For our summer issue launch party at Macanda, artist Isabelle Skoog’s dreamy illustrations added a special touch to the evening in celebration of Artful Living’s 15th anniversary. The Minneapolis-based creative is known for her vibrant travel-inspired artwork. Here, we sit with Skoog to discuss her artistic influences, her creative process and more.
How did you get started working as an illustrator?
My journey into illustration developed indirectly through a keen interest in art history and costume design. Unlike those subjects, illustration was an accessible medium and the perfect outlet for me after a long day at work. I was hooked. For a few years, I focused specifically on creating illustrated maps but eventually branched out to capture buildings, countryside landscapes and other scenes. It was an easy transition because I was artistically exploring everything around me at the time. I also had a good friend who was an established illustrator in Minneapolis, and she graciously took me under her wing. The Twin Cities has a unique community of businesses and programs that supports artists, which enabled me to start creating works for many people and shops.
Where do you find inspiration?
I use my art to capture moments from trips and memories. Anytime I travel somewhere, I try to carve out time for plein-air painting. Colors inspire me a great deal. Many of my palettes are based on the variety of shades found in roofs, tiles and windows or even the sprawling flowers hidden in tall grass. Most recently, I found inspiration while visiting Praia da Ursa in Portugal and the Calanque de Sugiton in Marseille, France. Endless tints of aqua blues blended into every saturation of green and combined beautifully with the vibrant wildflowers that were growing in the rugged golden terrain. Experiences like this are what makes my inspiration soar. I’m also influenced by Raoul Dufy’s fearless pigment placement and Paul Cézanne’s calm renderings.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
Starting with paint, I create splotches with base colors that represent loose ideas of shadows or objects. Next, I draw on the paper using expressive lines that don’t follow the exact rules of perspective. When it’s time for details, I jump between a fine-tip paintbrush with gouache or my favorite Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils . I often choose to capture simple settings and subject matter with unexpected hues and movement. I also enjoy making time-lapse videos of my work that don’t immediately show the end result.
What’s your favorite kind of concept to illustrate?
Client commissions are the most exciting projects, because each one is an opportunity to immortalize a memory from someone’s past. Sometimes I’m capturing a place someone lived abroad, a proposal location, a vacation destination or a wedding bouquet. I want my art to bring happiness and comfort to anyone’s home.
Previously, you were a resident at Chateau Orquevaux. How has this experience influenced your work?
As an artist-in-residence at the Chateau Orquevaux, I spent several weeks immersed in a group of talented creatives. Though I was unwaveringly welcomed into this community, I had a desire to prove myself to these fellow professionals. I worked mainly in classical genres and styles, like portraiture and realism, while striving to convince others (but mostly myself) that I could master light, shadow and proportion. I collaborated with my artist friends on a photo series in which they used my paintings of historical figures to embody the subject themselves. Ultimately, I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and gained the confidence to delve deeper into reconnecting with my own style. It was an incredibly beneficial, unique and uplifting experience. I’m thrilled to be returning next summer for another residency.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
I began a series of paintings of little French villages that I visited last year. I’m returning to the South of France, around Nîmes, where I plan to continue this project by exploring other small towns.