Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sophie Norsa PIO issue 468 Dec 2013

Please describe your chosen illustration

This is my absolute favourite illustration from my new book, “Matilda Saves Santa”. Funnily, it was actually the first picture I completed when working on the book. It shows Matilda meeting Rudolph for the first time and I love the contrast in their size. This one took about three hours to finish, and was mainly done with watercolours. I also used some coloured pencil and chalk pastel on the top, and finished it off with some black liner pen. At the moment I’m having a bit of fun playing with mixed media – the book I am working on at the moment is a mish mash of pencils, pastels, watercolours, liners, gouache and even textas!

When did you know you had a talent for illustration?

I have always known that I love to draw – and I have proof! My family has footage of me as an 18 month old baby playing with textas, oblivious to whatever else that was going on. I guess applying my love of it to illustration was just a natural progression, which was helped along by a very encouraging high school art teacher who had connections to the publishing industry.

Have you ever studied your craft at an institution of any sort?

The only institution I have formally studied art at was at high school, to the HSC level. Otherwise I have been happy to teach myself through playing and experimentation. It’s almost more fun that way – no-one to tell you what you can and can’t do!

What computer programmes do you use?

I’d call myself a “traditional media” illustrator but I’ve played with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop before. Learning how to use them properly is definitely on my to-do list.

Have you illustrated any books?

I’ve illustrated 3 books as of now and am working on a fourth (the first I’ve written too!). I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I really couldn’t pick a favourite. It’s like picking a favourite friend, I become way too fond of my characters! However, I do love my first book, Yellow Dress Day.

All of my projects thus far have been commissioned by a publishing company. I receive an email proposing the book, and after a bit of back-and-forth negotiating ideas, I will get a contract in the mail. From there it’s pretty easy – I simply draw! The most important tool in communicating throughout this process is email. I email my publishers, the authors and media personnel. When I did Yellow Dress Day, I didn’t even meet the author until a while after it was finished. I have to make sure to check my inbox regularly or else suffer a good hour of reading through my messages. In the meantime, I of course have to coordinate getting the pictures actually done. It’s so variable as to how long each illustration takes that this can be a real challenge. This is made even harder by having to juggle university study and a part-time job. I have to admit I have been caught out on deadlines more than once but I think I’m learning in the process. I guess it’s all a part of growing up (I’m still a kid at heart).

Who is your favourite Australian children’s book illustrator and why?

Since I was little I have absolutely adored Alison Lester. I remember spending hours pouring over the detail in her illustrations and being engrossed by the personality she developed in each of her characters. Her work shows that a simple story can become so much more by detailed pictures. I have always admired her work and have seen her as a role-model and source of inspiration. But then again, Shaun Tan, Stephen Michael King and Bob Graeme are all also incredible.

What’s your website or blog address (if you have one)?

I have no website or blog as of yet… but hopefully I will make one soon in the future! Watch this space…

Would you like to tell us anything else about yourself and/or your work?

I like to work in mixed media – the book I am working on at the moment has ended up containing watercolour, pencils, pastels, liner pens and markers. Needless to say my work station is MESSY.

I have to admit that illustration is the most fun work I have ever done. I have my things set up in an attic, which is nice and peaceful from the rest of my house. My cat also climbs up the ladder to sit with me, and I can do it in my pyjamas if I’m feeling lazy.

Most importantly, I’d love the readers to take a look at Yellow Dress Day by myself and Michelle Worthington. Part of the proceeds go to the International Rhett Syndrome foundation, a very worthy cause.

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