Natalie Hoopes is from American Fork, UT and grew up as the oldest of four children. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 2013 with a BFA in Illustration and a minor in English. She’s been married for over two years and currently lives in Utah with her husband and lots of plants. She recently illustrated the children’s book “Book” (written by David W. Miles) and did the cover art and design for Antonio Sacre’s book of short stories “My Name is Cool“.
You recently illustrated the children’s book “Book” – tell us a little bit about that process.
It was actually sort of a lucky break. I did and internship with Familius during my last semester at BYU and was asking them if they needed an illustrator for any future projects. It was mentioned that they had a few picture book manuscripts that might go with my style and “Book” was one of them. I signed a contract and voilà! I used watercolor, acrylic, torn book pages, pens, colored pencil… whatever I thought would work, really. It was a long process to illustrate, and it could certainly be emotionally taxing. Any major project is, especially when you put so much of yourself into it. But actually holding the finished product in my hands made me want to cry (in a good way). Ultimately, it was a very positive experience!
How did you originally get into illustration?
I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort, but I also loved the idea of writing or working with books in some form. Growing up, part of me felt guilty for wanting to do both, as though I were being disloyal to art by wanting to write and vice versa. When I got to college, I sort of stumbled into illustration and found that it appealed to both passions. I love the idea of participating in gallery work as well (and I think people are totally capable of being both artists and writers if they want to be), but I know that my style and personal goals align more closely with traditional illustration.
Do you have a favorite medium you like to use?
I really love watercolor and ink, though I experiment in oil paint from time to time. But I think I’m the most comfortable with watercolor or anything aqueous.
What do you find most challenging about being an illustrator? What’s most rewarding?
Having confidence in my own abilities is probably the most challenging thing for me. There are so many spectacularly talented illustrators out there and it’s very easy to feel inferior, especially when you are a novice like me. I think most artists feel this way at some point, and it’s always worth working through. Those other illustrators had to start somewhere, and I’m just beginning my quest! Working through the insecurity usually leads me to the most rewarding part of what I do, which is making something I can be proud of. Something that feels honest and isn’t too trendy (which can be hard to avoid). It doesn’t happen everyday, and sometimes it’s just a tiny sketch. But those pieces give me enough fire to keep trying. I feel like I’m always chasing those “perfect portfolio pieces”, and it’s great when I actually catch one!
Tell us about some of your favorite projects.
I love writing and illustrating my own stories. It’s something I have to work on outside of my commissioned projects at the moment, but I love being the master of these tiny worlds. I have a few that I’m preparing to send out into the publishing world soon. Hopefully they find a good home!
If you could have lunch with any famous woman – living or dead – who would it be and why?
Flannery O’Connor. I feel like she would be a fascinating person to people-watch with. I would actually love to illustrate an anthology of her short stories. Maybe we would have lunch in this alternate reality to discuss that. Also, what would she order for lunch? Does she like Indian food? Would she be rude to our server? I have so many more questions now.
What do you think inspires you the most?
When I experience a piece of art or a moment that really means something. It could be a song, a movie, a painting, a book, a comic strip, a beautiful scene, the way certain people interact with one another, etc. For example, in 2009 my dad and I went on a road trip to Seattle and I saw that Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. All that detail in his paintings (blades of grass, strands of hair, etc.) was so fine and perfect that it made me almost giddy. I still can’t stop thinking about it sometimes.
What do you love most about being a woman?
I love the connection I can have with other women. My husband is still my number one confidant and my favorite person to spend time with, yet I feel like there is something special about the way I interact with my mother, my sisters, my mother-in-law, some of my closest female friends, etc. I don’t know what it is, but it’s always so easy to get lost in conversation with them. It’s fun to fall into step with one another.
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of illustration?
Writing. I could write for hours if I didn’t have other things to do. I also love reading, gardening, traveling, hiking, eating cheese, sleeping… does sleeping even count as a hobby?