2023 October KSMO Featured Illustrator: Katie Schaefer

Meet our 2023 October KSMO Featured Illustrator: Katie Schaefer!

Small in stature, big in personality. Katie is doodling away happily in St. Louis, MO, USA with her mustachioed honey bunny David, gummy grinning baby girl Ramona, and beautifully bald dog Mysterio.


As a child of the 80’s and 90’s she collected countless stickers and was a self-proclaimed sticker trading shark. As a grownup she grows a wide variety of plants in her backyard while willfully ignoring the lack of sunlight.


1. How did you get started in illustration? What is your background?


I earned my BFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design, and then a masters in Art Education from the School of Visual Arts. I taught K-12 art for 12 years, but I never could shake the feeling that I had unfinished business.  I jumped back into my own art practice in 2016 and then in 2019 did a career u-turn and left teaching to pursue Illustration full time. 

2. What is your preferred medium and method of working?


I work digitally on my ipad. Shifting to working digitally really freed me up to experiment and play. When I worked traditionally fear of ruining a piece really held me back. 


With every project I start with research and create a mood board of sorts. It's a collection of inspiration, reference material, doodles and notes. From there I'll begin working on thumbnails, then rough sketches, and then final sketches.  For final art, I like to lay out all of my flat colors first, then I'll go back and add texture shading and details.  


3. How did your style and technique develop?


I feel like I spent too much time agonizing over what my style when I was younger.  In reality I ended up leaning into what felt like my natural way of drawing.  I didn’t want the process to feel labored like I was trying to force a style.  I had to just keep drawing and drawing and drawing. 


4. What do you find the most challenging in your work?


Finding time to work! I have a 1.5 year old who is at home with me, so work is being squeezed in wherever possible- nap times, after bedtime, on weekends, and when she's with her Grammy.  Shout out to all the grandparents helping out! 


5. What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?


I would LOVE to design a window display for any of my favorite indie book stores to celebrate the release of a future picture book that I wrote and illustrated. 

6. Do you have a favorite book(s) from your childhood?


The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood


If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond


7. Do you have an agent? If not, are you looking for one?


I am represented by Natalie Lakosil the founder of Looking Glass Literary & Media.

8. Do you have any art supply-type tips you can share with us? Paint, paper or software that you love, a favorite art store or website to buy supplies or a new product that you’ve tried, etc.?


My go-to program for digital art is Procreate. However, since I don’t work traditionally anymore I do like to treat myself with some fun art supplies from time to time at local independent art supply stores in my area like MO Art Supply.  Some of my favorite traditional materials are Holbein acrylic gouache and Pentel pocket brush pen. 


9. Any words of advice for those just starting out in illustration? What do you wish you would have known sooner in your author/illustrator career?


Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Research and learn about the varying illustration markets, and consider pursuing multiple. It can be so beneficial to your work schedule and bank account. 


10. What’s next for you?


My agent and I are working on finding a home for a board book I just wrapped up writing and illustrating. I also have a few new stories stewing that I’m eager to find time to flesh out. In between I’ll be working on greeting card licensing and selling my work at local pop up shops and markets. 

Find out more about Katie: