Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sarah Davis

What's this illustration for?

For "Mending Lucille" by J.R. Poulter, which will be published by Lothian/Hachette in June this year. It's a beautiful story about a little girl coping with the loss of her mother. I absolutely loved illustrating this book - The text is so rich and lyrical and emotionally layered.

Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration - how do you start?

I don't have time to wait for inspiration! I usually start with a loose brainstorm - scribbling all over the text. I usually start off by writing about my ideas rather than drawing. Sometimes particular characters or images pop into my head fully fledged and I have to sketch them quickly in case they disappear again.

How did you get your start as an illustrator?

I don't have any training or anything - we moved to Sydney 3 years ago, and I had been working as an English/art history teacher, but hadn't really touched a pencil in 10 years. I took a year off work when we moved here to help the kids settle in, and stumbled into a job (through a friend of a friend) storyboarding a feature film. I had 2 weeks to draw 480 frames so it was like illustrator boot camp. But I loved it, and realised that you could conceivably make a living out of it, so decided to give it a go and put together a few samples and started trawling for jobs on freelance websites. The 2006 SCBWI conference and Susanne Gervay's enthusiasm and support gave me a real start though - SCBWI has been invaluable for meeting people and making contacts.

Who or what has influenced your work?

I do a lot of surfing the net looking at other illustrators work and subscribe to some great illustration and art blogs - and are two of the best. is also a great portal for seeing what other illustrators are up to. I love all the great classic illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Howard Pyle - when I was a kid Maurice Sendak was my favourite. I'm a bit besotted with Shaun Tan's work. I try to read lots of art books and am lucky to have access to the library at Macquarie uni for dipping into random books for inspiration (on everything from the history of botanical illustration to a pictorial "how-to" manual on butchering cows.)

What's your favourite media for creating pictures?

I still haven't worked that out! At the moment I’m usually either using fast-drying oils on paper, or digitally colouring. But I fantasise about having more time to experiment with unusual techniques and combinations of media. The method usually varies depending on the project anyway. I try usually to do book work traditionally and commercial work digitally.

Do you experience illustrator's block - if so, what do you do about it?

Not usually -I just have to keep plugging away. It can get really frustrating when you hit a drawing that doesn't work, but that's usually a good sign that instead of banging your head against a brick wall you should get rid of it and try a completely different approach rather than clinging to the original idea.

What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?

Trying to make myself stop work! It's so tempting to grab every spare moment to sneak into the studio and get just a little bit more done - and working round the kids I end up working ridiculous hours - often till 2-3 a.m - because I haven't had a chance to do much in the day. I'm not sure if being addicted to your job is healthy, but it's definitely fun. It gets a bit busy too - I would also like to make more time to do a bit of painting just for myself.

And the best?

Doing what I love

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm illustrating a series of books for Velopress in the USA, written by an Olympic cyclist, Erin Mirabella. I'm working with New Frontier on a really delightful series called the Music Box series - each story is based around a famous piece of music, and the books come with a CD of the music and the story narrated by Antonia Kidman. I think it's a great idea, and so much fun to do! I'm working on The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy at the moment (story by Sue Whiting), and will be doing The Sorcerer’s Apprentice next. I'm also illustrating an English language reader for ILTS. I also have a couple of projects of my own I'm trying to find time for - a couple of picture books/graphic novels I'm writing and daydreaming about, and some animated videos to go with the songs that my lovely partner writes. In my day job, I'm illustrator/Art director for a company called Childhood Champions which produces personalised books for kids in association with sports stars. We've put out books with Tim Cahill (socceroo) and Brett Lee (Australian cricketer), and are taking it international later in the year making books with some great athletes in the UK and USA. Phew. And taking care of 3 kids and a new puppy! Sounds like quite a lot when I write it down.

Where can we see more of your work?

my website:

my blog:

1 comment:

J.R.Poulter/J.R.McRae said...

Great interview Jackie, Sarah is the greatest and a fabulous person to work with!