Kayla Johnson, Owner & Illustrator of Milk & Glue, located in Astoria, Oregon.
From original watercolor to baking cakes and refinishing furniture, there isn’t much that Kayla Johnson can’t tackle with her creativity and unique artistic spirit. Taught to draw at a very young age, Kayla credits her passion and love for art to her artist mother. She says “I remember sitting down with her and she would teach me how to draw different types of animals. I would spend hours and hours just drawing in my room, filling up sketchbook after sketchbook.”
Fast-forward through growing up in a small town in Washington State and meeting her high-school sweetheart (turned husband.) She received her BFA from Washington State University, dabbled in the world of sweets, and started a business baking and decorating elaborate cakes. After moving to to the costal town of Astoria, Oregon with her husband and three cats, she turned back to her first love of drawing and started her own design and print business, Milk + Glue.
As whimsical as they are intricate, Kayla’s prints are inspired by costal Northern Oregon. “The ocean, the forest. Everything about this place is an inspiration.” She also looks to animals and fairytale stories while putting pencil and brush to paper. Kayla remembers being inspired as a child, “I used to read tons of books when I was a little girl, mostly for the illustrations. I would read them over and over and study all the drawings. The ones that had my favorite illustrations were The True Story of the Big Bad Wolf, The Mitten, Heckedy Peg, and The Rough Face Girl. I still love to look back at those and study them!
A quick peruse through the Milk + Glue archives, and it comes to no surprise that Kayla’s inspiration comes from the depths of a creative mind. While each piece has similar recognizable features, she says there is no system behind her creative process. “I wish I could say that I have a schedule or some kind of organization but, I don’t. I like to blame that on Artist Brain. Every piece is different for me, I start in different places depending on what I’m doing. Usually though, I’ll start out with something on paper and that gets scanned and I do some digital work on it. That’s as consistent as I get.”
When it comes to her favorite mediums and methods, her all time favorite is pencil, however, most of her illustrations are done with watercolor and colored pencil. She explains, “I love using watercolor as a base and drawing on top of that with the colored pencil. And, it travels so well, I don’t need many supplies beyond paper, brushes and my watercolor palette so, when inspiration strikes I can just go”. Her favorite illustration that she has completed is the Princess and the Pea, which was one of her favorite stories when she was little. She added a bit of woodland whimsy by using a fox as the character on the mattresses (shown below, printed on a tea towel.)
Whats next for Kayla? “My goal is to write and illustrate children’s books. I have such a love for them and it would be so amazing to create something that could inspire a child like I was. I’m actually working on one about Millie and Her Whale. That illustration is based on my cat. She carries around a stuffed whale and plays with it all the time and I always think about the adventures they could have in a story.”
I’m always popping into the Milk and Glue store to see whats new! Select prints are available at Seaside Papery in Coronado, California & Seaside Paper | Home in San Diego. Check out her entire collection by clicking here!