Pam Halter
Writing Editing Serving

Fairies, Fantasy, & Faith

INTERVIEW with Illustrator Kim Sponaugle
Wednesday, June 12, 2024 by pam

Hey, FFFers! Long time, no blog! Life has been quite full. Sorry for the long silence. But I’m back with a terrific interview!

                                                                             

My bestie, Kim Sponaugle, is a professional illustrator. You’ve seen her artwork in my Willoughby books, and she designed the window with the hanging fairies on the cover for my fantasy novel, Fairyeater.

Kim & I first published together in 2001. Two books in the Adventures of Beatrice came out through Concordia Publishing House.

                                                                   

Since then, Kim started a freelance illustrating business, Picture Kitchen Studio. We’ll talk a little about that, but my real focus is her NEW illustration business: Candle Realm Studio. More on that later.

FFF: Welcome, Kim! I’m super happy to finally have you here on my blog!

KS: Hey, Pammy! Thanks for having me!

FFF: Let’s start out with a little history. How long have you been illustrating children’s books?  

KS: It blows my mind that I’ve been doing this for about 24 years! It doesn’t seem all that long, I guess, because most of the time I’ve enjoyed it so very much. 

FFF: How did you get started? And when did you start Picture kitchen Studio?

KS: You and I had our first two book series published The Adventures of Beatrice back in 2001, and I illustrated a couple chapter books for Christian Focus, but I started Picture Kitchen Studio in 2007. https://picturekitchenstudio.com/ 

A year earlier I was about to give up on illustration as I had submitted so many sample packets to so many publishers with so many replies- of “we will keep your work on file”. This was before electronic submissions, and everything was done through the mail, and it could get pretty discouraging for a new illustrator. I was working as a part time hostess when you connected me to Kevin Collier, an illustrator who was very busy creating lots of picture books for self-publishing authors. He just happened to be on an online panel that you were watching. You (providentially) mentioned I should email him, and I did, and he graciously responded with some genuine encouragement. He was kind, saw I had some talent, and went out of his way to help figure out why I was not getting work. He discovered that, though I did have a few books online, I did not have a web presence and needed a website.

Kevin took the time to make an easy-to-use weblog website - just somewhere to post my work so it could get seen. I will always be grateful to the Lord for sending Kevin’s help. Once the website was up, I was able to begin my illustration adventure! I have been actively working ever since. A great example of what one act of kindness can do to change someone’s life direction and how God provides what we need when we need it.

FFF: I am delighted I was able to introduce you to Kevin! God knows what we need, right?

KS: He sure does!

FFF: Do you have any favorite stories you’ve illustrated? 

KS: Of course, our Willoughby and Friends series has and will ways be my favorite children’s fantasy series. It has been a joy to work on it with you! I also have a love for animal tales and one specifically, “Poppy’s Adventures,” a series based on a true story about a cross beaked rooster, has been great fun to work on with Tricia Stone Shumaker. I had a great time creating Tzmet’s window for your Fairyeater cover…beautiful creepy illustrations can be so fun to work on!

                                                                        

FFF: I still remember gasping when I first saw it! And everyone I showed it to gasped, as well. It really can be fun to be beautifully creepy sometimes! What gave you the idea to start Candle Realm Studio? 

 

                                      

 

KS: I enjoy listening to audio books and podcasts like “Haunted Cosmos” and “The Symbolic World” while I work in the studio - I love all good storytelling - and especially stories about the unseen realm, the things that are there that we do not see. It’s been a wish of mine to do more fantasy illustration as I love ancient legends, fairytales and myths. They help me uncover symbolic patterns throughout time that explain this world, God, and ourselves.

I love finding meaning in this, and it enriches my illustration work. Whether it’s giants (ancient Nephilim), tree lore, or Hercules, so much of these old tales bear witness to truth from long ago. I’d like to see us recover these tales from modern reinterpretation and reset them back to their initial meanings. I found I had such fun creating kingdoms and fantasy worlds that I decided that some of my studio time I would set aside a little studio time to develop it further. 

FFF: Well, you know how much *I* love fantasy stories! And I love your artwork and designs. Will you tell us how Candle Realm Studio works?

KS: Candle Realm https://www.candlerealmstudio.com/    is a studio that focuses on fantasy and sci-fi cover art and design along with fantasy picture book work and family friendly illustration. Just pop on to the site wwwcandlerealmstudio.com, hit the contact link, and you can query me regarding your project. I enjoy working directly with authors and publishers learning about their goals and finding more about what they need.

Potential clients can contact me via email to set up a time to chat, or they can contact me by email at [email protected] for more information. Once I contract with a client and receive their specs, I create a series of sketches so I can land on a unique feel for their character and story. I also build a base file of images related to their theme and spend some time reviewing it. Then I begin the sketch process - uncovering the special something needed to tell their story or cover art.

For me, listening to the client is essential to understand what is most important to them. It helps so much in creating the fantasy realm they are looking for. Once sketches are complete, I email them a file for review, we then discuss and complete any revisions needed. Once the client signs off on the sketches, I begin working on finished art. The mediums I work in are watercolor, pen and ink, and mixed media. I work traditionally, and the work is hand drawn all original work with a few final digital touches in Photoshop. I am non AI Artist. 

FFF: Do you strictly do fantasy art or do you do other types of speculative stories?

KS: I love fairytales like Straparola’s “The Doll” and “Jack and the Bean Stalk” where the children who made bad choices (trading the cow for magic beans or buying a doll instead of wool) receive a great surprise instead of disaster and poverty. Stories that feature extravagant grace, something that Disney does not do. 

I enjoy illustrating from the classics like CS Lewis, Tolkien, and George MacDonald’s wonderful works, especially “At the Back of the North Wind”. 

Illustrating creatures from the cryptozoological realm - (Bigfoot, Nessy and other cryptids) and the mythological - mermaids, cyclops, giants and Titans…all these ancient stories fascinate me and I would enjoy working on.

                                  

                                                                         (Spot’s imitation of Nessie)

 

FFF: I love all of that so much! What is your BIG dream for Candle Realm? 

KS: That’s a good question. To illustrate worlds that are symbolic and rich in meaning. I want to continue to make good art for my clients, art that serves them well, and I want to create illustrations that acknowledge the world as it really is, and the Kingdom of Light is here and on the move!

FFF: That sounds amazing! Will we see you at any writer’s conferences this year? 

KS: This year I am looking forward to teaching with you at Montrose Christian Writers conference and am doing a few workshops for authors that would like to learn more about the picture book process from an illustrator’s perspective. Things like how to find the artist right for you and how to create revisions an illustrator will love and not hate! I would like to attend a future Realm Makers conference!

 

                                                                        

 

FFF: I would love it so much to bring you to Realm Makers with me some day! This has been so great learning even more about you, friend! I thank God over and over for bringing you into my life. We’ve had some great times together, created fun stories, taught workshops, shared dreams, and supported each other in life’s difficulties. Thanks for being here today and sharing all your wonderfulness with us!

KS: Thanks for having me. It was fun!

 

You can connect with Kim on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61558441738960 

https://www.facebook.com/kimspicturekitchenstudio 

https://www.facebook.com/kimberlymargaretsponaugle 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/picturekitchenstudio 

 


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