Friday, October 7, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Mitzie Testani


Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught? 
I worked in web design in the dot-com era before returning to school to earn my BFA in graphic and interactive design from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. I graduated with three portfolios: one for print-based design, one for interactive design and one for illustration. I worked mostly in interactive design after graduating, but when I freelanced, it was always the illustration projects that made my heart race. When I was illustrating in school, though, I didn’t really feel like I had hit on my style, so my illustration education has really been a mix of on-going online illustration classes and self-teaching.

Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I have been using pencil, pen and ink since I began to illustrate, and, although I’ve been experimenting with paint for a very long time, I’ve only been using paint for illustration projects for about a year. I use both water colors and gouache. I have a professional set of water colors (Mission Gold) but I’m still using whatever gouache I find on sale (from Reeves to Winsor & Newton). I also love Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleedproof White. It can be mixed with any water based paint and it is great for editing and brightening areas.

What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
I am hugely influenced by nature because I hike almost every week with my family. I bring a sketch book along so I can draw while my husband and son veer off trail. I also really love vintage lettering. Probably because way back when I was first working professionally I started out as a typesetter/typographer. I was always so fascinated with designers who could spec type accurately on their mockups. I also have a secret love for children’s picture books. I had quite a collection before my son was born. Now, we go to the library a lot and buy quite a few second-hand books, which gives me a chance to rummage through thrift stores.

How did you start licensing your art?
I haven’t done this yet. But I’ve been told so many times that art licensing is a marathon, not a sprint. That said, I’ve only started to send my work out to companies this year. Up until now, I have just posted my work on social media and on my websites. I have been contacted by manufacturers from China (twice) and India about licensing, but I think I am someone who needs an agent in the mix. From the copyright aspects and the language barriers to the ability to have more time to make art, I would love to have good representation. I was approached by an agent this year, and began working with them in good faith while I checked references. Unfortunately, the feedback was not great at all, so I passed on the opportunity before I got locked in to a two-year relationship.

What are you working on now?
I am getting my original paintings and open edition prints ready for an exhibition at the Natur-Tyme gallery in Dewitt, NY, near where I live. My work will be for sale there from October through December. Also, I have an illustration coming out in the winter issue of The Coloring Studio by Stampington & Co., I am working on a couple of children’s books that I hope to submit to publishers and I am loading up my Etsy store for the upcoming holiday season. I also have portfolios to update on Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators ( and The Art Licensing Show ( I plan to start marketing my work a lot more this year. I have some additional opportunities to teach art workshops as well, if I can fit it into my schedule.

Any great advice for our readers? 
The house we live in now has enough room for me to have my own art space, but my studio is currently a mess since I’m getting ready for a show. My painting area is in a closet that my husband has removed the doors from. I use the rest of the room for my library, art supplies, computer area and framing work, etc. If I didn’t have a separate space, I guess I would have a tool box or something that would allow me to work wherever I could. Also, I’ve heard repeatedly that it’s rare for illustrators to earn a full time living from their illustration work, so regular, part-time work is a good idea and probably something else I will pursue this year.

Anything else you would like to share with us?
I send out a newsletter every couple of weeks with what I’m working on. You can subscribe here to see what I’m up to (and I never share subscriber information!)

Are you an early riser? or night owl? 
Mostly, I’m an early bird. I start anywhere from 2-4 am and work until my son wakes up around 7:30 am. It’s a schedule I started when he was just a baby and I’ve stuck with it because I’ve found that it’s my most productive time. Now that he’s in school, I get a little more time during the day when I’m not committed to other things.

What is your favorite food? 
Coffee with real half-n-half and good music to go along with what I’m painting. This week it’s been King Britt Presents: Sister Gertrude Morgan, Moby’s Play, some Fatboy Slim, and almost my entire David Bowie library. I probably need to update my play lists, but I’m becoming a creature of habit, I think.

You can find Mitzie:

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