Artist Journey: Violet Tobacco
last updated 16 December 2020
Violet Tobacco’s talents have been praised since her school assembly days when her yearbook cover submission was selected to grace the front of the keepsake her classmates would treasure for years to come. The moment her name was announced, the rest was history. Violet’s whimsy and humorous style sets her apart as she begins most days seeking inspiration from her book collection…and a cup of coffee! We had the pleasure of hearing more from Violet about her journey to becoming an illustrator, and we are thrilled to share her story with you. Enjoy!
Have you always been a creative? When did you know you wanted your profession to center around your creativity?
I was a 90’s kid obsessed with animated shows and animals, I loved trying to recreate the style of my favorite shows to draw myself into the stories. Before playing pretend games with my friends, we would spend hours drawing our characters and I had way more fun drawing the characters rather than playing them. I became enthusiastic about pursuing art as a lifelong passion in the 5th grade when my yearbook cover submission won. They announced my name at a school assembly and having my classmates and favorite teacher cheer for me really made me believe in myself.
We understand you have a background in theater! How did your time on stage influence you to start illustrating?
Storytelling on the stage versus the page is not too different but does require a certain shift. How people read stories opposed to how they hear stories has been a major adjustment in my approach to storytelling. My focus when I studied theatre in college was in solo oral performance, where I centered my work on historic narratives. In my storytelling class, we would make tableaus, which was about creating an image with posture and proportional composition to where we stood in relation to each other. I think of that frequently when I need to make a large scene. Lighting, staging, placement, posture, and subtle but powerful details have been transferable skills that have given me a distinct perspective when approaching illustration. I did not start trying to improve my drawing skills until 2014 when my love and interests in theatre were dwindling. Although, with everything theatre had taught me, my skills improved quickly as I retaught myself to draw.
Not only is your profession unique, but your wife is a child / play therapist! How does having this specific expertise at your disposal influence your approach to art and children’s publishing?
The first thing I adored about my wife when I met her was her passion for helping children and protected classes. She has taught me a lot about the resilience of children and how they see the world to cope with loss, manage trauma, and build courage. Our relationship to our work has taught me that I want to be involved in Queer based work for queer children to have material that represents them and makes space for them to accept and cherish who they authentically are in the world.
How has your time with Bright shaped you as an illustrator?
Prior to Bright, my biggest challenge was being my own cheerleader. Encouraging yourself and believing in your skill is something I know every artist has difficulty with at some point, especially when trying to make a career of it. James Burns and Alex Gehringer always have a listening ear and really care about making their artists succeed. Since joining Bright in 2018, I have felt unconditionally supported as an artist and a professional. Most importantly, the projects they have given me have highlighted my skills and challenged me to grow. Bright has shaped me to become a more confident artist and given me a platform to meet other artists and feel a part of a community.
How would you describe your artistic style? Is there a particular subject you enjoy illustrating or a dream project you hope to work on in your career?
When approaching illustration, I want to portray a sense of playfulness, whimsy, and/or power in a moment. The metaphorical “moment before” and “moment after” are crucial when making an illustration have movement and story. I adore working on anything from middle-grade covers, to portraits, to child-lit, so every job feels like a dream project. My heart holds on to the hopes I can work with my biggest inspirations: Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, and/or Daniel Handler. Their stories greatly influenced my artistic style and love of fantastic worlds with poignant characters. I aspire to create my own author/illustrated stories that make the same impact on someone in the same way those writers did to me.
What is your ideal work environment? Do you have any keepsakes that inspire you during a work day?
A fresh cup of iced coffee and good lighting create the perfect work habitat. I work mostly between my standing desk and couch, changing my position and location frequently when I get into a slump. I try not to have much on my desk as I can get distracted too easily. Maintaining a somewhat minimalist set up with calm music allows me to concentrate. For morning inspiration and to kick off the day, after my morning tarot reading, I pick an art book from my bookcase and make a few notes on what inspires me, that keeps me on my toes and gives me a little motivation to do something that maybe I haven’t done before.
What future projects do we have to look forward to from you?
Miss Rita; Mystery Reader with Macmillan is a project that I look forward to being released into the wild in 2021. Monster Science; The Science Behind with Hachette was a 4 part series of spot illustrations that took up most of 2020 to complete and was the most fun I’ve had creating strange and exciting characters. There are a variety of book covers coming out soon that were a pleasure to work on, The Many Meaning of Mailan, The Double Life of Danny Day, The Broken Raven, and more!
We are so thankful for Violet’s time to share more about her Artist Journey with us. Be on the lookout for our monthly blogs highlighting other lovely #BrightArtists.