A showcase of Australian Children's Book Illustrators who have appeared in the Industry Newsletter PASS IT ON
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
1. What's this illustration for?
This image is titled Depth and I did it as part of a series of collographs for an exhibition I had entitled Interplay the full exhibition can be viewed on my website www.shanajames.com
2. Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration - how do you start?
I tend to think in a visual way, so when I read a piece of text I usually see a picture straight away or several pictures but that’s only the beginning. I then scribble my idea out and see how it can be improved usually the composition needs some work - would the scene look better from a different point of view: up close, down low, from above? I just scribble and brainstorm in my sketch book and the right picture seems to present itself. Sometimes things just seem right from the beginning and sometimes a lot of work occurs before they feel right. It’s a process that I'm now very comfortable with. I also keep a sketch book of ideas, scribbles really, in a way my life is a narrative which I illustrate aspects of.
3. How did you get your start as an illustrator?
My background is in visual arts, I went to art school and have been working as a visual artist for 18 years, exhibiting in galleries, having exhibitions, selling artwork etc. Truth be known I have never actually illustrated a book, so I am hoping this article might help me actually help me get my start as an illustrator. Although in past incarnations I have designed images for greeting cards, invitations and illustrated for graphic designers. Also the children's author Meg Mckinlay used one of my images on the homepage of her website. I hope your readers don't think I'm a phoney... I was invited to be here....really I was.
4. Who or what has influenced your work?
Things that happen to me or members of my family influence me. A line of text or a lyric from a song. Being in a different environment usually inspires me, like going on holidays or being in a different landscape. I have always loved the work of Chagall and I also love the Pre-Raphaelites. Whenever I see narrative artwork with a strong emotional content I am drawn to it - I love Shaun Tan’s work and I also really enjoyed the black and white drawings by Ann James (no relation)in the children's novel Audrey Goes To Town. The other influence is old wood-block illustrations.
5. What's your favourite media for creating pictures?
When I paint it has to be oils, the rich creamy consistency is so addictive and it’s easy to change things which I really like so I can let the image evolve. I also love printmaking linocut and collograph are my favourites. Collograph involves making a collaged printing plate and then printing intaglio - like an etching.
6. Do you experience illustrator's block - if so, what do you do about it?
If I get stuck I sit quietly and go though old sketch books I have continuously kept a visual diary since my second year of art school until now, that’s 20 years worth, (gee am I that old?) Anyway usually one of my old pictures jumps out and that forms the starting point.
7. What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?
Not having enough paid work at times.
8. And the best?
Choosing your own hours, choosing your own projects, doing something you love. Also I'm quite happy to have a deadline and a project with an external source, so if I don't have one I make my own.
9. What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a series of oil paintings that illustrate different aspects of human nature.