Illustrator Spotlight: Moira Ratchford

© Moira Ratchford


 Mar. 1, 2024

We are pleased to feature illustrator Moira Ratchford and her banner design for Kidlit411. Check out her amazing work! 


© Moira Ratchford






 

 

Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.

 

I've loved drawing since I got my first box of Crayolas as a kid, which felt like I'd been given a rainbow-hued magic wand. Being able to create whatever I wanted on a blank sheet of paper was endlessly engaging. Soon I had a comic strip that I sold to classmates, and later on, greeting cards that were carried by a local gift shop. 

 

Once college came around, though, my parents strongly encouraged me to pursue a practical degree. I was quite the idealist, and thought if I couldn't pursue art, I should try to bring about peace between the U.S. and Soviet Union (I'm not kidding when I say I was a hopeless idealist). That led to a Master's Degree in Soviet Studies and work in a think tank on Capitol Hill. But I soon found myself unhappy without art, and slowly wended my way back to my first love. I worked for a while in documentary film, then graphic design, fine art, and finally children's illustration. 


© Moira Ratchford

 

Now I love illustrating for children because it's a universe where it's okay to be goofy and endlessly imaginative. Growing up with a brother who has cerebral palsy, I have also always wanted to connect with kids who might feel ostracized because they are different in some way. I hope my art will help them feel seen, accepted, and just a little bit braver. 

 

Congrats on your banner design for Kidlit411. Tell us about how you approached this project.

 

I'm a huge fan of birds, so I loved giving a creative twist to the Kidlit 411"birds on a wire" theme. I want my illustrations to tell a story, with the viewer wondering what happens next. So naturally, I included a mischievous cat seeking to sabotage the birds' story time. Will he succeed, or will the birds take flight with their books? I always try to add a little humor and quirkiness to my characters, along with my signature vibrant colors. 

 

What is your preferred medium and illustration process?


I initially work traditionally in watercolor, ink, and colored pencils, then bring it into Photoshop. There is something visceral and organic about the feel of pencil on paper, the process of drawing and erasing, and the unpredictable ways that watercolor blooms and blends, picking up the tooth and texture of the watercolor paper. 

 

© Moira Ratchford

When I have a project, one of the most important steps is to brainstorm ideas and let my imagination envision all the possibilities. Once I have some promising images in my head, I decide how to convey them most creatively, i.e., the kinds of characters and environment I'll portray, what perspective I'll take in drawing them, etc. This involves gathering reference materials and building subject boards, then making rough sketches before selecting one to refine. 

 

I do rough color studies of the final sketch in Photoshop, then go back to traditional media for the final drawing and painting. I make sure to create the different elements separately so that I can make adjustments as needed once I scan them into Photoshop. At this point, I try not to tweak the details too much, or the piece loses some of its original freshness. 


© Moira Ratchford

 

You do both illustration and graphic design. How do these influence or affect each other?

 

I actually left my graphic design position recently so I could devote myself full time to illustration. But my background in graphic design is helpful in informing the overall composition of my images, the relationship between image and text, and the importance of contrast, color palette and dynamics. My graphics background also means I have the skills to layout dummies in InDesign, properly prep files for printing, and most importantly, collaborate with art directors and editors. 

 

What projects are your working on now?

 

I'm writing and illustrating two picture books of my own. Keep a lookout for more news about them on my Instagram account, @moiraratchford!  

 

Meanwhile, I'm always dreaming up new characters and ideas, continually expanding my portfolio, and sending it out to agents and ADs. I just attended the SCBWI Winter Conference, where I took part in the Portfolio Showcase, and it was a fantastic experience. 


© Moira Ratchford

 

What is something most people don't know about you?

 

Art helped heal me from OCD. If anyone reading this has dealt with OCD, please feel free to reach out to me, we can support each other! The process of drawing and painting is a real life line. I'm sure that even if I found myself to be the last person on the planet alone in a cave, I'd find a piece of charcoal and keep drawing. 😅


© Moira Ratchford

 

Where can people find you online?


You can view my latest work on Instagram: @moiraratchford

I also have a website, www.moiraratchford.com, which includes some of my art licensing pieces along with my illustrations.

 

 

 


Moira Ratchford is an author and illustrator with a passion for connecting with kids through her quirky and vibrant illustrations. She is dedicated to inclusivity and ensuring that all children feel accepted and valued. She hopes that her work will in some small way encourage kindness, laughter, and a sense of hope, as kids explore the world and tackle all the challenges of growing up today. 

 

Comments

  1. Moira - your banner design was so awesome I had to write. I love your sense of humor and art!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love all the different expressions the characters have - no need for words!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great interview. Your designs are so fun, Moira. I love the colorful designs and whimsy.

    ReplyDelete

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