San Diego, California, United States
I live in San Diego California where I work as an illustrator, and Watercolor artist. I use both traditional and digital methods. My work has received international recognition and I illustrate for books, advertising, posters, corporate identity and packaging. I also do portraits by commission.
Disney, McDonald’s, USA Today, Harcourt Brace, McGraw-Hill, Viking Penguin, Scholastic, Reader's Digest, Bon Apétit Magazine, Dupont, Marie Calendar, Orange County Magazine, Design Agency, Tango, Helsinki, Finland, Bridlewood Winery, Glazco Wellcom, Figi Giftware, Ogilvy and Mather, Meredith Corp. for All Recipes Magazine, Rodale for Organic Gardening Magazine and Prevention Magazine, Homegrown Magazine, Portal Publications, Tehabi Books, Krames Communications, McCullough/Ames Development Inc.
INterview with Denise Hilton-Campbell:
How old were you when first realized you wanted to become an artist?
I was four years old and drawing pictures in Sunday School...The teacher complimented me on my work, and suddenly I thought..."I can do this!"... and so it began.
Do you still have any of your early artwork?
Yes, I keep a file of favorite art and also some drawings and paintings I did as a child.
Have you studied art formally?
I majored in Fine Art at Western Illinois University, not known for it's art program at that time, but I had one particularly good teacher there, Bruce Bobick, my watercolor instructor, who inspired me to go on to have a career in commercial art. Most of my experience comes from working on the job, first as an apprentice in a design studio in Chicago and building from there.
Is there an artist whose work you admire?
So many...Early on, Milton Glaser and Peter McMullen, but my favorites are...Lisbeth Zwerger, an illustrator for children's books. I love her clean, almost minimalist compositions in water color, her impeccable draftsmanship and the ability to capture expressions of people or animals in simple strokes. Edel Rodriguez – for his posters and book covers for his ability to tell a story with a few graphic images. And Hadley Hooper - Her work speaks to me. She seems to move easily between the worlds of fine and graphic art.
How did you arrive at your current style?
This is a hard one…My style continues to evolve, but I guess I arrived at my current style through inspiration from other artist’s works and experience. What techniques or authors inspired you? I like the look of print making techniques and I have explored how it can look in watercolor. This can lead to some surprising outcomes. I also like simple lines and composition and, have been inspired by Japanese wood block prints.
What are the sources for your inspiration?
At first it was growing up on a farm, animals, nature, a simple life Do you have a muse? Not really Do you have a process you employ to generate ideas? These days I spend time on Pinterest, or Instagram scrolling through the art images, and going to galleries when I can. I love brainstorming with other artists to get the juices flowing. It also gives me inspiration and energy to view other artist's work and see their process., and discuss it with them if I can.
Where do you find inspiration, concepts or images for your illustrations?
I like looking through books of illustrations of the early 1900's or books that have pattern designs like art deco designs from the twenties, or Japanese fabric designs and motifs. I am also inspired by the shapes and textures we see in nature. All of these provide inspiration. Do you have a purpose, a key message about important topics you wish to portray through your artwork? I guess my purpose, other than to convey what the client is looking for, would be to promote a sense of peace and normalcy in contrast to the crazy unstable world we're living in right now.
What clues might you provide to help viewers understand your art?
The patterns I use, the subject matter...
Do you have cultural references to which you gravitate?
I find I tend to gravitate to the simple lines and intricate patterns of oriental and Japanese art in particular.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
I have not worked due to an illness I have been dealing with since 2018, but my health has improved and I look forward to working on more projects in the near future.
How do you set up your job when you get a new contract?
I communicate by email or by phone with the art director to touch base and get their thoughts on what they're looking for, what they've seen of mine that led them to contract me, and also to get an idea of timeline, whether they want to see a sketch or color comp etc.
Can you describe your creative process?
Once I get direction, I get inspired by doing some research. If I am given photo source, I choose the best shot or shots to use for the sketch. I put everything into my computer and come up with a composition or two. I sketch it out in ClipStudio Paint and play with some color compositions, usually one to three, to show the client. Once I work out the composition with the client I do one of two things. Either print out the sketch and transfer it to watercolor paper to paint it traditionally, or leave it in the computer to create the art digitally. With either process I end up with a digital file to send my client.
What tools do you use most in your work?
I use PhotoShop and ClipStudio Paint interchangeably. I like certain features of both applications and the two apps work together well. I sometimes use Illustrator, and when I paint traditionally, of course I have my paints ,brushes and paper.
How do you re-charge when a difficult assignment nears the deadline?
I have a cup of tea or coffee and do something mindless for a few minutes or take my dog Maggie for a walk. It gives me some departure from the stress of the job and allows me to go back and look at it with fresh eyes.
What is your favorite activity when you take a break from the studio?
I like to spend time with family and friends, take a walk on the beach or browse through consignment and antique shops.
What would be your dream illustration assignment?
I love doing art for book jackets and magazine covers. I love it when everything falls into place, the subject matter is right up my alley, the art director and I click, and everything about the project just flows. To me that is very satisfying.