When we saw Backporch Coffee Roaster's hand drawn ad in the Source a few months back—two adorable cartoon octopuses, each in a winter hat sipping espresso (it appears this week on pg. 24)—our squeals couldn't be contained. The office was filled with giggles and smiles, and we immediately sought out illustrator Connie Gabbert, who specializes in all things adorable.
Gabbert attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and after graduation found her niche designing book covers for publishing companies. When she's not drawing tiny, squeezable, anthropomorphized creatures, or using Photoshop to create cover art, she is busy being mom to her daughters, Selah (4) and Cyan (1).
We liked Gabbert's work so much that we asked her to design the Source's Christmas card (see at right, EEEE Narwhal! So cute!) and we asked her to be our cover artist of the month for January. Her cover piece will be displayed in Franklin's Crossing by Billye Turner, Fine Art Consultant, beginning Friday, Jan. 3. See more of Connie Gabbert's art at conniegabbertdesign.com. Over the holidays, I sat down with her at Back Porch Coffee.
Source Weekly: Ok—is all your art seriously adorable? Is the typical reaction clenched fists and squealing?
Connie Gabbert: That's pretty much the reaction. I've been asked to do a lot of nurseries, kids' art. I've drawn darker stuff in the past, but when I had my little girls I didn't want them to see mommy draw dark things. I feel scared that my daughters would see it and ask me questions. I draw creepy things sometimes. Once in a while I'll make really cute little zombies, like owl zombies.
I feel like your creatures all live in a dreamy world together somewhere. How do I get there, or is that what the world looks like to you?
There is this kids show called Lalaloopsy. All the dolls have button eyes; they live in this world filled with little girls and little animals. The clouds all have stiches around them. Maybe they all live there. I don't do a lot of backgrounds because it's a lot of thought to think about buildings and trees, I just want to draw little characters. The Christmas card I did was probably the most background I've done in a long time. There's a fireplace and tree, I'm good.
From the abundance of pug dogs in your art, I assume you have one?
YES! She is so funny. Her name is Emma. We got her when my first daughter was 18 months; we were having trouble having a second child and I was getting really frustrated. We needed something else to love.
How did Emma make her way into so much of your art?
I don't like to draw things as they are. I'll usually look online and find how people draw things really cute. I adopted my own pug into that.
How do you pick the other animals you draw?
I don't know. I think I go through serious phases, like the penguins over there (she gestures to her tiny framed pieces hanging in Back Porch Coffee Roasters). I drew penguins for a couple months. I definitely did giraffes for a long time. I feel like I'm just kind of silly and I have silly ideas. I'll retire an animal, I can't really draw giraffes anymore. Recently, I've been doing a lot of owls, narwhals, and I need more robots for sure.