Interview: Kim Salt on Freelance Illustration, Mangaka, and Sharing Your Work

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Today's interview is with the lovely Kim Salt, a freelance illustrator who creates dreamy art in gorgeous tones and full of life. The one above is certainly one of my personal favourites. I love that combination of the forest green and the deep pastel pink. We had a little chat about becoming a freelance illustrator, getting the confidence to share your work, and some of her favourite artists.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Kim! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? When did you first get into illustration? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Kim Salt:
Hi! Thanks for having me. I’m a freelance illustrator and native New Yorker. I’ve worked with The New York Times, Guardian, Boston Globe, OpenTable, and Wall Street Journal to name a few.

Although I've never been educated formally as an illustrator, I majored in graphic design which is a close relative and utilizes many of the same foundational classes. I also took it as an elective as a discipline outside of my major. Beyond this, I've been drawing since I could hold a writing implement! I think I've always had a love for illustration before I even knew you could make a living off of it! It wasn't until after I had graduated and freelanced as a graphic designer for 4 years that I decided to pursue it professionally.


Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your illustrations in three words, what would they be?

Kim Salt:
Shapely, dynamic, whimsical? (Hopefully!)


Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your illustrations online, and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Kim Salt:
I think I've been sharing art online since I was 12, in the days of Oekaki, haha. I was just a kid but for a long time I felt that I had to 'wait until I was good enough' in order to share things. I did manage to post despite this attitude, though I think it must have persisted into adulthood. It took me a long time to even admit illustration was my dream, never mind gain the confidence to chase after it. Luckily I had a very encouraging partner as well as other supportive people in my life.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Kim Salt:
I try to actively glean inspiration from non-illustration sources, but looking at other work in the interim definitely affects my drawing. Some of my favorite contemporary illustrators are Elle Michalka, Joohee Yoon, Angie Wang, Ping Zhu, Yuko Shimizu. When I was growing up, I was really influenced by the all-female mangaka group CLAMP, though I have no idea if that shows up in my work nowadays.

Magic & Musings:
Oh, I love CLAMP! They did Cardcaptor Sakura, one of my favourite mangas.
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Kim Salt:
Typically I’m dissatisfied with my work once I’m done with it, but a recent favorite was a piece I did for Intercom. I had a lot of fun with the assignment from start to finish.


Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? 

Kim Salt:
The bulk of my work is created at the desk in my home, surrounded by plants and a single idiosyncratic cat. I always start the day off with coffee and I usually have WNYC playing in the background, podcasts, or music. Sometimes if I just have sketches due, I take my business to a cafe and draw there. Being in that productive atmosphere really helps me focus on ideating and removes me from my own cluttered headspace.

Magic & Musings:
A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Kim Salt:
Coffee! 1000x coffee! CDW by Charlotte Day Wilson.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Kim Salt:
When I'm in a rut there's really nothing I can do to push forward other than keep drawing really ugly drawings until better ones come out (and getting a good night's sleep). Beyond this, some things that help me are people watching, new music, anime, film, hearing an interesting segment on NPR, or even life events. Sometimes a simple conversation can shift the way you think about the world and thus the way you draw.


Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Kim Salt:
For sketching my favorites are mechanical pencils. For finished work, I love my Cintiq. Ink is also a fun thing to utilize in finished pieces. I think most of the books I read when entering the field were a bit outdated, but here are two helpful places online:

Dear Art Director, in which art directors answer common and uncommon questions from illustrators 

Creative Pep Talk, which explores different aspects of the illustration field 

Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Kim Salt:
I’d say having a website and social media are crucial for my business. My online portfolio/website is what art directors review to determine whether I am suitable for a job and all of my social media accounts point that way. Although I live in NYC, I’ve never actually met any AD’s in person and each assignment is conducted via email. Quite a few of the more recent AD’s I’ve worked with found me through social media.


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Kim Salt:
To start sooner! I’ve heard it so many times since I began, but do the thing even if you feel you’re not ready. Set concrete goals and meet them; do the thing you keep putting off.

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Kim Salt:
Americanah, Moonlight (the last film I saw in theaters), 'Blood' by Lianne La Havas. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Kim Salt:
Nothing else comes to mind. :)

You can find me at these places:




https://www.etsy.com/shop/kimsaltdraws (Etsy)

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