I have found some of the most amazing artists through Instagram. One artist in particular whose drawings I love seeing on my feed each day is illustrator Anne Keenan Higgins. So you can imagine how excited I was, after reaching out to Anne, that she agreed to do an interview to share about her beautifully and oh, so whimsy illustrations.
Anne has illustrated over 100 book covers, including the very popular ‘Shopaholic’ series by Sophie Kinsella. She released the first book that she’s both written and illustrated in April of this year, and if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you’ll definitely want to after reading this interview.
When did you first become interested in being an illustrator?
I had always wanted to be an illustrator, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there. During my time at the Papyrus corporate office in California as an art director, I started working and talking with freelance artists and they opened a whole new world for me and offered me a way to apply my art. It did take me a while to develop a style and get my portfolio together, but in the end, it has been the perfect career for me.
What is a typical day in the life of an illustrator?
I obviously can only speak for myself. A typical day for me always starts with coffee and warm-up sketches. It doesn’t really matter what I draw, but once I get through a few sketches, I feel confident it’ll be a ‘good drawing day’. I will check my email, read some of the New York Times and check my work schedule. Depending on where I am with a job, sometimes my day will be spent doing just computer work, but ideally, it’s a combination of drawing, painting, and the computer. I also try to post something on Instagram every day, which isn’t always easy for me!
When you add color to your sketches, what is your favorite brand of watercolors to use?
About a year ago, my friend, the talented calligrapher and artist Maybelle Imasa brought me back a set of Schmincke Watercolors from Germany. These are lovely paints, kind of pricey, but fantastic to work with. I do occasionally use Winsor and Newton gouache too.
Do you prefer sketching in your studio or when you’re out and about?
Sketching in my studio and when I’m out and about. I carry a sketchbook and pencils with me at all times. I discovered Black Wing pencils a while ago and they changed my life; these pencils are magical.
How do you decide what to sketch next?
If I’m just sketching for fun, I will go through my Pinterest boards, art books, fashion magazines, and/or films.
Where is the most interesting place where you’ve been inspired to start sketching?
One of the most interesting and inspiring places to sketch is on public transportation. I used to live in the Bay Area in California and would occasionally take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) where I would sketch the passengers. Most people don’t even notice, especially women who are completely unaware of their surroundings while applying full make-up. I recently visited New York and sketched a bit in the subway, but it gets so bumpy it was tough to get a decent drawing. Restaurants are now my substitution for public transportation. If we’re sitting at the bar, I love to pull out my sketchbook and draw the bartenders and patrons.
If you need a little inspiration is there a favorite place you like to go to or a song you like to listen to?
One of my favorite places is the Detroit Institute of Arts. It’s a beautiful museum in downtown Detroit and has a Diego Rivera mural that takes my breath away.
You have illustrated over 100 book covers, out of all the covers which one or ones did you have the most fun creating?
I really enjoyed working on the Sophia Kinsella series and my favorite cover is Twenties Girl. There were a lot of sketches for that book and in the end, they went with the very first sketch I presented. That can happen often, but it’s all part of the process when coming up with the all-important book cover.
I also worked on a young reader book series, Starring Jules, by Beth Ain and all four covers turned out just how I envisioned.
What is your favorite part about working on the Taylor Swift line with Papyrus?
When I first started the project, I had to research Taylor Swift and it was charming to see how much she adores her fans. It was a dream project that gave me the opportunity to work with one of my favorite Creative Directors and draw cute clothes, shoes, purses, and girly girls.
The first book that you’ve written and illustrated came out in April of this year. What was your favorite character that you drew for the book?
If I have to choose one character it would be Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), from Funny Face. Edith Head was credited as the costume designer, but Hubert de Givenchy was responsible for some of my favorite dresses. I devoted three spreads to her character in Fictionally Fabulous because there were so many beautiful ensembles. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) from Sex & The City is a close second. I truly loved illustrating all the characters and there were so many I had to leave off the list due to spatial constraints in the book.
If you could meet any of the characters that you’ve illustrated, who would it be?
Well, since you said “characters”, I have a few I would love to meet. Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn) from The Philadelphia Story because she is so entertaining, hilarious and someone I’d want to hang out with. Of course, Carrie Bradshaw because she’s such a girl’s girl and I’d love to see her spectacular shoe collection. And Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) from Rear Window, she’s smart and incredibly charismatic. Her wardrobe is gorgeous and thinks of what you’d learn from her impeccable fashion sense!