We first contacted Liz Wheaton because of her classic engraving-style and nostalgic work, which was perfect for the 2008 CWS Capital Partners Annual Report. Her work includes historic portraits and landscapes done in scratchboard and pen & ink. Liz focused on illustration while growing up in Northern California, graduated with honors from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1980, and then returned to the Bay Area to develop her freelance business.
When you were young, you always knew you wanted to be an artist. What inspired you so early to take a creative direction?
You are right; becoming an artist was inevitable for me. I began drawing and painting as soon as I was able to hold a crayon and never stopped. The choice I had was how to channel my creativity into a career. Illustration was always my first choice. I truly enjoy finding visual solutions for my clients’ needs–I consider myself a problem-solver first and foremost. Beyond that, I love the creative process: interacting with the Designers and Art Directors, researching the assignment, the sketch stages and, finally, seeing the finished piece gradually appear on my drawing table.
Seeing the final piece does bring a feeling of satisfaction to the whole process. What was your process in working on the CWS Capital Partners Annual Report?
Michael originally contacted me about this annual report. I love working on annual reports, by the way, they offer a great mix of conceptual images and very straightforward visuals that all need to relate to one another, which is a great challenge for an illustrator. The report was a good example of this. Michael had a terrific concept of playing off a vintage Boy Scouts Handbook for the annual, emphasizing that CWS was prepared for the changing global marketplace.
We brainstormed how we might present the concepts of guidance, diversity, stewardship and resilience in a visual way for each main section of the annual, along with the cover and a few smaller spot illustrations. That gave me the opportunity to research some old authentic Boy Scout ephemera in order to study the style of the original illustrations from the 30s and 40s, along with the details of uniforms and activities from that time period in Scouting. From there we were able to move to sketches that incorporated the information that I had gleaned from my research.
At the same time, I was working on sketches and finishes for the Executive portraits, and detailed drawings of all the brick-and-mortar properties which CWS manages and which needed to be included in the annual.
Finally, I was able to do the final line art for the Scouting images. Michael was able to take my black-and-white art and add a limited palette of solid colors to the drawings, which enhanced the vintage feel of the entire annual. It is always gratifying to see the final printed piece!
The vintage feel is one of the most fun and alluring elements to the piece. Do you have a personal favorite in the whole book?
I really love how all of the Boy Scouting pieces turned out. I enjoyed researching them, and conceptualizing which images best communicated the themes for each section of the annual. Each of the four chapter head images presented its own challenge, but I was pleased with how each one worked in the final printed book.
And the work looks good. Could you share a sketch with us?
This is one of the sketches for a chapter titled “Resilience”. More line work was added to the figures and background in the finished art, but I think that the sketch shows the energy and gesture that I wanted to capture for the final drawing. It was a fairly simple process to take it to the finished ink drawing from here.
If you couldn’t illustrate anymore, what alternative career would you take on?
Hmmm… fortunately for me, the only thing that will keep me from illustrating is a lack of assignments! That being said, I do have some other interests and paths that I am exploring. I am considering trying some fine art pieces that I have had rolling around in my brain for a while. They will be large watercolor pieces that are more abstract in nature, which is a big departure from my illustration styles, which tend to be small, tight ink drawings. I am looking forward to challenging myself in a new medium and style.
Besides the fine art avenue, I ventured into the antiques market a couple of years ago by opening a web-based retail shop. I now have customers from all over the world and I am having a ball with buying and selling items which I am passionate about and that have piqued my own collecting interests. It is a business that I can see enjoying long into the future.
Well, we hope you stay in the creative field, because we love what you do! Thanks for the help. If you’re interested to checking out Liz’s work, feel free to view wheatonillustrations.com or her portfolio on workbook.com.