A showcase of Australian Children's Book Illustrators who have appeared in the Industry Newsletter PASS IT ON
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
What's this illustration for?
I'd like to say it's for a book, but I'm actually only drawing a bunch of unrelated things right now to keep busy while I choose the next story. I have been doing lots of black and white lately, so I thought it would be fun to use watercolors again.
Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration - how do you start?
The images seem to appear in my head at the same time I'm coming up a story. I really admire children's book artists with a strong recognizable style, but my own style seems to fluctuate A LOT with each book, which means those images pop up in color or black and white or with great detail or as simple line drawings, etc., and I just go with it. I'll storyboard the whole thing out really quickly before I begin, and although I'll try some pictures a handful of different ways, almost all of them end up being just like the original storyboard in the end. I suppose it has all already played as a cartoon in my head, and I'm just following it.
How did you get your start as an illustrator?
I wanted to be a children's book writer/illustrator ever since I was a little kid, but in reality I ended up in odd jobs, taking on an assortment of freelance art for extra money. Quite a while back those freelance art jobs brought a chance to illustrate a couple children's books, one of which was never published, and the other was barely released anywhere. This inspired me to try my own book, but I didn't really believe anyone would publish it, so that attempt promptly went under my bed for no one to ever see again---no confidence! Just a few years ago, though, I began a website for my art and ramblings, and I thought it would be fun to post my own illustrated stories in their entirety. No publisher. No child-proofing. Just writing whatever comes into my head without editing it much, even if it was kind of dark or too wordy. I labelled them "Not-For-Children" so that I wouldn't have to worry about the audience, and I posted them. Somehow the books ended up circulating around the internet enough that I got requests for the actual books, which I had to then have printed. Now there are four stories, one illustrated by my husband. More on the way.
Who or what has influenced your work?
My Grandma Val set me up with art supplies and really encouraged my sisters and me to hang out around the table to create things when we were kids. I loved animation, anything from Chuck Jones to Rankin/Bass choppy stop-motion. The children's books we owned were really influential because I remember looking at some of the pictures endlessly, admiring the simple lines that could somehow make an awesome tree or a perfect little Mary Jane shoe. Of all the illustrations, I think Maurice Sendak's "Little Bear" drawings were my favorite. I love all the cross-hatching. And everything Garth Williams drew was so sweet and soft and alive. When I got older and began to watercolor I discovered Arthur Rackham, and I admired his muted colors... I can list a lot of wonderful artists, but I'm not gonna say I actually picked up any skills from anyone! I have a long way to go.
What's your favourite media for creating pictures?
Unfortunately I love to draw with a cheap ballpoint pen on a cheap slick paper, neither of which are meant for long-lasting art. I just love the way the pen flies around on that surface, and I love the tiny lines of the pen. But I do have to then transfer my sketches to a good watercolor paper. I like paper that is already cream or brown, or I paint it a dirty color before I do anything else. I use brown or black inks and watercolors, sometimes with a little bit of markers...People are doing beautiful digital art these days, but I don't think I'll ever jump in because I like having my hands on the materials and making mistakes. I also already spend too much time on the computer for work (computer animation).
Do you experience illustrator's block - if so, what do you do about it?
Definitely. I've stopped drawing for months, even up to a year at times. I never really stop doodling on every free surface, though, and one day the doodle will just spark something again. Sometimes it's someone else's drawing that inspires me, or I get excited by silly things like vintage wallpaper and toys. But if I absolutely can't wait for inspiration to return on its own, I sit down and draw odd shapes that I try to then turn into something recognizable---it almost always gets something started.
What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?
My problem is with commissioned work. Having a price and a deadline on artwork can make me really struggle with it when I'd normally have fun creating it for no reason. It's like someone is watching me work, and I really need to get over it!
And the best?
When I'm inspired there's nothing that makes me happier than writing or drawing. That someone now and then buys something I created is also just crazy and amazing.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have three stories in various stages that I can't decide between. As soon as I commit to one I'll begin the illustrations, which I think will be watercolors with ink, and I'll be posting this story to my website with the others. Until I have that set of illustrations to concentrate on I've just been thinking of a word or a phrase to get a random drawing started, like the one I've included here called, "Let's go!"