Monday, August 31, 2015

STUDIO SPACE: Linda Howard Bittner

Originally from north-west New Jersey, Linda Howard Bittner now resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Linda is a graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration. She currently runs her own studio-Wild Graphics Studio and has maintained a full-time freelance career since 1992.  Linda has created art for children’s publications, books, games, toys, novelties, giftware, cards, advertising and editorial work, as well as exhibit designs and illustrations for zoos, aquariums and museums. Her clients have included: National Geographic Books, Golden Books, American Greetings, Hallmark, Bass Pro Shops, Playskool, Scholastic, Harcourt, National Arbor Day Foundation, John James Audubon Museum and Nature Center, the Wildlife Research Institute, Oxford University Press, International Playthings, Petland, Hartz Mountain Pet Supply, AAA magazine, Outdoor America magazine, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, the Cincinnati   Nature Center, The Aullwood Audubon Nature Center and the Hamilton County Parks.


Location: Mount Healthy, Ohio-suburb of Cincinnati 
On the Drawing Table: Illustrations for a field guide of the resident flora and fauna for the Zulu Nyala Game Reserve  in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa

Coming out soon: “Frankie’s Tail”-a children’s book about a rescue dog’s adventures


How did you get your start as a professional artist?
I started freelancing while in college but my first full-time position as an illustrator was at Gibson Greetings, Inc. I was hired right out of school and worked as an illustrator and designer for cards, party papers and calendar art. I quit after 2.5 years to go work at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, taking a substantial cut in pay, but it was a dream job for me. I worked as an exhibit fabricator, scientific illustrator and muralist. Since the pay was slight, I continued to freelance on the side and eventually quit the zoo to run my own studio and have been a full-time freelancer ever since.

Describe your work.
I enjoy both whimsical and realistic illustration. The majority of my work is animal and nature related for children’s markets and a wide range of publishing and product design. I have a passion for education and conservation, especially when I can help engage and inspire kids. I work primarily in acrylics, either on paper in thinner layers like watercolors or on board. I am unusual as an artist, in that I have a wide range of styles from cute and whimsical for children’s books, games and puzzles to pure-scientifically correct illustrations for field guides and interpretive signage for museums, parks and zoos.

Tell about your work space.
Unfortunately,  I’m still in a basement studio but it serves the purpose. My dream studio would be in a refurbished barn with lots of light and space and a beautiful view. I work mostly at my drafting table for illustrating and sometimes on an easel for larger paintings. I work digitally on a desktop PC in the studio but plan to start working on a laptop so I can change positions more often and be able to work on the go.

What are your favorite materials digital and traditional?
I used to do all of my work traditionally but the markets have changed, placing more responsibility on the artists to do pre-press scanning, color correction and file transfers. With this in mind, I went back to school online and earned a digital design degree to stay competitive. Embracing my new skills, I started combining hand painted work (and traditional mixed media) with digital enhancements to create my current illustration process. I’m also a fine artist, painting mostly in acrylics and watercolor and am a professional photographer as well.

What’s your typical workday/work session like?
In 2013, I started another business called Wild Art Safaris, LLC -guiding wildlife expeditions for artists, photographers and nature enthusiasts. Between this and my other artistic disciplines, I have to divide my time carefully to keep it all going. My typical workday is a combination of office work, meetings, illustration/art time and research. I like variety in everything I do, so working on different art projects for many different markets keeps me engaged and enjoying my work.  

Linda leaning out of the vehicle-taking photos in South Africa
What do you do to keep yourself motivated as you work?
I stay motivated because I keep on the move and like to experience new things, all of which translates into my work. I am part of many conservation groups and projects which are also  inspiring and a lot of my travels lead to additional work contracts.

What is your dream job?
Any job that allows me to create works that inspire and educate the public about wildlife and conservation…and if I can get paid to travel at the same time...all the better! I have also written multiple children’s books that I hope to publish at some point in my career.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes, I keep sketchbooks and journals-although I tend to grab my camera first-all too often!

What do you listen to while you work? 
As with everything in my life, I enjoy variety in the music I listen to while working. It all depends on the mood I’m in. I don’t like talk radio or any commercials-too distracting and annoying.          I usually listen to my preset stations on Pandora…mostly big band, jazz, classic country or classic rock…and sometimes world rhythms. 

What are you reading/listening to on Audible?
I’m not a big reader, never was. I regret it sometimes but I didn’t have the patience for it. I always wanted to illustrate or look at other people’s illustrations. “I like captions!”

Who are your artistic influences?
Early influences for me were N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Mark English and John James Audubon. I enjoy a wide scope of art and illustrationvisiting museums a lot as a kid and even training as a comic book illustrator at one point. My more current influences for illustration are John D. Dawson, James Gurney, Maurice Pledger, Mark Teague, Susan Jeffers and Jan Brett. I have other fine artists that I relish as well. One of the biggest influences on me as a kid was the American Museum of Natural History “my Mecca” as it were. This was a place that combined art, sculpting, dioramas, animals/taxidermy, history, murals and so much more! It opened my eyes to the opportunities for artists to travel around the world, see wild places and learn about new cultures, then come back and be able to create something fantastic to share with the public...WOW!  That stuck with me.

Sketching at the Newport Aquarium
What do you do that is not art related that inspires you?
When I’m not leading tours and going on adventures, I enjoy time with my family and experiencing nature and the outdoors with them. My daughter also keeps me going.  She loves nature and art too. We often sketch and paint together.  

What was the best advice you got in your career so far?
Continue learning throughout your career-try new techniques, break out of your comfort zone every once and a while. Try something large if you work small or cartoonish if you work realistically-it gets you thinking in different ways. Personally, I highly encourage everyone to participate in professional workshops and online specialty training to expand their range and learn trade tips. Also, break out of your studio and get together with other illustrators and artists to stay informed and inspired.

What is your favorite color? 
I guess I have to "Go Green" as a conservationist!

How can we best follow your art online/on social media?
You can follow my art and travel opportunities on my websites Wild Art Safaris, LLC, Linda Howard Bittner (Wild Graphics Studio) and several portfolio sites Children’s Illustrators , The Directory of Illustration and Masterworks for Nature. I plan to post more often on the Illustrator’s Blog as well and can be found on Face Book and Linked In (just not fanatically-ha ha)