Junior Erin Kays, a double major in studio art and graphic design, got the opportunity some artists only dream of this past summer – she became a published illustrator. And not just any published illustrator, but the illustrator for alumna Sarah Katreen Hoggatt’s book of poetry titled In The Wild Places. Hoggatt graduated from George Fox Evangelical Seminary with a master’s degree in 2006 and finished a certificate in spiritual formation and discipleship in 2007.
This July, just as Kays’ inspiration was fading, opportunity came knocking when she received an e-mail sent to her and a few others to see if any of them would be interested in working with Hoggatt on her latest book.
“In the Wild Places is the third book in a trilogy,” says Hoggatt. “The theme of the book is exploring God in the wild, past the labels, beyond the fences. We tend to get so caught up in the dos and don’ts, the language, our traditions, that actual experience of the Divine is the anomaly and not the norm. Out in the forests, among the mountains, we follow trails, delight in the unexpected, gaze at the views. Such places help us remember what is truly important. I feel a freedom there and hear God best in the trees. Nearly every weekend, some friends and I are hiking somewhere in the Northwest and it has been this habit over the last two years that gave In the Wild Places its nature theme.”
Hoggatt explained that Kays’ obvious passion for the role as illustrator ultimately made the decision for her.
“When searching for a new illustrator, I received an e-mail from Erin inquiring about the job,” she recalls. “Her professionalism struck me first, her passion for and deep desire to do the job a close second. She also took the initiative to send me samples from her portfolio. Needing to see something closer in style to what the book would need, she created a pencil drawing of an old-style pocket watch. Her attention to detail, the shading, and the placement of the object and chain impressed me immensely.”
For Kays, the opportunity came at just the right time.
“It was in the middle of an art slump for me, and it was an actual job,” she explains. “It took another few e-mails with my drawings as test runs… All together I did 60 drawings for the book.”
After benefiting from the structure of a classroom for a while, when summertime came Kays was all out of ideas as to what to do next with her art. “I wanted to get involved mostly because I wasn’t able to find my own inspiration,” she says. “It’s going to be a good portfolio piece, and a good way to get into the business. It was local, since the author lives in Salem. It was really good timing.”
Due to her recent lack of inspiration, Kays was thankful that Hoggatt knew what she wanted in the illustrations. “I didn’t come up with the illustrations, but the author came to me with an idea of the illustrations to match up with the poems. Having her come to me with ideas was a lot easier, and a lot faster.”
All together, the project lasted from mid July to Halloween. “The drawings would take me from five minutes to two hours depending on the drawing. Most illustrators would have a lot longer (to complete the project) than the time I had, but luckily I had the free time,” says Kays.
Now that Kays is a published illustrator, she admits that “It feels weird. It didn’t feel any different at first. It’s like when someone asks you, ‘How does it feel to be 18,’ you don’t feel any different. Now I feel like I have grown into it. People have been asking me about it a lot, so I am prepared to answer questions now. I am more confident about it. Now I can offer my skills as an illustrator and know what to expect.”
For her part, Hoggatt has high expectations as to what will come out of her readers’ walks with God after reading her book.
“I hope people’s ideas of God are challenged,” she says. “God is so much bigger than we can possibly imagine. (God) is beyond all the religious lines we’ve created, all our traditions, our labels, and is absolutely unpredictable and wild. I hope by helping people see beyond the fences that they are free to run and explore, and to know God without worrying if they are approaching (God) in a wrong or right way. I hope they come to know God better as wanting us to be honest, to be personal, and to love freely because God is honest, personal, and freely loves us.”
Visit the Spirit Water Publications website to order a copy of In the Wild Places.