This artist spotlight is on Billie Austin, a Los Angeles-based painter who loves to paint pink and hates to wear it.
About a year after graduating from university, I moved to downtown Burlington, Vermont, and started working at Borders Books & Music. That would end up being a major transitional point in my life – I was living on my own for the first time, in a city (or something like a city) for the first time, and meeting people who would help me see a bigger world. One of these people was Billie Austin.
I’m not sure exactly when Billie started working with me, but she was a kind of person that I’d never met in my (admittedly sheltered) life. She listened to real punk music and had ink all over her body and was into alternative art, things that were bloody and cute and scary and twisted and innocent all at the same time. She made stuff and liked stuff and wasn’t afraid of what people thought of her interests or her creations – or of her. And she also talked to me like she was a real person, and treated me like I was one, too. I didn’t really know how to respond to that for a long time, but she either didn’t notice or didn’t care.I moved away from Burlington, and shortly thereafter Borders went down like a paper boat full of rocks that was also on fire (not my fault). In the course of things, Billie moved out to L.A. and got married and kept making art.
I ended up in China, and after a few months began teaching a weekly reading class for friend’s daughter and a few of her friends. At one point, I decided it would be fun to write a story just for them, and I asked the class what they’d like to read about. They picked tigers and rabbits, and I got to work. The next week, I came back with – strangely enough – The Tiger and the Rabbit. The story had the expected effect on my students, which made me – and them – pretty happy.
When I began assembling The Crown of Secrets several months later, it was a natural choice to include it, having been written especially for kids. Thinking over artists I knew, Billie’s mix of the adorable and the horrific came to mind, and after reading what I sent her, she agreed to jump on board. The result of her ponderings were far better than any ideas I’d had for the story’s illustrations.
Billie continues with her subversive vision of the world around her using whatever means and media she has at her disposal. You can see more of her work at her Facebook page (keep in mind that most of it is NSFW) and purchase some on Etsy, when it’s available. Again, be advised that most of it is not for children. You’ve been warned. But also be warned that it’s pretty cool.