Category: Illustration

Jake Parker: Mr. Jake Parker


Jake Parker is an incredibly talented and prolific artist. His art empire stretches across numerous projects and social media. In 2009 Parker started Inktober, a popular annual celebration of ink drawing during the month of October that spawns hundreds of thousands of images each year. His YouTube channel and online art lessons are also very popular. His newest book is called Little Bot and Sparrow (above). Last year he launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called Skyheart (below). Parker was profiled previously on The Krakens for his Fan Art. He lives and works in Utah.


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You are involved in so many different projects, what does a typical day look like? This is something that I’ve worked on for years and years and years, and I’ve gone through periods of time where I’ve wasted a lot of time and I’ve been really ineffective with my hours in the day. That’s frustrated me to no end. I feel like it’s kind of…I don’t want to say a sin, but it’s a transgression to the time that you’re given to waste it and to not be productive with it. I’ve been trying really hard to not waste time and to spend every hour of my day on something productive. Something that’s going to get me closer to accomplishing my goals.

In order to make my days more effective here’s what I do. I usually start my day around 9:00 a.m. That’s my workday, I actually get up about 6:00 every day. For three hours I make breakfast, and help the kids, and clean the house, and just kind of get that part of my life squared away and help my wife get her day set up. I’ll spend the first 15-20 minutes either reading my scriptures or reading a book about my craft, whether it’s a book on illustration or a book on being creative or something like that. Those two things combined really get my mindset in a place where I’m trying to put my work towards something. Trying to put my work towards, really a higher elevation of ability and creativity, and trying to chip away at these goals that I’ve set for myself.

Once I’ve done that, I’ll sit down and make a To-Do list for the day. Spend about five minutes just prioritizing and figuring out what actually needs to happen and get done this day. That’s been good for me, to just keep track of what my day is actually spent doing. I can look at the end of the day and see that list that’s checked off and realize “Okay, I actually did accomplish something.” That To-Do list is key. Once that’s done then I get started. I usually spend my morning hours doing creative stuff and then my afternoon will be spent doing more administrative stuff. It’s really because I feel more creative in the mornings, in the afternoons I can get interruptions and things like that. When I’m being interrupted it’s easier to just be answering emails, and handling making PDFs of stuff to send to clients, and doing phone calls, and things like that. That’s typically how my day is divided up. I’ll try to devote, in a week I’ll say “Monday is to this project. Tuesday is for this project. Wednesday is back on my first project. Thursday, half day I’ll spend doing this, the last half of the day I’ll spend doing that.” I try to give a big chunk of time to whatever project I’m working on.

You are the most savvy, social media artist I know. What do you like or dislike about the new communication channels? I enjoy Instagram a lot because it’s very much based on visual communication. You can say a lot with pictures and I like that it’s contained in the phone and there’s not very much linking going on to other websites or to other things. It’s very pure, and it’s very…I guess I don’t want to say it’s very pure, it’s more pure than other because it’s all about creativity and “Look at this thing that I’ve seen, or this thing that I’m doing, or this thing that I’ve created.” It’s about sharing that instead of sharing links to other websites “Look at this and here’s what they’re talking about.” That’s what I oftentimes find is a problem with Facebook. I like Facebook in the fact that it’s great in having conversations with people. Twitter is really good for that as well, although I don’t have time to do as much conversation stuff on Twitter. Lately, probably my social media outlet of choice is YouTube. Just because I’m able to share so much of myself and my thoughts, and the community on there is very open minded and thoughtful. There’s lots of back and forth in the comments and stuff, and so I enjoy that. The thing I dislike is, again with Instagram, there’s a lot of people on there with short attention spans. That’s probably something that’s across the board with all of these things is the short attention spans. It’s really hard to grab people’s attention and to share stuff.

For two months straight I was talking about SkyHeart, which was my Kickstarter. For one month, all through Inktober, I did a drawing every day “Here’s this book I’m working on. This is my graphic novel. SkyHeart, SkyHeart, SkyHeart.” Every day. I was like “Man, I’m probably annoying these people always talking about SkyHeart, and then my little Kickstarter.” It was all “Go back to my Kickstarter. Go check out SkyHeart. Go check it out.” At the end of it, one of the last days of the Kickstarter, someone posted and said “Oh, what is this? You should make a book of this.” It made me realize, people aren’t on social media all the time, and when they are on it they’re whizzing through, looking at it, and you can’t expect that everything you do is going to be seen by everybody. I realized that to break through people’s short attention spans you really have to be…You either have to be super unique with what you’re doing, have some kind of imagery that just stops people in their tracks, or just count on your stuff not being seen by everybody all the time.

