Monday, July 20, 2009

Gaye Chapman

1. What's this illustration for?

'Little Blue', the first picture book I have both written and illustrated. Published by Little Hare Books in 2008.

2. Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration?

Inspiration is a 'series of inter-related flickers' rather than one 'flash', though an initial flash may spark them off. The old adage about percentages of inspiration and perspiration holds true. An idea is just that, an idea. In the case of 'Little Blue', the main character and basic storyline arrived fully formed. But, the Little Blue girl herself required months of detailed design, as she had to be constructed in a very specific way for the story end magically.

2. How do you start?

If we are talking about a picture book commission then I start with the story. That may sound obvious, but only deep analysis of the text will drive all successful decisions about illustrations. I then draw up a small storyboard, and enlarge into individual panels that pinned right around my studio walls in a circle. A picture book's construction is like a movie; the storyboard sheets show the movement and internal structure of the book. Every note and idea about each illustration goes onto these sheets.

3. How did you get your start as an illustrator?

I was a fine art student at the National Art School Wollongong in the late 1970s. A small advertising agency, Creative Ideas, was looking for a student to illustrate part-time; they could not afford to pay a professional. I was deeply offended when the Head of School suggested I might try for it along with a student from the graphic art course. (fine art students look down their noses at graphic art students). But the Head of School tricked me into going, and once I was there I found it very glamorous and wanted the job. I paid my way through art school doing illustration, and ended up working full-time for the same agency after leaving art school. I went on to become a professional Graphic Designer and didn’t illustrate again until I began illustrating for children in 1990 with the NSW Department of Education's 'School Magazine'.

4. Who or what has influenced your work?

I am a professional fine artist and I need money to live. Illustration pays the bills and I like it. This is the major influence on my illustrative work. Creatively, my own childhood influences my illustrative work a lot. I also draw upon obsessions in my painting. I try not to be directly influenced by other peoples work. I admire Arthur Rackham, and the great draftsmanship of the Victorian and traditional children's illustrators of the past. In terms of contemporary illustration, animation is the most exciting genre. Not Walt Disney; but Manga, Anime, Russian, Japanese and experimental animation. I also draw upon inner city graffiti and street art a lot.

5. What's your favourite media for creating pictures?

Mixed water-based media and collage. Not collage cut from magazines, but using my own imagery collaged with found materials.

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

No. I have learnt to override this and work through it. But there are days, and individual jobs I find uninspiring. I try to find something within the text that might spark an idea – an excuse for turning the imagery in a quirky or lateral-thinking way to get me off a boring hook.

7. What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?

No money, and the results of not having money. I miss travelling a lot, and not being able to buy the clothes I love. Fashion is my next greatest love to fine art. Also working too long and too often because the office and studio are always there.

8. And the best?

Freedom!! Working in my pyjamas. Rain on the roof, my own music, no "tea-room politics" to deal with, and knowing I'm still working as an artist with my hands in the paint, even when I'm not painting!

9. What are you working on at the moment?

Always a secret.

10. Where can we see more of your work?

Storyopolis Gallery in Studio City LA USA online:
Select Chapman, Gaye from the Art Gallery/Porfolio/drop box

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