally plan ahead enough that I actually have thumbnails doodled in the back of my sketchbook that I look to for ideas. Otherwise, I just end up drawing whatever I like. A composition may start with just one element (like a bird) or I may actually have a complete composition sketched out. I’m not too particular about a cumulative process vs. something that was completely planned. I’m flexible enough to do either.
Generally, what happens is that I make a sketch. I then scan that into photoshop and edit it so that it’s just black / gray on white. I then convert all the black or gray parts into “non-photo blue” and print that out as a “blue page”. Then I ink the blue page and scan that back into photoshop, where I again edit it until it is just black line on white background. Then I usually make a layer that I use as a generic grab and fill just to delineate portions of the line drawing from other portions. And then I go through and one element at a time fill the entire thing with sections of scans of paintings, objects (like leaves, scarves), digital photos, or photoshop effects.
A lot of the time, my illustrations contain elements that I rendered with colored pencil. Much of the time I will do a sketch, scan that in, and print it out in a very light gray, and just pencil over that. I will then scan in the colored pencil drawing. I then spend some time “cutting” out the colored pencil element from the background, so that I can place just that element in a composition.
When the whole illustration is complete I leave the file as a psd, and also save it as a jpeg which I then print from a template.
4. What led you to start creating your art/craft?
I’ve been drawing since I was two, it’s just what comes naturally. Now, obviously, way back when I was a toddler there was no photoshop or digital cameras. If they disappeared off earth tomorrow, then I would just go back to plain old drawing, but I’m not averse to adapting to technology. That said, I can’t see ever actually making something entirely on the computer with no photos or scans of drawings. For the most part, many of the illustrations I sell as prints were generated for a calendar that I make for my family every year as a Christmas present. So, at the very least I make 12 illustrations a year. When I discovered etsy, I thought it would be cool to sell them as individual prints. So, then I just had to buy an expensive print-quality printer and some quality paper, and voila: prints.
5. How did you decide what medium you wanted to work with?
I’m an illustrator. I mean, you know, I guess I don’t cast bronze, but as far as illustration is concerned: no medium is permanently on or off the table. I use whatever I feel like using to a certain extent. I suppose, I basically always draw something with prismacolors (colored pencils)… but what I’m going to do with that when I scan it onto the computer depends on what I feel like doing. Sometimes I like to combine things with scans of salt on watercolor paintings, sometimes I like to use my scans of abstract acrylic backgrounds, and sometimes I like to use photography… and occasionally, I actually draw the whole thing in prismacolors or use something entirely different.
So, I suppose, if you actually want to talk about what I sell — prints — then it’s a printed image on bristol. I guess I could have ordered some Epson paper or some Kodak paper or whatever, but I like bristol. If it’s good enough for me to draw on, then I see no harm in printing something on it. You know, like if I was selling drawings, then they would probably be rendered on bristol. It’s acid and lignin free paper, and it’s two-ply so it’s thick. My printer is an Epson. I’m a Mac girl, so Epson or Canon products seem to interface well with Apple products. Epson had the wide format printer, so that’s what I chose, and I like their print quality just a bit better than Canon.
6. What aspect of creating your art/craft do you find the most enjoyable?
I suppose I like looking at the finished product the best. Otherwise, a lot of the parts are kind of tedious, as far as editing things on the computer is concerned. So, yeah, the finished product is probably my favorite.
7. If you had to choose one other medium in which to display your “creativity”, what would that be and why?
Probably cooking or writing. I like to daydream, so I’ve always kind of had a soap opera going on in my head. Otherwise, I enjoy cooking. I’m not so much a stickler for recipes as I am for using the recipe as a sort of template that I may add or subtract or ignore large chunks of and do whatever I please. You know, you use the recipe to get the basic idea for how long and at what temperature you need to cook it, but the exact details can be ad-libbed. I make a lot of cheesecakes, fruit & cream pies, stuffing, stroganoff, chicken paprikash, and goulash that way…
8. What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Probably the bag that I had my mother make for me for college. I needed something big enough for a sketchbook & other art stuff. And I picked out the fabric. Obviously, it has been used for quite some time.
