Joan Herlinger is an artist and designer from Sydney Australia, who has been living and working in San Francisco, California, for more than twenty years. The child of an artistic family full of visual artists and actors, Joan earned a BA in Fine Art and has experience designing visual graphics for apps and websites.

Joan is strongly inspired by landscapes, nature and animals--especially dogs. She works in a wide array of media including felt, embroidery, watercolors, acrylic and oil paints, gouache, and digital platforms. Moreover, she has even hand-sew felt toys based on original designs and characters.

She has also been a guest Artist/teacher at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco and she is currently writing and illustrating her first picture book for children.

Joan Herlinger recently discussed her creative work in an exclusive Interview.


Blasting News (BN): What initially inspired you to take up drawing and when did you know that you wanted to be a professional illustrator and designer?

Joan Herlinger (JH): I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. The arts were positively encouraged in my family; my mother was a painter and designer and my Dad was an actor who could draw and letter really well. So, I grew up with art as an everyday part of my life.

I studied fine arts in Sydney, Australia, my home town and came to the US to pursue a MFA in illustration, but got caught up working as a visual and user experience designer for web and apps. I sometimes got to work on small illustrations as part of my job.

I always kept a sketchbook and started taking classes and workshops online and in person.

I have always loved patterns and I took Jessica Swift's pattern camp a couple of times as well as folio focus. I also took some private watercolor classes with Emily Proud.

BN: What kinds of mediums do you use most and what things inspire your creative drive?

JH: I sketch a lot with black ink and markers as well as with an indigo blue prismacolor pencil.

A lot of my ideas begin in my sketchbook. I use gouache and watercolors as well as tombow markers.

I work digitally too in illustrator and on my iPad with procreate; a lot of my work starts on paper then I scan and develop it further digitally. I also like to work in embroidery and felt collage. I think of it as drawing with stitches.

BN: How did you break into the design industry and where has your art been featured?

JH: I'm just breaking into surface design now after my previous design career. I have been interviewed by “Communication Arts Magazine” as part of a series on designers who are also artists. Attending SURTEX has given me a lot of leads to follow up with. I exhibited this year with a collective of three other emerging surface designers and illustrators and our work was very well received.

BN: How many patterns have you created and do you have any particular favorite characters or themes?

JH: I have about eighty patterns and am working on some new ones. I am in Paris at the moment so there will probably be some new ones soon inspired by the city. I am a dog person so there are a lot of dogs, as well as other animals in my work,


BN: Have you ever illustrated any children's books or might this be something you are interested in pursuing in the future?

JH: I have been working on a picture book about an elephant at the moment. It's set in the 1920's and is a humorous story about the pursuit of perfection and how sometimes, it's more important to have fun. The illustrations are collages with felt and embroidery.

BN: What objects has your art appeared on and what are your ultimate goals for your artwork? Essentially, what kinds of products would you most like to see it appear on?

JH: At the moment, I am pursuing leads for gift-wrap and party products. I would love to be on children's products; bedding, wall art, plates, and clothing, and on fabric too.

BN: What are the most rewarding things about being a professional illustrator/designer what new projects and events are coming up?

JH: I like being able to control my schedule, work when things need to be done and I like that I don't have to be in one place always. I like to travel and get a bit bored when everything is the same every day. The work offers variety too and it's good to have time and energy for personal projects. Also, I need to draw every day, so it's great to incorporate it into my workday!