How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
I’ve always loved drawing, but it wasn't until my mid 20s that I started to think seriously about a career in illustration. I was really interested in working in film before that, and in my Fine Art degree I experimented with stop motion animation – and ended up doing some work experience with Aardman afterwards, which was great fun. It didn’t click until I realised that the things I liked about film - the storytelling and cinematography - lend themselves very nicely to illustration! I bought myself my first iPad when I was 26, and it opened up new ways of working, mixing hand-painting with digital work. Through this, I rediscovered my passion for art after spending time in jobs just to pay the bills. I’ve not looked back since.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
My dad is a book collector, so we always had piles and piles of books in the house, which was a real privilege. Throughout my life I’ve been drawn to stories which can whisk you away on an adventure to faraway lands – I've always been a daydreamer. Because of this, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was, and still is, a real favourite. I also loved all the Roald Dahl books, and The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark.
Do you have a favourite soundtrack you listen to when you’re working?
I’m always listening to something when I work – my go-to is any soul music (Aretha, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke...) or Nick Drake. However, if I want to create an atmosphere to get some ideas flowing, I find movie soundtracks really helpful. Maybe this is because they are often illustrating a story, with emotion and/or action. They really help me to build a bubble around me of the place and story I am illustrating, to shut out the rest of the world, and to create in. My favourites are The Little Prince soundtrack, and any Thomas Newman compilations.
How do you overcome a creative block?
If I have a creative block, it always helps me to get out of the house; to go for a walk and listen to some music – especially in the woods, or green spaces nearby. I also like to watch characterful films with artistic cinematography, like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox or Tarsem Singh’s The Fall, for inspiration.
Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?
Yes! I love animals. I have two cats, Marnie and Al, and they are my co-workers in a job which is largely based at home. Al is always sleeping next to me when I work (he’s here right now, as I type this), and Marnie likes to sit on my shoulders like a parrot when I’m up at the computer.