Hi there! Please find below some answers to my most commonly asked questions. Do check here before you email as I often get very busy with deadlines. If your question is not featured here please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Students: I'm happy to answer your questions, provided I have the time in my schedule. However, please check that I've not already covered your question below before you email. I tend to get asked very similar questions, so I'm happy for you to quote any of the following in your project.
-Can I use your work on my Blog / website / tumblr / Instgram etc?
Please get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a company or making money from your online platform you must get in touch to discuss licensing the work.
-I've written a book. Can you illustrate it?
Publishing houses are expert at matching illustrators with texts so it is best to submit your story to them, or an agent first. You do not need to find an illustrator to get your book published!
There are many, many articles online that cover the subject of getting published. Here are a few links to get you started:
Please do not send me unsolicited texts!
What’s your background? How did you start out? Did you study illustration?
I followed a 'traditional' education route: A-levels, then an art foundation course, followed by a BA in illustration. I studied BA Illustration at Kingston University and graduated in 2005.
After graduating I initially focused on editorial illustration but found the short deadlines and conceptual nature of it challenging. It wasn’t until I started working at The Bright Agency (initially as an intern and then as a designer) that I fell in love with children’s books and my career grew from there.
With the introduction of the increased tuition fees, studying creative subjects in the UK has become much harder financially, and having a degree isn't a requirement of the job. There are many successful illustrators out there who are entirely self taught.
-What’s the best thing about being an Illustrator?
Creating interesting and believable characters is definitely my favourite part of the job. I will start with a very loose idea of a character in my head, and then I sketch them again, and again, and again from a variety of angles and with different poses and postures. I love the process of really getting to know my creations, their personality and their quirks.
-How many books have you Illustrated?
I have illustrated 18 published books, with number 19 and 20 out next year. I feel very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work alongside some really talented writers, and fantastic publishers over the last few years, and I really hope they will continue to support me and my art.
-Did you have a favourite childhood book or Illustrator?
As a child I loved Richard Scary books more than anything. I always enjoyed reading, but I was definitely more interested in the pictures and in creating my own stories. Scarry’s busy scenes kept me amused for HOURS!
Have you always wanted to be an illustrator? / What did you want to be when you grew up?!
I wanted to be an artist (among many other things) but was steered away from it as I grew up. Unfortunately there are still many people, including teachers and careers advisors, who don’t consider creative careers to be ‘real’ jobs, which is why I think it’s really important for illustrators to be visible to children via school visits and festival appearances, and to encourage the next generation to consider a career in illustration.
-How long does it take to illustrate a children’s book?
It can take anything between 4 and 7 months to complete a 32page picture book. A book will go through several stages of rough pencil sketches and detailed sketches before final artwork is completed, plus any changes requested by the client.
-Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration is everywhere. For reference, I look at folk tales, films, documentaries and exhibitions. I also like to go location drawing around London. Avoid spending too long on Instagram looking at other illustrators work!
-Do you work traditionally or digitally?
I still work traditionally with inks and paints. As far as I’m concerned digital media still lacks the depth of tone and texture that real materials have and I think there’s too much temptation when using a computer to tweak artwork to perfection. I like the little inaccuracies and errors involved in creating a piece of original art.
- What is your process?
After receiving a brief I will start by making very small, rough 'thumbnail' sketches. These will then be worked into more complex roughs in pencil or ink, with as much detail as possible (it saves more time when it comes to revisions). The completed roughs are then sent to the client and I will adapt or tweak depending on their feedback. Once roughs are signed off I begin to create final colour artwork, which is then sent again to the client for feedback. I often use the computer to amend final colour artwork, before sending all completed files to the designer.
Read more about my process here:
-What materials do you use?
I use lots of different materials, but mainly inks and paints. Sometimes I use photoshop for flat colors, and occasionally coloured pencils and collage. I use a range of standard brands that anyone can find in their local art shop - Daler, Derwent, Winsor and Newton etc. Have fun and experiment with materials and find what's best for you!
-Do you use anything for reference?
Generally not. I will have a quick look at reference for animals and poses but I only use it as a starting point to create new images. It's very important not to copy directly from reference.
-How do I develop a style?
I get asked this a lot and think illustrators, especially students spend too much time and energy on the subject of 'style'. While visual identity is crucial, your ideas and the way that you communicate them are much more important. I believe that students should concentrate on making good images with content that communicates their ideas clearly, and that fulfil a brief, rather than worrying about their ‘brand’. Everyone has an inherently different way of drawing, making and thinking, and therefore already has an innate style, so concentrate on being YOU and the rest will happen naturally.
How hard is it to break into illustration? / My child want to be an illustrator and I’m worried about their future.
In the UK we have an incredibly vibrant and vast creative industry, and there are LOTS of jobs out there for illustrators. We create children's books, editorial illustration, advertising campaigns, book covers, digital art, art for licensing, storyboards, concept art, animations, reportage, fashion illustration, etc (I could go on!). There is so much potential for what illustrators can do! Yes, it is hard work, but it's also a rewarding and fulfilling job, and I wouldn't change it for the world.
-Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?
There's not one route to illustration success . What works for one person won't work for all. There are many, many books, blogs and podcasts out there offering advice for prospective illustrators so try things out, but don't be despondent if they don't work for you. Make good art, be creative and open to experimentation. Do only what feels 'right' and comfortable.
-Can you give me feedback on my work?
I often get very busy with commissions so I can only offer feedback if there is time in my schedule. Please email me.
The AOI also offers a very reasonable portfolio advice service, run by experts in the field. You can find more info here.