A visit with Kate Leiper

I've made a new friend here in Scotland - Kate Leiper. I've wanted to get to know Kate ever since I first saw her work in
Both are classics here in Scotland published by Floris Books. Kate's work is in the class of the greats who first made me want to illustrate picture books, like Garth Williams, Chris Van Allsburg, Paul O. Zelinsky, and David Wiesner. Of course, seeing her work in person took my admiration to a whole new level.
     I recently popped down to Summerhall to meet up with Kate at her studio and then go have lunch. Summerhall is a series of buildings filled with artist studios in Newington (the southeast side of Edinburgh).

Photo from website.
Summerhall is a maze with a cafe, a gift shop, exhibit space, and pop-up bars in the courtyard. It even hosts a local distillery (Pickerings Gin), so it doubles as a venue during Fringe. But for the rest of the year it is a hot spot of creativity, artists of all sorts hang out and work with their dogs, coming and going at all hours, exchanging skills, walking said dogs, and generally communing. If it ever makes sense for me to have space there, I will be all over it!
     Kate's studio is not terribly big, but provides all the space she needs. In it, she has two flat files and all her supplies.
     One of the first things I noticed upon entering was an enormous piece of an angel dog. It's on its way to a new owner, temporarily residing in its original home.
     Remember all those dogs I mentioned? Well, Kate adores dogs, and she can capture them like nobody I know. (See her website for more!) Kate pulled open some of the flat files to show me her latest project that features dogs . Needless to say, I was blown away. Her most recent project is a series of tributes to the classic female black blues singers from America. For instance, here's the tribute to Bessie Smith. The image is full of details about Bessie's life and represents one of her songs. Can you guess which one?
Here's Big Mama Thornton's Hound Dog. (Click here to hear the original, best version of the song.)
And another tribute to Billy Holiday.
     The images are enormous, a good 3'x3'. She uses textile dye to stain her paper, which creates amazingly vibrant backgrounds.
     She'll also sometimes use watercolor as her base layer. Then she builds up her pieces with pastel pencils.
     As she's working, she seals her work with aerosol hairspray (cheaper than Spray Fixative and it does the same thing). Although she says she doesn't spray after she gets all those delicate dog hairs down as it would make them fuzzy.
     Kate says she's only about half way through this project and probably needs to put another year into it. It's going to be so extremely impressive when its done!
     In the mean time, she's working on a third collection like the two books above for Floris Books. I can't share the images from that, but I can tell you, I can't wait to see it published!
     I'm so glad to have Kate in my life as I love surrounding myself with talented and inspiring people - she is one in spades. Learn more about Kate and her work at her website.

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