Sub It Club is thrilled to welcome illustrator Kathryn Ault Noble. With a wealth of experience and tons of talent, Kathryn is going to wow you. Sit back and enjoy!
After a successful career as a Designer/Art Director in the late 70s, Kathryn Ault Noble switched to Illustration in the 90s and was represented by Susan Trimpe in Seattle. In 1995 Kathryn was invited to teach at The Art Institute of Seattle where she worked 14 years primarily in the Animation/Game Arts departments, teaching Digital Painting, Concept Art, and Portfolio/Career Development. Turning towards SCBWI, Kathryn attended the Seattle Regional Conferences where she enjoyed Master Classes and Critiques from New York art directors. Five years of critiques and portfolio tweaking took Kathryn to the 2014 SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles where she won the Portfolio Mentorship Award. The critiques she received from Caldecott Winners as well as New York art directors proved invaluable to the creation of the portfolio she returned with in 2015. Kathryn is currently researching agents who have contacted her (close to 15), as she steps into a SCBWI Network Representative position in Central Illinois.
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
As I work on roughs for potential portfolio illustrations, I get a feeling for which pieces have a consistent and representative “voice”, and would showcase nicely in a postcard format. Sometimes I tweak the proportions during development to make sure not to lose critical information if resizing to fit a postcard, however not at the expense of the actual portfolio image. I often post roughs and process images on Instagram and social media, and the feedback helps inform me in making the decision as to which image has the most appeal.*
*Unbiased feedback– great idea!
Do you prefer text on the front of the postcard with the image or do you prefer all text on the back of the postcard?
I personally like to see only the image on the front side of the postcard, so as to not disrupt the gestalt, composition, and eye flow of an illustration I have most likely spent time establishing. That being said, this year I did include a small copyright notice with my name and date, which does allow the recipient (who hopefully has pinned it to their favorites board) to see my name if they need a reminder. The main contact information is grouped on the back with my current logo. I like the idea of including a small companion image and plan to utilize them for the cards I send out to magazine art directors.
In the past I heard one art director cautioning that without a phone number, he drops the card in the trash immediately. So I hand delivered one to him at a conference with the phone number inked in. If I were to send a set of postcards in perhaps a hand decorated EP, I might consider including my phone number on the cards. But personally I think those times are past when we can drop a postcard in the mail with our phone numbers exposed.
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
To date, no. As I mentioned previously, I tend to pick an image that has received favorable response around social media as I create my annual portfolio. It becomes the “show piece” and I will move color around to keep the entire portfolio within a certain range, much like producing a consistent “Book”, which is what we always called portfolios in the design world. However, I definitely see myself creating specific art especially as I develop a series of images appropriate to educational illustration or magazines.
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I have not sent a series, but I can see that being a interesting approach, especially for a series of sequential images of one character or story idea. Perhaps a bit of a cliff hanger would be a fun approach, much like a page turn. But each one would have to maintain the same quality and excellence, or one bad apple as they say. . .
How often do you send out postcards?
Over the last six years since joining SCBWI, I have attended a conference once or twice a year and use that opportunity to hand deliver a set of postcards to any agents, editors, or art directors I feel my illustrations could be a good match for.
At the summer conference in Los Angeles this year I made a packet of 5-7 matching postcards and hand delivered them to art directors who had seen my portfolio previously or who had conducted a paid critique of my portfolio in the past. My thought was to show improvements I had made based on their comments, and perhaps further cement a relationship that could lead to work. Plus, by hand delivering I was able to attach a button of my social media profile image to the envelope.* Only 50 were created and individually handed out to art directors and illustrators who have supported me in my quest. Currently I have a print run of 50 cards (the one pictured above) which I am planning to use for a first round of a targeted mailing to art directors I have met over the years or have an ongoing social media relationship with. Over the years I have found working with approximately 5 art directors is more than enough to keep me busy!
*Hand delivery is a good alternative to mailing out— an opportunity to connect IRL.
Who do you target with your mailings?
My current mailing will specifically target art directors at the publishing houses who print books similar to my own interests. Most of my work to date is styled more towards trade books for older children, but I have an interest in getting back into children’s educational illustrations again. With that in mind, I have been working on a series of more realistic insects for a starter. And I have been sketching human characters, such as children, that are aimed at a slightly younger audience than my current work, and will be more appropriate to children’s magazines. I will send out a specific mailing when those are ready to debut.
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
Of course a great place to start is the SCBWI list* and I am fortunate to have access to lists compiled by other winners of the Mentorship Award. At this point for my own collecting I am using screen grabs from online sites that list art directors, which are dropped in a digital folder. I keep an eye out for articles and updates listing any of the names in my folder. It is my way of collecting not only names but also covers of books they have art directed, etc. to get more of a feeling as to what they are looking for. And being a visual person, I like to see their image with their name, repeatedly, which helps when at conferences to spot people I am hoping to meet in person.
*SCBWI’s THE BOOK has list of publishers, editors and agents. So helpful!
Do you have any tips on the production process?
I use Photoshop for the digital painting, but use InDesign for laying out the postcards. As for fonts, I used to teach Typography for Media Arts and I have a tendency to use fonts that read well on the screen, even for print jobs. So I prefer the square serifs and sans serifs in combination for readability at smaller sizes. Because I use display or hand-drawn type in combination with my logo, I use very-middle-of-the-road text fonts.
In general when it comes to file sizing, I work at 72 ppi for roughs, but as I move towards tight roughs and into final, I increase the resolution up to 300 ppi at the largest dimensions I expect to use that particular image, usually not larger than 11 x 17. Because my images are digitally painted, I have no need for scanning the final art.
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
All of my postcards have been printed online and I have tested many of the more well known print services. My first cards were printed with Vista Print, after that Overnight Prints, then Moo, and finally PSPrint which I am very satisfied with. PSPrint offers a Velvet Cover on a 15 pt. stock and the color is spot on. A digital run of 50 cards with their frequent 60% off is around $18.00. Stepping up to offset printing, as with most companies, starts at 250 cards which opens another choice, Velvet Cover with Soft-Touch, and the price runs around $138.00 (currently 60% off at $55.00).
The cards feel similar to Moo but at a lower price. Moo is good for being able to print a different image on each card, but other companies are starting to offer that service as well. Also the Moo postcard size is a bit different from the standard sizes offered by other companies so I can’t make a set of random postcards unless they are all from Moo. That worked well this past summer at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles where I hand delivered packets of postcards representing this year’s portfolio. But I had used another printer the year before so the sizes did not match and would have been awkward to include in the same envelope. That is why I switched to PSPrint and will be staying with them.*
*All this info is excellent– readers, take advantage of Kathryn’s experience!
Click on the links below to see more of Kathryn’s beautiful illustrations:
Website and Blog: https://kathrynaultnoble.com
Kidlitartists (SCBWI Mentees blog): http://kidlitartists.blogspot.com/2015/05/design-foundations-part-one-shape.html
Thank you so much, Kathryn for a generous interview full of knowledge, experience and tips.
If you’re joining us for the first time at The Postcard Post, you can catch up with a general article on postcard mailings for illustrators and previous featured illustrators in the archive (there’s a tab above too).
See you next month.