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May Artist of the Month

Each month I will interview one of my alumni, to see how they are getting on ‘post boot camp’. This month I met Tarsila Kruse, a super talented and lovely lady, who I remember for her big smile and can-do attitude. Tarsila was a 2010 illustration boot camp student.

When did you first feel like an artist, Tarsila?
I first felt like an artist as a little child – as a matter of fact I used to say that when I grew up I would be either an Artist or a Dentist. Here we are!
Do you have a ‘day job’
Making children’s books and commissions is my job. Many creatives have a “day job” and pursue art as a secondary income stream and that’s very honourable too!
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! In my son’s daily shenanigans, in the things I hear people say, in observing the world around me, listening to podcasts, reading books, watching movies and TV! Inspiration is everywhere; all we have to do is pay close attention.
How do you research if you need reference material e.g. Pinterest, library, personal photos, etc.
I prefer doing “in loco” research, if possible. Live observation is much more interesting as you can obtain not only the physical appearance of something, but the energy from it too. I also use personal photos as reference and the occasional online search.
Do you work from home or in a studio/shared space?
I work in a home studio within our house.
What is that like?
I have allocated a special space to work both on creating and administrative tasks. I find it cosy and inspiring all the same! The downside of working by myself is not sharing thoughts and ideas with other creatives, that’s why I like meeting friends and colleagues on a regular basis to keep my personal and professional life interesting!
Have you ever experienced creative blocks?
Of course! Everyone does! Creative blocks can come from so many sources: overwhelm, fear, tiredness and much more!
If so, how do you deal with them?
I embrace the flow of my creative block. We’re humans and not machines so there’s no point in expecting 100% efficiency at being creative all the time. We all have limited resources of time and energy and it’s important to respect some boundaries so we don’t fall into the burnout trap. To free my mind from a creative block I tend to let go of things – I go for a walk, take my dogs for a long stroll or go to the gym – upon returning I make a plan of action, but the most important thing I find, is to get started on the project without trying to make it perfect. Just get started and get the ball rolling. It truly helps!
Do you ever equate your self-worth with your artistic successes?
Not anymore. Most professionals probably make that connection, because everything we create is inherently connected to who we are, but if you think about it, our creations ARE NOT the full representation of who we are and our self-worth as people. The more success one has professionally can reflect positively on how one sees him or herself but it shouldn’t be a reflection of his or her own self-worth.
Are you a morning lark or a night owl?
Morning lark all the way! Out of bed by 6 and back into it before 10!
Does criticism affect you?
Criticism is an important part of being a creative person. The same way our creations shouldn’t equal to our self-worth, criticism shouldn’t affect too much what one creates. It’s important to listen to constructive criticism to develop and grow – in your craft, relationships and life – and to take fake criticisms (aka hate/envy) with a grain of salt.
If so how do you handle it?
I listen to what people have to say with attention and try to see how I can learn from that experience. People will say what they want to say, so it is up to me to deal with how I receive criticism.
What was your favourite commission to date, if any?
I have many commissions that I love! All of my books have been fantastic experiences, but I have to say that the very first commission I received for a children’s book – Ná Gabh ar Scoil! (Futa Fata, 2015) was the most powerful because it was my entryway into the industry.
Is you work primarily imagination based or observational?
Primarily imagination with observational inspiration!
Do you keep sketchbooks? If so is it daily or now and again?
Yes! Sketchbooks are the regular training of an artist! A sportsperson needs regular training and so does an artist! I work on different medium on a daily basis, I have my “Experimental and bad drawings only” sketchbook and I also work on the iPad to develop ideas and sometimes I just grab pieces of paper and have a go at them!
Do you enjoy location drawing? If so do you have a favourite spot?
Yes! Anywhere, but cafés tend to be my favourite spot since lots of people come and go and I get to see a wide variety of gender, age, dressing styles and hear the most different things!
Do you have a list of favourite pens, pencils paper or art materials? If so what to you love about it/them?
I do not have a list because I love trying new things. I experiment with different pens and sketchbooks all the time. I try to use them up before trying something new and I like mixing and matching pencils and pens and art materials to see what kind of effects I can get from them.
Do you have any ‘tricks’ or habits if you are having trouble with a piece?
When having trouble with a piece I usually take a break from it. Having a cup of tea or taking my dogs for a long walk does the trick of reigniting my creative juices. Also talking to other creatives about a challenge in a piece helps. I have many artist friends whose strength might be in a different area than mine, and if I know they will have an interesting insight on my problem I get in touch to see what they think about it.
What does your inner critic say (if anything)?
My inner critic is one that many carry within themselves. When I start a project things usually evolve like this: It’s a great idea, it will be amazing! Well, it’s not so great. It’s bad, very bad. It’s horrible. What was I thinking?! Hey, actually it’s not so bad. It’s actually kind of good. I really like this! OMG, It’s amazing!
Which artists are you most jealous of, and why?
I’m not jealous of other artists, what I carry is deep respect and admiration for the accomplishment of so many great people and that fuels me! Oliver Jeffers, David Roberts, Sarah McIntyre, Mike Lowery, Shelley Couvillion, Geneviève Godbout, Giovana Medeiros, Paula McGloin…The list is endless! I’m just a big fan of all of them!
Would you throw a piece away (or delete it!) if it was not working, or would you just ‘keep at it’ until you were happy?
I’m happy enough to delete or keep things but I don’t have to be working on them. I keep a lot of roughs and ideas and someday they might develop into something. If not, they’re a great record of my development as an artist and I enjoy seeing how far I’ve come.
What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator?
Little me would be disappointed I’m not going to say dentist! I have taught before and I often run workshops so I believe I would work in education, exercising my own creativity and helping others do the same!

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