Visit Jake Parker’s website.

Follow Jake Parker on Instagram.


Scott Franson: Doodle-a-Day


Scott Franson teaches at Brigham Young University-Idaho and has a compelling project Doodle-a-Day. He received a BFA  from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California and an MFA in Graphic Design from Utah State University. His resume includes references to work as “a Chewbacca costumed character, a doughnut shop attendant, and a pineapple picker.” Franson lives with his family in Idaho.


Tell us about your evolution as an artist. Making has always been a part of my life. In kindergarten I can remember how difficult it was to learn but there was never any problem when it came to art projects. There is a part of my spirit that must create. At times in my life when I have found myself in depression or frustration I always assess what I am doing creatively. Quite often it is the missing piece. I think in ideas, not images. I discovered this after a hospital stay with a bad medication reaction. I hallucinated for nearly a week. The first three days I was completely crazy, but the rest of the week I knew I was hallucinating but consciously in control. I could see anything I wanted vividly and in perfect focus. That is what I now consider visual thinking. I watched television programs that have never been made and sculpted in the air above my bed. After this experience I discovered that I need to physically see what I am creating in order to know what the next step is. I think in a mixture of process and visual assessment. I make something and then respond. It makes the actual process more significant and enjoyably. It gives me permission to just explore.

You are currently a professor at BYUI. Tell us about your experiences working in that environment. Teaching at BYUI is my dream job. There is a satisfaction and energy that comes from observing students as they make progress towards their goal of being an artist. In order to be the best teacher I can be I try to remain in a state of learning. Because of the responsibilities and limited time available for me to create I engage in small projects that can be completed within a short period of time. The challenges and failures remind me what it is like to be a student. Each student in my class has the ability to become better over the course of a semester. It doesn’t take a lot of digging to discover their hopes, dreams and concerns about the future. They are each children of God and their dreams are as important to them as mine are to me. Helping each of them become just a little bit better is my goal. Each small improvement adds up. Polishing students is not my goal. My goal is to help them help them get a good push start into their life as an artist and person.

Talk about your Doodle-a-Day project. Spending 10 to 30 minutes a day creating a small sketch isn’t significant on its own but over time the sketches add up. I find the process more entertaining for myself when I don’t plan too much. I hardly ever have any idea what the image will be when I begin sketching. I make a few lines, sit back, and look at what it resembles. It is kind of like looking for images in the clouds. There is however an underlying goal for the sketches. I am looking for my next picture book. My first book, Un-Brella, came out many years ago and I still find it to be one of the most satisfying projects I have worked on. After all these years it is still in libraries all over the world. The one rule that I have for the doodles is that the drawing needs to be a character. I am looking for the character for another book. I call them doodles because the come out naturally without stress. They are a meditation. Each is satisfying and non threatening because they only take 15 minutes. If a drawing is a dud no one takes it too seriously and just maybe it will act as contrast and make another drawing look better.

What do you think of Mormon art these days? The point of view that is most satisfying to me is art made by people who happen to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormon. I have never personally had a yearning to make art that was overtly religious in content. The idea of depicting Jesus Christ is an overwhelming concept. There have been a few of the doodles that have crossed the line into religious imagery. Walking on Water is my favorite (top). Looking through this broader lens there are many LDS creators making music, literature, images, sculpture, music, and film, to name a few. Just over a year ago I went to an invitational conference for LDS artists. It was two inspiring days discussing the state of our craft and sharing with each other. On the first night we spent several hours sharing some of the current projects we were working on. The artists amazed me and I was honored to be among them. There are artists in all areas of creative disciplines that just happen to be LDS.

What’s next for you? I am in the preliminary steps of a project to collaborate with a small group of BYU-Idaho students. We will be exploring the creation processes based on modular systems. This fall we will be meeting each week to document and share our creations and disasters. The goal is to discover and teach each other from our experiences. The paper folding and repeating patterns are some of the preliminary work on my part. The topic is open-ended and can be interpreted in the broadest way. Who knows how it will turn out? Not knowing is the best part.

