Freelance illustrator and designer Scatterbee (AKA Alexandra Finkeldey) went from creating animal art prints to illustrating children’s books. Known Ottawa-wide, she’s done poster illustrations for Top Shelf Preserves, a large mural for Shopify, had one of her drawings tattooed on Josephine Masterson of Little Jo Berry’s, does editorial/commercial illustration, small design projects, and runs her own online shop. Diversely talented, Scatterbee was extremely comfortable.
Two years ago, Finkeldey was presented with an opportunity and, embracing change, jumped into a different world.
“I hadn’t seriously considered working in book illustration until late 2020 when an opportunity fell in my lap. I was contacted directly by a senior designer at The Quarto Group, which is a global publishing group based in the U.K. They sent me a lovely manuscript by author Vita Murrow. I couldn’t believe it! I was so humbled that they liked my work, and that they were willing to take a chance on me for such a big project. The book, True Stories of Animal Heroes: Talala, was published in August of 2021,” she says.
“I’ve since been offered a few more book projects by different publishers, and I’ve been juggling them ever since. My next book with Quarto is coming out this fall. It’s titled When The Storks Came Home, written by author and conservationist Isabella Tree,” she adds. “The book is set for publication in September of 2022. It’s a really lovely book, and it challenged me to work with many new characters and environments. It’s a fictional story about a real-world effort to reintroduce the white stork in the U.K. It follows Beanie, an eight-year-old girl who loves birds and who is determined to find a way to bring white storks back to her village. It was such a pleasure to create Beanie’s world around Isabella Tree’s writing, which is so encouraging and compassionate. I hope that young readers feel inspired to look more closely at their local environments, and to find ways to support their animal and plant neighbours.”
Working with books, Finkeldey encounters new experiences daily: “Picture books differ from my typical artwork because they challenge me to think more sequentially about my illustrations. On my own, I like to create small, discrete pieces that aren’t necessarily related. And I find that, without an external deadline, I can struggle to carry out my own ideas from start to finish (like making zines, creating a series of paintings, etc.). Thankfully, I find that working with a manuscript, collaborating with an author, and sticking to a publisher’s schedule are all things that help me stay focused and strengthen my storytelling skills.”
She’s also learning a lot: “Matching the pacing of the script to the illustrations is a fun and interesting puzzle to solve. It can be tempting for me to load up a page with lots of details. But sometimes a scene calls for something simple and breezy.” On this journey, Finkeldey’s honing her existing skills and adding additional ones to her design toolkit.
Trying new things unlocks other endeavours: “I’m juggling a few different book projects for different publishers. I’m working with a Canadian publisher on a non-fiction book about another real-life bird conservation effort. Funnily enough, I started bird-watching during the pandemic. So the timing of this project (and the Stork project) couldn’t have been better for me personally!”
While Finkeldey’s been exploring, this exploration is not a complete metamorphosis. Indeed, her sketchbook is always nearby for ideas and wishes. “I would love to make a zine or a series of illustrations. I’d also be interested in submitting for a group show at a local venue or gallery. Lately, I’ve been prioritizing ways to reconnect with the local arts community, especially after the past two years. I don’t think I realized how much I was missing in-person events. After working quietly at my desk for so long, it feels great to connect with other Ottawa creatives again.”
The opportunities we get once we expand from comfort to discomfort are crystal clear. Finkeldey demonstrates how we learn the best lessons when we step off our cozy paths and into an adventure.
Alexandra Finkeldey is an Ottawa-based illustrator interested in capturing the details of daily life. Her work typically features people, plants, animals, and food. Visit her online shop, Scatterbee Illustration & Design, or follow her on Instagram.