image: Stephanie Passantino
I recently reviewedA Woman's Guide to the Wild and it instantly became my favorite outdoor book. One of the best parts of the book are the amazing illustrations by Teresa Grasseschi. When I realized we both live in Seattle I reached out and asked if I could interview her for the CloudLine Blog.
We were super excited when Teresa offered to turn our hiking socks into art!
I have worn glasses since the age of seven, refusing to ever convert to contacts. I drink tea over coffee, but will accept either when under a deadline. I love to collect old objects and outdated magazines from the 50s and 60s. I work best in an organized, clean space. I start my day by putting away yesterday’s clutter and watering my hoard of studio plants. I run cold and am constantly in wool socks and wrapped in blankets while working. I love sweets a bit too much and will work to reward myself with Coyle’s Bakeshop’s millionaires shortbread.
I was sure I wanted to make a living as an artist from a very young age. I remember at five or six being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and answering without hesitation that I would become an artist- and if that didn’t work out, a zookeeper. I have always sort of foraged my own path, damn the torpedos.
But I think the moment that I decided I wanted to work as an illustrator came the year after I graduated college. At the time I shared a giant studio space with two other artists. We collaborated on a regular basis and got it into our heads that we should turn our giant space into an elaborate indoor fort made out of recycled housing materials. Which we did, complete with a cloud ceiling and hidden candy drawers. The installation was open to the public and they really had at the space. For the first time I witnessed my work transcend my own ideas and become something personal for someone else. I was hooked. I love the collaborative part of illustration, watching my work have such function in the daily lives of others is my maximum opus. I really strive to create work that is thoughtful and accessible.
I began as a trained printmaker so I tend to think in bold line work and layered colors. The push and pull between layered details and simple blocks of color/lines really fascinates me. I always begin by sketching in black and white. Those black and white sketches either become expanded line work pieces or serve as the framework for layers of gouache or watercolor. I had the opportunity to go big this past year and do some mural work which was ton of fun. I am always excited when I get to experiment and expand with mediums and sizes.
I love a good hike. I live a pretty busy life - like most creative professionals, I wear a lot of hats. Hiking helps me get out of my own head and practice some self-care. I have never regretted taking the afternoon to go outside. I always return more focused and inspired.
Last summer I had the opportunity to camp on Sucia Island in the San Juans. Exploring that chunk of wilderness was magic. It is full of fabulous little hidden coves and monstrous lookouts. The sunsets I witnessed from the island’s bluffs made my list of top ten sunsets of my lifetime.
Juicebox Cafe, every time without fail. I have been lucky enough to have worked with Juicebox multiple times over the past year. While working on their exterior in partnership with Hum Creative, I really ate through their whole menu. There were painting days where I ate there for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. My body never felt better than when I was on site for that project. Now, whenever I am craving something delicious and good for my body that is my first stop. They make a potato spinach sandwich and an espresso cocoa nib milk that I could happily eat daily.
I was very aware of how precise and literal all the illustrations forA Woman’s Guide needed to be. I am such a visual learner, I knew there were women out there that would be too. I felt a huge responsibility to get it right.
I researched and tested (when it was necessary) every illustration before I even started sketching. I emailed Ruby, the book’s author, on a weekly, if not daily, basis. REI and Metsker Maps became my best friends. Everyone on the team looked everything over countless times. I worked and reworked pieces and added in work until we all felt comfortable with how the book visually told its story. It was a true labor of love and I think it shows. It is a book I will be happy to use this year, and again in twenty years. I am so sublimely happy every time I see it out in the world. It really feels like a gift of knowledge that I got to pass forward.
The book is chock full of practical knowledge which I really adore. But I think my heart repetitively connects with the introduction. Ruby is such a great cheerleader. Ruby’s intro echoes in my head in the wild and in my daily life. Her writing really makes you feel capable and fearless. There are days when that introduction slaps me across the face and reminds me to get it together. And there are days when that introduction has me on cloud nine because I have never been so empowered. Ruby writes so honestly and passionately that you can’t help but feel all of that yourself.
“Try new things. Build a skill set. Shrug off doubts, rude remarks, and stereotypes. Surround yourself with people who support you. Know your limits and honor them. Know your ambitions and shoot for them. There is more to gain from your time outside than you can ever lose in trying.” -XIVA Woman’s Guide to the Wild, Ruby McConnell
Oh man this list gets longer and longer everyday. Topping that list is illustrating a children’s book, partnering with a wallpaper company to create a collection of patterns is a close second.
Sara is a Seattle native and enjoys hiking and exploring in her Westfalia Van with her dog Wally.
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