Visit Scott Franson’s website.

Follow Scott Franson on Instagram.


Brooke Smart: Bringing Up Baby

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Brooke Smart is a talented Utah-based illustrator with an enchanting new series called Bringing Up Baby. She also creates fascinating custom portraits of individuals, couples, and families and was previously profiled on The Krakens. Smart graduated in 2007 from BYU in Illustration. She lives in Utah.

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Tell us about your new series Bringing Up Baby. My series focuses on my day-to-day life right now with my three-year-old daughter. I’m doing it as a 100-day project (one black monochromatic watercolor painting each day) and am one third of the way through. I’ve wanted to chronicle this particular time in our lives because it feels like such a brief moment; a moment that I want to always remember and that my daughter will love looking back on. It’s my version of a journal. So many tiny things happen in our days right now, some hilarious, some heartwarming, some sad, and some that are completely unique to our relationship and us. For me, it started out as just that: painting scenes and stories that I thought were completely us and no one else, but I’ve found out, through comments on my series, that a lot of my story is actually a universal one. I love that. I love feeling connected to other mothers in that way.

Do you find this project a challenge, a job, a pleasure? I do one painting a day, which often seems like a lot, coupled with my other freelance work, but I so look forward to painting it each day. This series has so much meaning to me personally and so far has taught me so much about who I am as a mother and who I want to be. And in an artistic sense, working this quickly, with such a strict deadline each day, has taught me how to trust myself so much more, how to work within very limited boundaries, and how to very simply tell a story.

Visit Brooke Smart’s website.

Follow Brooke Smart on Instagram.


Photo by Christine Comstock.

Rebecca Sorge: Full of Empty


Rebecca Sorge is a storyteller and illustrator with a new book out called Full of EmptyShe studied illustration at BYU and currently works as a free-lance illustrator. Sorge lives in Utah.

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Tell us about your evolution as an artist. My work has always been about telling stories; even way back when me and my siblings were drawing little monsters and making up the worlds they lived in. Studying in the BFA program at BYU taught me a whole bunch of new skills to help tell those stories more effectively and interestingly. Since graduating and working as a freelance artist, I’ve seen that the learning process really doesn’t end. I’m grateful for opportunities to keep learning from other artists and applying new ideas and technical skills to new projects. Trying to get the work I’m making now to match what I see in my mind has really spurred a lot of improvement over the last few years. I still feel like I have a lot to learn as an artist and am excited to keep pushing forward.

You once wrote, “Making the jump from being a student to a professional was both terrifying and exciting.” What do you wish you would have known when you graduated? Great question! I feel like I wish I’d known more about the business side of things – how to promote myself, how to negotiate, and how to establish expectations when working with clients. So much of making it as a freelancer is being able to communicate well. As a freelance artist you want to balance being easy to work with, exceeding clients expectations, and being compensated fairly for your work. Since graduating I’ve learned the importance of managing the business side of things so that the fun part stays fun and sustainable. I love creating work and illustrating for a living and am so excited to be able to do this full time.

At one point you were an English major and your work has such a narrative quality. How do you approach new projects? It really depends on the project, but one thing I like to do for all of them is think about how the artwork can not only help tell the story but add something to it. Ideally an illustration will work on multiple levels and give the source material greater depth. Good literature has purpose behind every word and good narrative illustration should have purpose in each aspect as well. It’s also fun to try and leave ‘Easter eggs’ for people who take the time to really look at the piece – little mini stories happening within the larger ones.

What’s next for you? More illustrating! Right now I’m working on some children’s books that will be coming out this fall – The Everything Princess Book and a Christmas story called Spider’s Gift. I’m also looking forward to a little extra time for personal projects. I’ve got some ideas I’d like to play with!

Visit Rebecca Sorge’s website.

Follow Rebecca Sorge on Instagram.


Kayela Larsen: Room for Open Interpretation


Kayela Larsen is an illustrator with a bright, fun style who writes, “I guess the best way to sum myself up is that I like to create things. Almost anything.” Larsen lives in Utah.

