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Illustrator Jaime Zollars is inspired by fairytales and Flemish Painters. Her paintings are a combination of collage and acrylic paint and her clients include Tricycle Press, Clarion Books, United Airlines and The American Red Cross. When Jaime's not painting for commercial clients, she is painting for gallery walls. She currently lives in a Baltimore row house and teaches illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also a board member for ICON6, the Illustration Conference in 2010.

05.05.09

Drawing Unicorns on Trapper Keepers

If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BA in photography from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and a BFA in illustration from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Though I probably spent too much time in school getting two degrees, they complemented each other well. UMBC taught me mostly about concept and Art Center was an amazing place to focus on technique and craft.

Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? I have always been able to draw, but am not sure whether it was natural skill or from lots of practice. I charged my fellow second graders five cents each to draw unicorns on their Trapper Keepers. I knew by then that I could do something that my friends could not, and that encouraged me to keep going at it. Painting was another story; I learned how to use paint in art school. That transition was hard for me.

What was your first paid assignment? Before college it was a library brochure drawing. When I was eleven I made $10 and decided that art was definitely lucrative. After college, it was a three-image story for Scholastic's Storyworks magazine.

Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? That is too difficult for me to answer. I am surrounded by talented friends that I admire greatly and enjoy finding inspiration in all types of illustration. As far as fine artists are concerned, I’ve always had a love of 15th- and 16th-century Flemish painters.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I think I would be an artist’s rep. I actually like the marketing aspects of being an illustrator and there is so much new talent out there that I’d love to pitch to the right client. Or, because I truly love books and would enjoy being a part of the process, I’d like to be an art director or an editor at a publishing house.

From where do your best ideas originate? From a caffeinated mind and lots of tiny little thumbnail drawings.

How do you overcome a creative block? This is boring, but I would have to say through research. I find books and immerse myself in the topic at hand. If a topic is not given to me, like for a gallery show, I will seek inspiration in books, at flea markets, through traveling and by letting my mind wander while on city walks.

In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Charged.

Do you have a personal philosophy? My general personal philosophy is that one should be willing to share every bit of knowledge and experience they have with others who are seeking it. I am not secretive about things, and maintain that community is much better than rivalry and competition.

Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? I took up silkscreen printing a few years ago, and even though it’s illustration in a new medium, it feels completely different to me. It’s like having art back as a hobby. I also love to cook, and find that can be pretty creative too. And I just love constructing mechanical paper toys; I have a paper arts blog full of all kinds of projects I'll never have time to pursue.

What music are you listening to right now? “Right now” as in “these days,” I like Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, The Eels and other such bands. If by “right now” you mean “this second,” I would have to tell you that a CD of Billboard Hits from 1982 is currently playing...so, “Africa” by Toto.

What’s your favorite quote? I don’t think I have one. Perhaps I will get one soon.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? I would say that you should enter the market with the knowledge that you will succeed. It is hard enough to be a freelance artist, and doubt is of no help. Knowing your success is imminent will also encourage you to truly invest in yourself and take creative leaps that fear just might have squashed.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I knew that my job marketing my work was not to get people to like my art, but to show people how they could use it. This  simple realization helped me make the leap from having fans to getting clients.