Gayle Kabaker.

“My studio is right next to our house. I’ve always had a separate work space. In San Francisco, I had a few different great studios. I had a studio in town the first year I lived here in Ashfield, Massachusetts – but then when I got pregnant with baby #2 decided life would be easier if I had my studio at home. Eighteen years later – I still love that I work at home – yet it’s a separate space.  It shares a bathroom with a guest room so if I’m struggling with an image I can lay down and take a nap. I keep the blinds closed to the view as too much light on my screens, but when I’m painting I open them up for more light. I’d like it to be less cluttered and more zen.  I keep trying.”

My husband Peter Kitchell’s studio (see below) is connected by a hallway – but we have separate entrances. I only use his space when I’m teaching a drawing class or have a large project. I try to be respectful that it’s his space – but it’s SO much bigger than mine…and often much cleaner too!

Gayle Kabaker is an illustrator and graphic designer. Her painting ‘June Brides’ was recently on the cover of the New Yorker. Her work is used in advertising and marketing collateral, editorial, animation, web design, logo and brand development, packaging and licensing for the home and gift market.  She is a graduate of the Academy of Art in San Francisco and now teaches fashion illustration for the Academy of Art University’s online degree program.  She lives with her husband artist Peter Kitchell and son Max in Ashfield, Massachusetts.  Her daughter, musician Sonya Kitchell lives in Brooklyn.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?

GAYLE KABAKER: If I’m painting, I scan my work into Photoshop. I use a combo of acryla gouache and watercolor since I have a large library of painted patterns and textures. Often I don’t need to start out painting – but use what I have and collage in Photoshop. I also research online and in magazines for a pose I might need – or sometimes get someone to pose for me.

FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?

GK: I have a little altar with a candle and a photo of my parents on it (they both died when I was young). There’s also a wooden Buddha from a close friend gave me for my birthday. The candle is called the “Luminary of Hope” and it’s made by women in Israel and Palestine. I also have a beautiful blown glass small vase that was a gift that I try to keep fresh flowers in.

FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?

GK: Green tea. I make a big thermos of it and keep refilling it all day.

I love all flowers – but especially big cabbagy roses and anything with a dramatic shape.

FYD: You teach fashion drawing. How do inspire your students?

GK: They’re already inspired and know more of what is going on than I do. They inspire me! My job includes cheerleading as they get discouraged easily. Part of the requirement of the online class (for the Academy of Art) is to comment on other students work. There’s a discussion about how bad they think their own work is. I also teach a fashion drawing class to six-to-eight-year-olds. I pick a theme and a story to read to them while they draw. We read The Odyssey and they drew clothing for Athena and the sirens. We start class with each kid posing for one minute gesture drawings. They love that.

FYD: What do you love about fashion?

GK: I love the patterns of fabrics and as for clothes – the more outrageous – the more fun it is to draw and paint. I don’t wear patterns or color. I had a very cool teacher in art school who wore only black; he said color or pattern distracted him from his drawing.  I don’t want to think too much about what I want to wear.  I think of clothes more as a canvas for jewelry. But I also live in Western Massachusetts where most people could care less about fashion, so there’s not ‘street’ fashion near to inspire.

FYD: I’m a big fan of your florals. What colors and varietals are you drawn to?

GK: I love all flowers – but especially big cabbagy roses and anything with a dramatic shape. I usually barter with a florist and cut or pick shapes from their store or gardens. I fill my studio with buckets and vases of randomly arranged flowers and just let it inspire me. I never try to paint exact representations.

I think of clothes more as a canvas for jewelry.

FYD: How did your New Yorker cover come about and what does it reveal?

GK: I discovered the Blowncovers contest to promote Françoise Mouly’s book “Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See.” Francoise runs a blog with her daughter Nadja. Each month they post the theme of an upcoming New Yorker issue and anyone can submit their work.  I entered four images for the “Gay” theme. Francoise e-mailed that my image of the two brides was being considered for the real thing. I was freaking out with excitement. In a few weeks, I got the call it was pinned on the wall in front of the creative directors office (although she asked me not to tell anyone as you still never know). Covers can change at the last-minute. It was the realization of a life long dream which I have three: the cover of the New Yorker,  an illustrated editorial spread in Vogue, and an ad campaign for a company like Nordstrom. One down. Two to go !

FYD: When you aren’t working, where can we find you?

GK: I try to exercise every morning – I go to the yoga studio in town. In the summer, I try to get to the lake or my neighbor’s pond. Hanging out with friends and my family and cooking. I love movies and just finished the second season of Downton Abbey. I also love music and produce a concert series with a friend who owns a record label. My daughter (Sonya Kitchell) is a musician and I try to get to her shows as often as I can.

Find Gayle: via her Blog and  Etsy shop.

2 Comments For “Gayle Kabaker.”

  1. Gabriel Guma says:

    Nice interview! I guess that “6 degrees of separation” law also applies to the digital realm: I’m familiar with Gayle’s work through the Blown Covers blog mentioned above, of which I’m a frequent contributor myself. (And of course her published New Yorker cover is indeed a jaw-dropping achievement that adorned my own coffee table for an entire week.)

    Now Gayle has navigated the digital waters to From Your Desks, another blog I draw inspiration and visual stimuli from. Cheers to Gayle; and to Kate, for maintaining such a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes vignettes.

  2. Nicki says:

    Another inspiring post Kate! Thank you so much for taking us to visit Gayle’s desk(s). Her New Yorker cover is one of my all time favorites, and it was so much fun to get behind the scenes on how that all works. Best to you.

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