A showcase of Australian Children's Book Illustrators who have appeared in the Industry Newsletter PASS IT ON
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
1 What’s this illustration for?
It’s from Argonauta Octopus Navigator; a book for middle primary level showing in dramatic form the life cycle of this amazing octopus like creature. Here our heroine has repaired her broken egg case and returns to the turbulent sea beyond the safety of the seacave. These delicate egg cases wash up on our southern ocean beaches every winter and are prized amongst local collectors, myself included.
2 Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration –how do you start?
Drawing this pose relied initially on much research from undersea photographs and talking to the scientists who study the animal. Not much is known so I have to imagine various poses and try to get some personality into an animal with not much expression. The inspiration comes as I gradually build up my knowledge and start to plan angles, moods and details in colour and background.
3 How did you get your start as an illustrator?
Direct from college I was recommended by my lecturer for a job restyling African American children to European/Italian children. It was a challenge!- changing skin colour and hair texture as well as facial features; I might as well have started from scratch. From there I worked for a textile company painting realistic flora and fauna onto teatowels. That led to a lifelong love painting Australiana and was great experience for detailed gouache style painting. My first major picture book came many years later, still involving animals. I was also able to incorporate my other love, calligraphy.
4 Who or what has influenced your work?
The whole sweep of art through history is a broad canvas of inspiration but I love in particular the fantasy style of Arthur Rackham, Kit Williams, and the folk artists of Russia, decorative Celtic manuscripts, Persian and medieval illumination. There’s also the whimsy of Istvan Banyai, Ann James, Alison Lester, the detail of Celia Rossers’ banksia paintings, the lush fantasy worlds of Dinotopia…
5 What’s your favourite media for creating pictures?
I mainly use gouache for its ability to build up opaque layers of detail, but watercolour is essential for watery subjects such as Argo. Its fun to spatter paint and allow watercolour to melt and merge into unpredicted effects. Gouache is more controlled. In my calligraphic pieces I love to use Gold leaf and bronze powders, experimenting with distressed effects on the metal foils, then scanning and recolouring in Photoshop.
6 Do you experience Illustrator’s block- if so, what do you do about it?
Usually I try and ‘dream’ my designs before putting pen to paper so I read manuscripts and jot down notes well before I start to sketch them. Much procrastination happens before starting the final piece. I don’t know why; it’s usually so enjoyable and engrossing once you start, entering another total world of your own making. But if and when I have a block I forgive myself and walk away from it for a while.
7 What’s the worst thing about being a freelancer?
When there’s a drought of work you have to remind yourself that it will come round again. Cold calling on new clients can be hard when you’re not in the mood to self-promote and self promotion even when you do feel like it is a necessary evil. Working out fee quotations, negotiating contracts and chasing payment is hard on your own-that’s where guilds and societies come into their own for emotional and professional support.
8 And the best?
Freedom to work in your own space and time; the variety of work and clientele and the opportunity to work with different creative teams. Never a dull life!
9 What are you working on at the moment?
Several quite different projects
— illustrating with pictures and calligraphic quotations the life and times of a medieval Spanish saint
— illustrating flora and fauna for a book of prayers written by children, influenced by the Australian saint-in-waiting Mary Mackillop
— a range of birthday and Christmas cards for an American company
Where can we see more of your work?
My website www.artscribe.com.au and by googling in my name you will find a variety of work on other people’s websites from government birth certificates to Celtic poetry books.