Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Amanda Francey PIO issue 474 Jan 2014

Please describe your chosen illustration

This illustration was for a picture book called Jonathan! and was created using a mix of pencil, watercolour and digital. I really enjoy the process of mixing traditional with digital – the creative possibilities are endless.

After deciding which household items Jonathan could use to make his spontaneous lion costume, I spent a few hours sketching roughs. My daughter helped me out by doing some very scary lion poses, but she wasn't keen on wearing a dirty mop on her head (I can't imagine why), so I had to draw that part from my imagination. The final pencil outline and colour took about 10 hours to complete.

When did you know you had a talent for illustration?

I always loved to draw and was encouraged to do so from a young age. My dad spent most of his working life drawing and cutting intricate screen printing stencils by hand. He was also a comic strip artist for The Australian and The Sunday Mail many years ago. My mum loved to make things and ran a small art and craft shop. So there were plenty of art materials lying around.

As far as knowing if I had any talent, I didn't really pay attention until my older brother sketched a really cool lion and my sibling competitiveness kicked in. I considered him to be an excellent drawer and it took a few years of practising and comparing lions, but I do believe mine was just as good by the time I was ten. Which was probably the age he was when he drew it. I guess my talent wasn't 'officially' recognised until I won a book week picture book competition in upper primary school.

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

I studied Commercial Art at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. This two year practical course served me well at the time, but has become extinct along with paste-up art, bromide cameras and small boxy Macs with black and white screens. My favourite class was illustration because my teacher had amazing talent. Her tough marking and unreasonable deadlines brought out the best in me too.

For creatives pursuing employment in graphic design, I would definitely recommend Queensland College of Art as a starting point. For illustrators, I believe money's better spent on picture book workshops, a good drawing class and art supplies to practise with. To add some digital to the mix, there are digital media courses available through local TAFE and design colleges. I have also found YouTube useful for tips and tutorials from digital and traditional artists.

What computer programs do you use?

I mainly use Photoshop and Illustrator because I know them really well from many years of working in graphic design. The cool thing with Photoshop is you can make custom paint brushes from scanning in your own traditional paint strokes. I make brushes and textures out of pencil, paint, watercolour washes, tea stains, sponge blobs, fabric and occasionally I'll sacrifice someone's toothbrush for a nice paint splatter effect. I tend to scan in all my hand drawn and painted bits to give my final digital illustration a more traditional feel. Illustrator is great for smooth vector graphics and text effects. I tend to use Illustrator for designing and drawing logos and cartoony style illustrations.

Have you illustrated any books?

Yes, the illustration above is from my very first picture book Jonathan! written by Peter Carnavas (due for release early 2014).

It's been an honour to illustrate one of Peter's books and to work with New Frontier Publishing. The storyboard, roughs and final art were checked and approved by the publisher and author on completion of each stage. I found the whole process ran smoothly and everyone was lovely to work with.

The illustration timeframe was about eight months and I managed to complete it within that time. Deadlines are a good motivational push for me. I tend to plan backwards from the deadline date and mark on my calendar mini deadlines for each stage of the project. If I didn't have a deadline to work with, I'd probably still be fussing around with the first page illustration today. For me, the hardest part of being an illustrator is knowing when to move on to the next illustration.

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

This is a tough one because I have so many favourite illustrators. I really do admire the work of Ann James. She has such a diverse style and cleverly illustrates to suit each story. I love, It's a Miroocool! written by Christine Harris. Ann's illustrations give a true impression of Australia's harsh outback and her drawings of Audrey are natural, free flowing and endearing.

What's your website or blog address?

Illustration portfolio: www.amandafrancey.com.au 

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

Many teachers have crossed my path while growing up. I was fortunate having an artist father who taught me most of what I know. A retired neighbour taught me how to paint in oils, a friend's mother showed me the path to illustration and design. I had bosses, fellow students and colleagues that I also considered to be my teachers along the way. I believe teachers have a habit of showing up when you're open to learning. I will always consider myself a student and I hope I can give back to the art world by being a teacher in some way too.

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