We had the pleasure of having an Q&A with illustrator Sue Zipkin. She is new to our family of contributors sharing her delightful artwork for our Ram Dass series of greeting cards and the Be Here Now 2016 wall calendar. ~ Amber Lotus
How would you define your signature style?
Playful. Colorful. Sophisticated. Whimsical.
What other designers, music, and books inspire you?
William Morris is one of my faves, along with Gustav Klimt and Designers Guild. I love children’s book illustrations. I’m inspired by my contemporary artist friends and colleagues, too numerous to name. I love handcrafted styles; elegant, intricate patterns; Bohemian-flavored fabric; Indian and Persian motifs; bright colors; and patterns found in nature. I don’t read many books because of my dyslexia, but I enjoy listening to podcasts online while I work.
I am inspired by spiritual teachers such as Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Jack Kornfield, and Pema Chödrön. I have recently discovered wonderful archived podcasts from Sounds True. I enjoy Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. I listen to an online show called Buddha at the Gas Pump. Yup, you heard me right. That’s the name!
My musical tastes are eclectic. I grew up on rock ’n’ roll with bands like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Yes, Jethro Tull, The Kinks. I love David Bowie and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Also adore Motown, blues, big band, and classical. The voices of Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole move me. I love the Beatles because their music is so visual and it transcends time.
Why do you do what you do?
Art is my life’s passion. I am driven to create. I am grateful to be able to earn a living from doing what I love.
How do you work?
It depends. Sometimes I’ll begin with a sketch, create a watercolor painting, and scan it into Photoshop. I then manipulate the artwork by playing with the colors and adding all kinds of fun layers. Sometimes I work in mixed media, incorporating my artwork with textures, ephemera, and special papers I’ve created.
What’s your background?
I started painting and drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon. Being an artist was never a question; it has always been my life energy. I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1983. I set out to be a fantasy illustrator, but soon realized it was difficult to earn a living illustrating imaginary creatures and unknown worlds. I decided commercial art would be a more productive path and held a couple of in-house art jobs as a package designer and then a dinnerware designer. After six years, I began my journey as an independent contractor. Soon after, I began to license my artwork to manufacturers of consumer products. Today, my art appears on such diverse products as dinnerware, greeting cards, fabric, calendars, garden flags, giftware, and more.
What role does the artist have in society?
It depends. Some artists work with the idea of creating awareness for a political or social issue. I am more of a decorative artist. My thought process is: What would the world look like if all plates, fabric, and furniture were white and there were no colorful paintings to dress up one’s home? Artwork brings joy to our everyday surroundings.
If you could travel through time and space and land anywhere you desire, where and when would it be?
What work do you most enjoying doing?
Watercolors, mixed media, and working with ephemera.
What themes do you pursue?
I love nature themes.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
To realize that we are all artists, creating our lives each moment.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Sometimes a person will email me to let me know how much she cherishes a product with my artwork. It’s rewarding to know when my art makes people happy and brightens up their world.
What research do you do?
I’m constantly scoping out retail stores, going to trade shows, observing nature, and discovering imagery on Pinterest.
What superpower would you have and why?
I would like to have the ability to help those who are angry and want to hurt others, the ability to stop wars and create peace. I would love the power to help awaken people to the importance of learning to love one another.
Favorite or most inspirational place?
The Lily Pond at Mohonk Mountain House. And a beach in my recurring dream where I collect treasures from the ocean.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be here now. When I live my life in the moment instead of in the past or the future, I am most at peace with myself and the world.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
To continue to touch people’s hearts with my artwork and earn a living from creating art. To work with fabulous companies.
I have always wanted to work with Amber Lotus, and I now have the opportunity to not only work with them, but to illustrate their new Ram Dass calendar. I am so grateful to be involved with a project involving Ram Dass, an inspiring spiritual teacher and humanitarian whom I have loved and admired for many years. I would like to thank my dear friend, Kathy Alpert, for bringing us all together.
What wouldn’t you do without?
Friends and family, creating art, and coffee.
Visit our website to purchase the Ram Dass greeting cards and the Be Here Now 2016 wall calendar.