9. List five of your favorite books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson
“A Man Without A Country” by Kurt Vonnegut
“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe
“National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America” (probably the book I look at the most)
“Beneath the Wheel” by Herman Hesse
“The Big Lebowski”
“Sleepy Hollow” (the Johnny Depp version)
“One Night at McCools”
“Green is the Color” by Pink Floyd
“Sunshine (That Acid Summer)” by Everclear
“Sara” by Bob Dylan
“Rock Me On The Water” by Jackson Browne
“Crazy on a Ship of Fools” by Robert Plant
favorite musical acts
10. What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I actually just like looking through the art category the most, which I suppose isn’t so much a feature, but it’s what I enjoy doing most frequently. I would like to see the Treasury altered so that every user could make 1 treasury at their leisure. Like that there would be a page designated as the Treasury, and you could just go there any time and make ONE treasury which would last for 48 hours, and then when that one expires or you delete it then you can make another. I think we all have diverse enough tastes & schedules that this would be something more open to more people. I would be more inclined to make treasuries if I could actually make one. The treasury opening is rarely, if ever, convenient to my schedule.
11. How do you organize your business? Such as finances, keeping track of supplies and marketing etc?
Banal as this is: I have an expandable file folder in which all paperwork is kept.
Otherwise, my actual stuff is all over my office / living room. I try to keep my illustration parts in folders. Every couple of weeks I have to pick up a bunch of piles and kind of put things in place. I probably have like 10 pencil sharpeners lying around… Walmart used to sell the greatest pencil sharpeners for back to school. I used to buy those things in bulk… but basically, there are lots of piles of things. There’s a pile of salt on watercolor backgrounds, a pile of acrylic painting backgrounds. I have piles of sketchbooks… stacks of cds (both the kind with music and the ones with my work on PSD files). And otherwise there are shelves, and cabinets, and boxes with piles of stuff in them… and my beloved (and expensive) prismacolor pencils are kept in what is essentially a $2.00 plastic shoe box. There’s probably about $200.00 to $300.00 worth of pencils in that shoebox at any given time.
I also have a monstrous paper cutter. My father rescued it from a dumpster when I was a child. It’s the greatest thing. I cut my paper for prints & drawings on it. And I also make all the boxes that I send my orders in with it (and a ruler & exacto knife). It’s kind of like my de facto desk. If I can’t find something on my actual desk, then it’s usually on the paper cutter.
12. How well is your shop doing? How long has it been open? Number of sales? Number of visits?
Reasonably well. You know, it’s not like I sell milk or bread or something that technically qualifies as an absolute necessity. I sell prints. So, I like to think that the folks who buy my work want to hang it on their walls. While I have a blog and a twitter account, well, I also have a full time job and a pragmatic streak. You know, I don’t sit at the computer all day “promoting” — so I figure that I sell what I sell based on whoever finds my items through the search, google’s shopping feature, or whatever semi-random internet feature I may be fortunate enough to come by.
13. What do you think you’re doing right for getting the sales you have? Or what tips do you have for other Etsy sellers?
I’m not much in the tips department, I admit. I draw / I illustrate solely because I actually thoroughly enjoy doing it. I illustrate because I like illustrating, I did it long before I ever listed anything for sale on the internet. And if the internet disappeared tomorrow, then likely I would still draw. I have absolutely no desire to try to turn the thing that I love doing into just a means to make money. It’s a personal philosophy, and I understand that. I think (within reason) you should do whatever you feel is appropriate as input for whatever you expect to get as an output. So, I suppose if “working for the man” is just not in your outlook, then by all means buy ads for your shop, twitter, blog, etc. Although, if you do twitter, take the time to actually say something instead of just tweeting links to your etsy listings 24 hours a day, likewise with blogs.
14. How do you promote your work, on and off-line?
Business cards are my beginning and end, other than the twitter account or the blog.
15. In ten years I’d like to be…
Happy doing whatever I’m doing.
16. Where else on the net can we find you and your goods? Twitter, blog, Flikr account, any others?
http://www.etsy.com/shop/sarahknight (my other etsy shop)