A Peek at the Creative Space of Kristin Sorra

Joining us today for Creative Spaces is illustrator Kristin Sorra. Kristin is the illustrator of numerous books including Groundhog Weather School (written by Joan Holub), King o’ the Cats (written by Aaron Shepard), the “Friends with Disabilities” series (My Friend has Down Syndrome, My Friend has Autism, written by Amanda Doering Tourville), and the early reader chapter books Waltur Paints Himself Into a Corner and Waltur Buys a Pig in a Poke (written by Barbara Gregorich).

Her latest book, out in stores this week, is No Dogs Allowed!, written by Linda Ashman. From the publisher:

Welcome to Alberto’s restaurant. . . unless you’re a dog, a cat, a bunny, or ANYTHING with fur, feathers, or scales!

The entertainment escalates in this nearly wordless picture book as more and more people arrive with a surprising selection of pets.  Alberto turns them all away–only to see the crowd discover a friendlier alternative in the festive street. Will Alberto find a way to win them back?

Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Sorra (King o’ the Cats) captures the city’s sophistication, as well as the contrast between the smartly dressed children and their wacky pets. . . . Elegant storytelling fun comes with the extra satisfaction that derives from having to use visual clues to figure out what’s happened.”

To learn more about Kristin Sorra visit her website or her blog. And now let’s take a peek inside her creative space!

Describe your workspace.

I guess you could say it’s pretty eclectic. I’ve been living here for just over a year so I guess you could also say it’s a work in progress! My space takes up half of the large living room area of the apartment which I share with my husband, baby daughter, and our dog. I also occupy an extra room for painting, sewing, and sculpting. I fill my workspaces with illustrations I like, paintings, and fun tchotchkes for inspiration. I keep flat files, some modern mid-century pieces as well as antiques that house my materials. I like the homey, tactile feel of my space. Of course, in the middle of it all are my computers, scanner, and printers.

Describe a typical workday.

I’m a new mom, so my work routine is broken up throughout the day, when I have time to myself. Basically that means I’m up by 6:30 and for most of the morning I’m tending to my 7 month old daughter, having breakfast and checking email until her morning nap at around 9. Depending on how much work I have gotten done the night before, during her first long nap I’ll nap myself or get a good amount of work done. Same goes for her afternoon nap. But the bulk of my work happens in the evening, around 6:30 or 7, when she’s down for the night. I’m lucky she’s an excellent sleeper! During the day I’m outside walking around our quaint little neighborhood doing errands with the dog and baby in tow.

What media do you use and which is your favorite? 

I use Photoshop with a Wacom tablet and pen to illustrate. Sketches are done by hand still, though sometimes I will sketch directly in Photoshop. It’s an amazing program that allows me to do some pretty cool things with my work in a short amount of time, but I have to say I do prefer hand painting. I used to use oils regularly but found it difficult to make short deadlines with it. So I discovered a way to recreate my oil painting in Photoshop. I’ve learned to embrace the digital medium and it’s many advantages, but I do miss getting messy!

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

1) A little sculpted penguin a friend of mine made for me on my birthday in my “likeness”—she has a black ponytail—and my logo on her shirt. My friend is a professional comic artist who taught me how to sculpt. I’m still a novice but he got me hooked. My husband surprised me with it on my birthday one year. It was truly something special and unique.

2) A copy of The Little Prince, a gift from my 6th grade classmates that was given to me after my remission from leukemia (and yes, well, that’s another story which clearly had a happy ending). Inside it’s filled with welcome back greetings from all of them. It reminds me of how strong I can be and how art has always been there for me for comfort, and how I’ve always been encouraged to create by family, friends, and peers alike.

3) My mid-century Goodform industrial work chair, because I have to sit in it sometimes for hours at a time, and while it creaks, it feels substantial and comfy.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

I can’t really say that I do now. If I’m just starting a project or am stuck with a piece, I like to gather inspiration from blogs or books or whatever will help me get the creative juices flowing. For the most part, though, it’s just open up the file and “paint” away. When I painted by hand, I used to have a whole painting prep ritual I enjoyed.

Kristin’s printed work.

 What do you listen to while you work?

Depends on my mood. I’ll listen to talk radio like Howard on Sirius/XM or Alexis and Jennifer and like to laugh or just zone out with a good interview or conversation. Audiobooks are also terrific and so are my trusty iTunes.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Coffee, water, an apple and/or popcorn, coffee.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

A deadline.

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?

I find composing the piece so it’s visually interesting a challenge, and that’s basically the planning stage, the most important stage. I like to distort perspective and try to find interesting shapes in common objects, creating off-kilter compositions. It requires lots of problem solving when doing it well. I find that if the initial sketch composition isn’t working, the final piece will suffer.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

My husband. He’s also an artist and we actually used to share a space when we had a comic book coloring business. Now we pursue very different disciplines but we are each other’s best fan and critic.

What is the best piece of illustrating advice you’ve heard or received?

Two things stand out equally for me. Though I’ll say number one is most important, I think the second is important enough to share.

1) Draw, draw, draw.

2) Never get emotionally attached to your work. It frees you to see it more objectively and to grow creatively. That being said, I like to keep old pieces around that remind me of personal, creative milestones.

7 Responses to “A Peek at the Creative Space of Kristin Sorra”

  1. Linda Ashman

    I loved the peek at your workspace, Kristin. It looks very cozy and creative. Thanks for doing these great interviews, Jenn — it's so fun to see where and how people work!

  2. Jenn (From the Mixed-Up Files)

    Thank you for your comments, everyone! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

    In case anyone is coveting it like I am, I asked Kristin about the wood cubby thing behind her computer and she said it's an old letterpress drawer. Pretty cool! I may borrow that idea for containing my own small doodads and knick-knacks.

  3. KristinS

    Thanks for posting this Jenn and for asking! I'm fond of creative space articles too! Linda, looking forward to yours. 😉