Looking at one of Kathryn Rathke’s line-based illustrations can be a bit like working out a puzzle – was it created using one fluid and continuous line, or many? According to the Seattle-based artist she owes her drawing skills to family connections. Her grandmother taught her to draw and supplied her with books by Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak, and William Steig, while her father was president of an advertising agency and used to bring home reams of paper for her to practice on.
She has lots of other creative interests too. She learned to make leather masks in Italy, enjoys German experimental theatre, and sometimes throws parties where her friends must act out vignettes found in a 1912 children’s book called Entertainments for All the Year.
Kathryn did an MFA in Set Design at the University of Wisconsin but was always drawing on the side, sometimes accepting commissions from newspapers and magazines. Eventually she flipped things around and made her illustration work a full-time profession and set design became her hobby.
Kathryn does everything digitally in Photoshop and Illustrator using a Cintiq screen by Wacom.
If she’s doing portraiture work, she draws her subject many times over from different angles. This way she learns about the most important features of their face and can draw it in a way that makes it instantly recognisable.
The line is core to Kathryn’s style and her work is very fluid. Expressive and calligraphic, there’s a unique sense of gesture in her illustrations. She also uses crosshatching to develop surfaces in her images, using layers of lines of varying thickness to build up a texture.
AI-AP Award 2005
Communication Arts Award of Excellence 2010
AI-AP Award 2012
The Economist Intelligent Life
The Boston Globe
The Evening Standard
The Financial Times
The New York Observer
Food and Wine magazine
"It was our first time working with Kathryn and we're so glad we found her. The assignment went very smooth and easy. Kathryn got the direction from the beginning and sent sketches even before we were expecting them. She also communicated every step until the end and kept us in the loop. The job come out beautiful and it's exactly what we wanted our readers to see. Kathryn did a great job illustrating the story. And as always, it's been a pleasure working with Karen and her team at illustration x."
Monica Simon, Wine Enthusiast
"That was fast! Kathryn, you are an absolute gem."
Stan Lim, Imaginary Forces (for illustrations for titles of 2007's Charlotte's Web)
This woman is a genius! From architects to authors, actors to musicians, Kathryn not only captures likeness but personality – and all with a well considered flick of the wrist. She is a joy to work with and has become, in the nicest possible way, part of the furniture of Intelligent Life.
Intelligent Life Magazine, Martin Lovelock - Deputy Art Director
Kathryn's portraits strike the right balance between caricature and portraiture. Her likenesses are always spot-on--she interprets, but never over-exaggerates the subject's features. I'm always impressed with the gesture and beauty of her calligraphic line work and the fun she has with the details in her illustrations.
Donald Partyka, Americas Quarterly
Kathryn has illustrated dozens of head shots for us. Her illustrations are spot-on and the employees LOVE the drawings of themselves. And to top it off - she is easy and fun to work with!
Tessa Sussner - Art Director, Sussner Design Company - Minneapolis
"We'll all be cheering when we see this in the theatres at the resolution it was meant to be viewed at! Your drawings are beautiful on the computer screen and i'm sure it'll only be more breathtaking on a giant screen!"
Gary Tam, Imaginary Forces (for illustrations for titles of 2007's Charlotte's Web)
Kathryn’s work is wonderful for its specificity captured in a minimum of graceful fluid lines. She adds such energy and joy to every project.
Angela Riechers - Freelance Art Director, O the Oprah Magazine
It's stunning Kathryn! I don't know how you do it. And I love the way you have combined the slick lines with the smudgy charcoal too.
I have no changes or tweaks. Fantastic! And Paul, the Editor, loves it also. (Plus you got it in early which is an enormous treat for me, it helps me out later in the week, when things get esp hectic.)
Thank you so much!
Sarah Habershon - Art Director, The Guardian
I love my owl illustration. Your line work is beautiful, everything I'd hoped for and more. I'll be sure to send you the advertisement that will be put together by my designer.
Peter Rockwood, Rockwood and Perry
"I am a huge admirer of your work. I have been looking for an artist with your kind of deft line for months. Then found you! I would love you to be our signature artist"
Tina Brown, The Daily Beast/Newsweek
"Thank you so much for your wonderful work and patience,
You have been great to work with."
Ben Brannan, The Evening Standard
The client is very excited. We are receiving very positive press. Thanks again for your contribution (to the Wendy's logo).