Evoking a blend of whimsy and wisdom, illustrator Gretchen Deahl visits us today, bringing with her some of her monsters, big and small, and other illustrations that reveal the range of her artistry.
We first came upon Gretchen Deahl’s art via her monsters. These monsters, big and small, tall and stout, each with its own personality (grumpy, possessive, insecure maybe) provide us a view of the world a little askance. They, like Gretchen’s other illustrative work, open us to new perspectives. We might see the world from another angle and, in that odd moment, see ourselves reflected in the other, in that strange face that peeks at us from under a leaf or from inside a tea cup.
We might come to know that baby monsters are insecure too and need to lean in and hold onto a parent’s finger. We might, as the artist tells us below, discover patience, compassion and understanding of a wider and more diverse world.
Gretchen Deahl shares with us today some artwork from her portfolio, showing the range of her artistic talent and also the subtle, quirky details that make her illustrations fresh and fun. Meet the monsters from the monster alphabet (did you notice the two fingers adjusting the letter ‘e’?), admire the swirling umbrellas of feathered denizens listening to the calls of Chicken Little and view yourself through the jaws of a crocodile in moonlight!
Gretchen sends us this missive to accompany her art work:
My name is Gretchen K. Deahl and I’m a professional illustrator, living and working in the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside. I’ve created artwork for children’s picture books, hospital publications, real estate advertising, children’s literacy organizations as well as for folks who simply love whimsical artwork and the wondrous world of illustration.
I have been creating some kind of art since I was a small child and too young to know what I was getting myself into. Fortunately, both of my parents appreciated the arts in all of its glorious forms and encouraged me to pursue my passion. My father painted watercolors and my mom worked in clay, so I figure that’s where it all started. I recall spending countless happy hours sitting in a puddle of sunlight, surrounded by piles of books. I would wander through their pages, eagerly searching for fascinating images. Though I was too young to read most of them, the pictures would light up my imagination! Of course, I also devoured any children’s books I could get my hands on. Dr. Suess, Maurice Sendak, an early copy of the original Alice in Wonderland were beloved companions (next to my twin sister and stuffed animals).
Working as an in-house illustrator for several art directors, I’ve had a chance to explore a full range of illustrative styles. One art director would request an illustration of a Summer picnic (with all the trimmings) that resembled a woodcut. Another wanted a drawing in a loose, free-form, painterly style. Yet another would need a precise ink rendering of the human spine, or a detailed pencil drawing of the inside of a microscopic mitochondria. I found some challenging but all great fun, though I highly recommend not doing photo research on heart surgery procedures while trying to eat your lunch. When I wasn’t creating a particular requested drawing style, my own personal style would always emerge. I think personal art styles are kind of inborn, similar to personal signatures or handwriting. Left to my own devices, I simply drew a certain way.
I most always start a piece of work with a simple graphite pencil. This feels most natural and allows me to focus on my ideas without worrying about how they will eventually be rendered. Once an idea is formed or a drawing is complete, I sometimes use digital tools to further expand my range and add enhancements like unusual textures or layering effects.
I am without doubt, an illustration junkie. There are so many amazingly talented artists whose work has touched me in some way, that I hardly know where to begin. Sometimes it’s the actual style of art that grabs my attention. Sometimes it is the brilliant way an artist has expressed an idea so perfectly. I am often inspired by artists whose styles are on the opposite spectrum of my own. From classic painters like Vermeer (whose quality of composition and color, make his paintings glow with light and air) to the oils of Georgia O’Keefe, watercolors of Charles Demuth, and pastel masterpieces of Edward Degas — I am continually humbled by their depth of skill and perception. Lately, I have become mildly obsessed with the works of contemporary artists like Alberto Cerriteño, Vladimir Stankovic and lyrical, whimsical illustrators, like Isabelle Arsenault and Marion Arbona. I find their works overflowing with delicious, often subtle textures, patterns, colors and humor.
I believe that making art is an ongoing and cumulative act of creation. The longer you live and experience the challenges and pleasures life offers, the more knowledge and hopefully wisdom you may acquire. Through wisdom, you gain perspective, compassion and understanding for different cultures, points of view, lifestyle choices, etc. This allows you to truly appreciate and value the vastness, complexity and ultimately the beauty of our shared existence.
Some of the websites where Gretchen’s artwork may be found:
(Illustrations in this post are copyrighted by Gretchen Deahl or as marked on the illustrations. All rights reserved.)