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Tell us about your evolution as an artist. I’ve loved to draw as long as I can remember. In fact, I can’t recall ever wanting to be anything but an artist. Animation definitely had a huge impact on me. I believe my initial interest in art developed from seeing films like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. I was amazed that something like that could be created from drawings and I knew that was what I wanted to do! I started drawing all the time. Fortunately for me, my siblings and many of my cousins were really into art as well. I’ve always felt very lucky for that. How many kids can say they grew up with their own team of animators? Whenever we would get together we would plan out story-lines and make up characters for films that we planned to make some time in the future… once we figured out how animated films were made of course. After I started college, my time became more and more limited and art slowly got moved to the back burner. When I got married and had kids I nearly stopped completely. Not intentionally, life just got really busy and time slowly slipped away before I even realized it. I remember sitting up at the kitchen table one night after a particularly rough day. The kids were all asleep and I was alone with my thoughts. Being a new parent had led me to a massive identity crisis. I always thought that “figuring out who you are” was something that you did when you were a teenager, but here I was, a full grown adult and I had no idea who I was anymore. Parenthood brings out a different side of you, in many ways for the better. While I’m incredibly grateful for that, it was still a really hard transition. I felt like a stranger to myself. This new role had turned me into a person that I didn’t even recognize, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

That night I pulled out a sketch pad and paper. I decided I needed to engage myself in something that made me feel the most like me. Drawing seemed like the perfect antidote. Unfortunately my experience was not as healing as I had hoped. My sketches turned out horrible… and the process wasn’t as relaxing or therapeutic as I remember. I felt awkward even holding the pencil and tragically, my drawing reflected that. I realized it had been years since the last time I had sketched and consequently it seemed that I had forgotten how to draw. Staring at my ugly attempt of a portrait, I decided that “artist” was one part of my identity that I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet. I guess that was the wake-up call I needed because I immediately got to work. I spent the next few years attempting to re-build my skills and get to a place that I felt comfortable enough that maybe I could do something with my art. Ultimately I still intend to follow my childhood dream of being involved in film, but I imagine that will probably be several years down the road. I still have a lot to learn and the market is saturated with incredibly talented artist. So in the meantime, I’m trying to find other means to tell stories with my art and continue to develop my skills. Hopefully through things like children’s books or magazine illustrations.

You like to create. And you have wonderful characters. How do you approach new projects? Usually when I start a drawing I begin by identifying what I want to say to the audience. Sometimes it’s a well thought-out story or a joke, but sometimes it’s just a feeling… like portraying someone beaming with happiness, or determined to get something done. Once I know what I want to say I just dive-in and start working through all the problems. I’m still very much in the amateur phase of my craft so it doesn’t always come out as strong as I would like, but I if I stay focused on that original idea, I usually end up satisfied with how it turns out. It’s very important to me that my artwork communicates well. I like to know how the audience is going to respond. Maybe I’m a little controlling that way? I try not to leave a lot of room for open interpretation. I want them to understand the character the way I understand the character. It’s my way of communicating with the audience. I’ve never been very good at expressing myself verbally, I was always the socially awkward, shy kid. Well, truth be told… I still am. I suppose I try to compensate for my lack of verbal communication by having strong visual communication.

How does your art shape your spirituality? Art and spirituality are two aspects of my life that are constantly intertwining. I could write a novel on the topic… seriously! But for your sake, I won’t do it here. One thing that always comes to mind is the creation. When I read about the process of God creating the world, it feels so much like the creative process we all experience when creating something. Finding those similarities brings that part of the scriptures to life for me. It suddenly feels less like some crazy abstract idea, and more like something very relatable and familiar. It’s very grounding. I read your interview with Rose Datoc Dall, and I can relate to her experience on so many levels. I started out with a strategic decision to avoid religious references or even focusing too much on motherhood and children. Even though those things were import to me, I felt like it could be very limiting. I mean, I’m a stereotypical stay-at-home, Mormon mom, ha-ha! Who wants to hear about that? But I found that once I removed those things from my art, I had nothing left to create. As unexciting as my life may be, it’s who I am. My beliefs and my family fuel everything that I do. It’s the deepest, rawest, and fullest part of me. When I try to filter those things out, I lose the sincerity in my work, and I believe people can sense that.

Visit Kayela Larsen’s website.

Follow Kayela Larsen on Instagram.