Looking at one of Kathryn Rathke’s line-based illustrations can be a bit like working out a puzzle – was it created using one fluid and continuous line, or many? According to the Seattle-based artist she owes her drawing skills to family connections. Her grandmother taught her to draw and supplied her with books by Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak, and William Steig, while her father was president of an advertising agency and used to bring home reams of paper for her to practice on.
She has lots of other creative interests too. She learned to make leather masks in Italy, enjoys German experimental theatre, and sometimes throws parties where her friends must act out vignettes found in a 1912 children’s book called Entertainments for All the Year.
Kathryn did an MFA in Set Design at the University of Wisconsin but was always drawing on the side, sometimes accepting commissions from newspapers and magazines. Eventually she flipped things around and made her illustration work a full-time profession and set design became her hobby.
Kathryn does everything digitally in Photoshop and Illustrator using a Cintiq screen by Wacom.
If she’s doing portraiture work, she draws her subject many times over from different angles. This way she learns about the most important features of their face and can draw it in a way that makes it instantly recognisable.
The line is core to Kathryn’s style and her work is very fluid. Expressive and calligraphic, there’s a unique sense of gesture in her illustrations. She also uses crosshatching to develop surfaces in her images, using layers of lines of varying thickness to build up a texture.
Newsweek, NY Observer, Vanity Fair, Time Out, The Evening Standard, O Magazine, Brooks Sports, Penguin, Make Magazine, Smart Money, Rolling Stone and Welt am Sonntag are just some of Kathryn’s clients.