How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
I realised pretty late that I wanted to be an illustrator, although I have been drawing ever since I can remember. I didn’t even consider illustration to be an option and was training to become a translator, when one of my friends asked me to illustrate a book cover for a poetry volume she was publishing. That’s when I realised I could actually do this for a living! So I started taking commissions and actively trying to improve my drawing skills. It was slow at first, but I got better in time and after working in a game studio for a few years I finally took the step to full time freelance. Sometimes when I think about it, I still can’t believe this is my job!
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I work digitally, mostly in Photoshop. For the past year I’ve been trying to do more traditional work using coloured pencils, but I feel most comfortable working digitally because I think it gives me more freedom to experiment and try different things without ruining the illustration. I also tend to change things a lot even when the illustration is finished - I always find something that could be better and drawing on paper doesn’t allow that. However, drawing traditionally is very satisfying, so I want to keep practising.
Do you keep a sketch book?
I do, although I don’t use it as often as I would like to. I find paper a little intimidating because I’m so used to working digitally, it’s hard to loosen up and draw without caring how it turns out. I have an iPad that I use as a sketch book more than my actual sketch book. I like that it’s small and handy but also has the amazing undo option - best of both worlds!
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
This illustration started as a random sketch on my iPad. I thought it had potential, so I tried different layouts and ideas until I found one that I liked. Then I tried different colour combinations, wasn’t happy with any of them so I kept changing them - this took a few days of coming back to the illustration, doing some changes, leaving it, and so on- until I finally found the right one. There were several versions before the final one, but in the end I’m glad I put so much time in it because it’s one of my fav pieces now.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time, which is very little lately, I like to draw (for myself this time), read, spend time with my husband, go to the gym or walk - illustration is a very static job and I’m pretty energetic, so it’s important for me to stay active somehow (unfortunately, I also browse the internet a lot…). I love to travel and do this as often as possible - earlier this year we went on a 5-month trip around New Zealand, SE Asia and Japan - a dream come true!
What is your favourite children’s book and why?
This changes from time to time, but right now my favourite is On Sudden Hill, written by Linda Sarah and illustrated by Benji Davies. The story is so relatable and sweet and the illustrations are just beautiful and full of details, I think it’s exactly how a children’s book should be.
What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
I think I’m a morning person, so I try to wake up early and get the most important things done before noon, when I’m most productive. I usually start by answering emails, then check my to-do list (post-its everywhere) and start with the most difficult parts, leaving the less challenging ones for the end of the day. I work from home, so I usually cook my lunch and then have a short break before getting back to work. I normally work until 6 or 7 pm. My desk looks pretty boring, not exactly what people would expect from an illustrator :)
What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?
Keep practising and improving! It’s the advice that everyone gives but it’s really the best thing you can do. It’s also important to promote your work, but first it has to be good, and it will be noticed. If possible, go to children’s book fairs, see what other illustrators are doing, it’s inspiring and a great way to get to know the industry better!
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?
I love animals so I’d like to work as anything that has something to do with them - farm, animal sanctuary, pet hotel, anything! Since I spend most of my day in front of the computer, I sometimes wish I had a more active job (though I’m sure if I had an active job I’d wish for a desk one).