Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gwyn Perkins

What's this illustration for?

It's a quick scribble I did for the crew of a racing boat on which I sail Wednesday nights in the summer. More a social sailing get-together than a serious regatta, it's not unusual to have families aboard. Here Zoe, daughter of our headsail trimmer Rowena demonstrates that she'd rather not waste twilight on boating stuff when she's got a book to read.

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

There's no flash. I would have noticed.

Sketches like the above are super quick and drawn instinctively. Other 'more important' jobs often get me nervous and self-doubting so I start slowly, but as confidence and the creative relationship with the publisher grows, things usually speed up.

Planning makes the difference. In a picture book I try to work out how best I can isolate the author's key words by using fun ideas and exaggerated drawings. People remember the unusual. I scribble with a pen until I feel that something's headed in the right direction, saving it by scanning a rough to a layout on my computer, using the page size as a template. I then refine and develop the concept to a deadline.

How did you get your start as an illustrator?

I cross off stuff I'm not interested in doing as I seek artistic challenges. The interesting jobs have led me to learn and discover new techniques, the others caused me to try another fork in the road, so the actual start might have been in a variety of places, over any number of my 60 plus years, but Illustrating Children's books began after I lost my dog just over 3 years back.

For a while I did some gardening near where I live in Sydney's Pittwater and on one hot day from a boring task in a house adjoining a National Park, my old half-blind Luckydog went astray. Five hours later I tracked her down by asking at a nearby Youth Hostel, scribbling a sketch for Michael the manager. This immediately led to Lucky's rescue and me getting a job drawing a series of funny cards which unfortunately not enough international backpackers posted all over the world to make either of us rich or famous. Then another friend, Children's book Illustrator Janine Dawson urged I should submit them to a website for illustrators which I did and was duly contacted by a publisher. It also led to my role as mainsheet trimmer in the aforementioned twilight series. That's Michael in the picture, offering instruction.

Who or what has influenced your work?

Animators, cartoonists, musicians, writers, my wife, my daughter, friends, travel.

For a time I worked as an animator, firstly in some big studios producing American shows, later in my own small one doing funny ads. My favourite jobs were those where I had the opportunity of describing things for children or for adults who understood humour as good as children do. I learned animation's rules to exaggerate, exaggerate and then exaggerate some more, and if it's not funny, don't do it. En route there have been many talented influences, mentors, collaborators who believed similarly and who taught me lessons. To name a few would exclude a hundred.

(It always helps to get positive feed-back from family and friends. Our young God-daughter told me yesterday that a drawing I was working of was "heaps good".)

What's your favourite media for creating pictures?

Pen and ink. My stuff is basically a black and white cartoon with colour by Photoshop. The line is in charge, keep it simple.

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

I can drive myself nuts drawing the same thing for days and hating it more each time. I get upset, cranky, my rubbish bin overflows and there's usually a clock ticking. Then I suddenly realize the problem is in the concept, not the detail and I'll instantly draw something completely different and happily breeze through it. Trouble is I can never see at the time that my schedule would be much more productive if I got up from my desk and went for a walk. I'll definitely try next time.

What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?

Having to negotiate a price for my own work, sometimes.

And the best?

Knowing that the integrity of what I do is main reason for being employed, recommended.

What are you working on at the moment?

A book about a giraffe who thinks his neck is too long. A double page cartoon picture/map for a coffee table book about Pittwater which hopefully in the future will see me doing more pictures that could be framed and sold at a reasonable cost. Some funny impressions about a week in a friend's NSW South Coast holiday house which she'll no doubt hang on the walls for other guests to laugh at. Another cartoon map, this one for the local ferry service, and some pictures to finish, long promised, for friends.

Where can we see more of your work?

Come 'round to my place. Knock on the back door.

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