Children's Book Illustrator, Steph Laberis, Shares Her Love of Animals - Especially Rats! | Outlaw Kritters Gifts & Jewelry for Dog, Cat & Animal lovers.
June 21, 2016


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Children's Book Illustrator, Steph Laberis, Shares Her Love of Animals - Especially Rats!

Meet Steph Laberis. Steph Laberis self portrait

Steph is this week's featured artist. Steph's work is colorful, fun, and charming. She specializes in character design for TV and feature animation, as well as illustration for kids books and toys. She has worked on some projects for some really big names like Hasbro, Little Golden Books (remember those from when you were a kid?), Leapfrog and American Greetings, so it's more than likely you've seen her work out in the marketplace. We are thrilled to share her love of animals and how they inspire her work.


 Cats by Steph Laberis

How do animals inspire your artwork?

Massively! Most of my body of work features animals. There is such a wealth of shapes, sizes, textures and personalities inherent in animals that it's an endless source of inspiration for me. I tend to get bored with drawing people, yet I love projecting the personalities of people I know onto my animal characters. Even better if the inherent features of the animal compliment the personality I am going for.


 Rat Illustration by Steph Laberis

What medium do you work in?

It's pretty much all digital at this point. The reason why is because digital painting programs having come so far with the feel of their brushes, and the fact that most of the work I've been doing is for clients (children's publishing, TV and feature animation), which means I will have to make frequent changes to my work and it's so much easier to do that digitally. Once in a while I will break out the Acrylagouache (opaque acrylic based watercolor paint that dries quickly) for a painting , or do some needle felting or try sewing a plush toy, simply because I miss the feeling of having a tangible object to work with.

Felted Mouse by Steph Laberis

Do you own any pets?

Oh goodness. I grew up with Cocker Spaniels and my love for dogs (ANY breed!) started there! Throughout my childhood I had a lot of different pets, including fish, anoles, hamsters, gerbils, and a rabbit. When I was in college I got the pet I had always wanted - a rat! From then on, I was hooked, and I have had the honor of loving 21 rats over the last 12 years. The rats have been just wonderful and each one I got through a small animal rescue, often coming from terrible conditions prior; some were from hoarding cases, one was abandoned in a terribly small hamster cube on a sidewalk, some were meant to be live food for snakes. They all turned out to be incredibly sweet, full of personality and love in their own way. I also have 2 cats via osmosis of moving in with my longtime boyfriend. One of those cats, Fritzy, is the cat ambassador to people who thought they didn’t like cats (i.e. me!) She is the living embodiment of love, and is so very precious, because she is a special needs cat. She has a seizure condition and most recently we’ve learned that she has congestive heart failure. I am happy to say that she is doing wonderfully with treatment right now, but every day with her is still a gift. And most recently, I have adopted 2 white mice from a wildlife hospital that I volunteer at. The menagerie grows!


How long have you been creating art?

For as long as I can remember! I knew very early on that I loved to draw and never questioned having art as a big part of my life. My love for animals is probably the only other passion in my life that rivals my love for creating art, and I didn’t really think about that until adulthood when I started doing animal illustration full-time. It’s funny, back in high school I was voted “Class Artist”, which made sense to me, but also “Class Vet”. That surprised me because I had no idea I was projecting that quality.

 Illustration by Steph Laberis

What are 3 of your favorite animal inspired movies, books or songs?

1.) The Lion King, because seeing it was a turning point in my life when I decided to pursue animation… way back when I was 13!

2.) This is actually a video game, but Okami was striking in both its art style and the sensation of playing as a wolf goddess.

3.) The Busy World of Richard Scarry books. I loved looking for all of the  little details in his illustrations and seeing animals doing humanized things. He also brought in some less common species like mandrills and he drew positively perfect mice!

What are 3 of your favorite famous animal characters?

Jiji (Kiki’s Delivery Service) Dug (UP) and… does the Unicorn from The Last Unicorn count? Because to me, she was the quintessential unicorn and all of the other artwork I’d seen of unicorns just looked like horses with horns on their heads. A unicorn is defined as having the head of a goat, the body of a deer and the tail of a lion, and the Unicorn embodied that in her design.

 Cat illustration by Steph Laberis

What charities or animal welfare groups are you involved with?

I do a lot with North Star Rescue!  They are located here in the Bay Area and for a while now have been my source for ratty companionship! In addition to giving homes to their animal clientele, I often donate prints and artwork to their shop and for fund raising raffles. I also volunteer once a week at Lindsay Wildlife Hospital, taking care of their feeder mouse colony and hand-feeding the baby birds that come in. If I log in more hours, I will eventually be able to take care of the wild mammals and opossums. Looking very forward to that day!


Want to see more of Steph's work? Visit her at the following online locations:

Retail Website:

Facebook: The Art of Steph Laberis

Inatagram: Steph_laberis

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