Lake Michigan is more than just a body of water for Catherine Hoffman — it’s an inspiration. Growing up home-schooled in Holland, the natural world had a big impact on Hoffman, who later went on to study illustration at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids. Now back on the lake shore, she creates art that’s meant to evoke a feeling above all else, and wants to write and illustrate her own children’s books.
Your lineart has a unique look to it. Where does that come from?
I have kind of a shaky hand naturally and I tried to fight against that for years, but lately I’ve been letting it start to affect the quality of my lineart and I’m really enjoying the way that it looks. It’s a little more loose. I try not to be too clean or careful — I just let my hand do what it wants to do.
Where do you start with your art?
I think in my more well-received pieces, it’s started with more of a feeling I want to portray. Like with the Breakfast Time piece, I wanted to express that feeling of being awake and knowing it’s a beautiful day, but really wanting to go back to bed and struggling to seize the day. It’s that quiet feeling of when you’re awake and nobody else is, and the sun is starting to rise.
What do you want people to come away with from your art?
One idea I’ve been interested in lately is that I really wanted people to say, ‘I’ve felt that before,’ and have a nostalgic feeling. I want people to know they’re not alone in what they feel. We’re all going through the same things, and I want my art to be encouraging to people.
Who or what are your influences?
I guess to start, growing up in Holland, I’ve been so close to all this amazing nature. Lake Michigan and in general bodies of water have really influenced me in my art. … My parents also were encouraging. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t had their encouragement.
Do you have any favorite artists?
I’m really inspired by Maurice Sendak and his work. His picture books have been really inspiring to me, and also Beatrix Potter. I studied her work for countless hours. I’m really inspired by Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, fantasy, that sort of thing too.
Why do you want to write and illustrate your own books?
I’ve always had a passion for telling stories. I get really excited when I think about a story and characters and plot and all the things that go along with that, like character design and background design.
Why children’s books specifically?
I think children’s books have had more of an effect on me growing up. I wasn’t really into comic books. Children’s books have more limitless options. I can be really free with subject matter and tell stories in a simpler way. I really just love children, and I also nanny, so I get a lot of inspiration from them and I want to write and draw for them.
Any advice for young artists?
First of all, it’s going to be way harder than you think. It’s way harder than I thought it was going to be, and I already thought it would be difficult. The temptation to do other things to make money is amazingly strong, and if you don’t have that drive and motivation to stay with it, it’s not going to happen. Another thing someone told me is that you should always make art for yourself, and not because it’s what you think other people would want to see.