Talking Shop with Becca Stadtlander

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Becca Stadtlander was one of our favorite illustrators even before she sealed the deal with two artisanal GIFs (straight from her studio to the Internet!). We love the way she layers rich, deliberate palettes in her intricate pastorals. “Color is the most important thing for me because people respond to it on such an emotional level.”

When was your big creative breakthrough?
I started getting comfortable with myself and my way of working in my last two years of art school. I had a real “aha” moment when I realized I didn’t have to be so stiff. I had been outlining everything and as soon as lost the line and loosened up, things were a lot more fun. There was one piece in particular where I painted a room with a little painting of a tiger on the wall—a painting within a painting. That was when it started getting easier.

Tell us about your creative process.
It begins with collecting reference images, color palettes, and making notes. (Sometimes I spend all day looking at things online and find so many beautiful things it’s almost overwhelming). Once I’m confident I have an idea of the image I want in my head, I start sketching out rough thumbnails, which turn into a larger sketch. From there, I translate the image into the final painting by laying down a wash of color and building it up in layers. Color is the most important thing for me because people respond to it on such an emotional level. If the color is off, I can’t stand it.

What are your favorite tools and media?
Gouache, block watercolor paper, and cheap brushes are indispensable to me. I have no idea what I would do if they discontinued the brand of gouache I like. I love the way it thins out like watercolor, but that you can get really opaque with it as well. I use very small brushes that get worn and misshapen easily. They get thrown away too often to buy expensive ones.

What inspires you?
I try to draw inspiration from all areas of my life, taking it from just about anywhere I can find something I think is beautiful. I make mental notes of the things I enjoy and use bits and pieces of them in my work. Landscapes, plants, animals, collections, books, movies, magazines, pattern, color, fashion, food—if I like it, some part of it has an influence on me, whether or not I’m always aware of it.

Who are your biggest influencers?
I’m not sure I can pinpoint just one person, because I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who’ve encouraged and influenced me. When it comes to other artists, my two biggest influences are Edward Gorey and Grandma Moses. I obsess over Gorey’s humor and precision and love the looseness and honesty in Grandma Moses’ paintings. They’re my gurus.

Becca Stadtlander’s greeting card designs for Red Cap Cards are available on