Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
I still have a passion for learning and several years ago I illustrated 4 early learning books for Creative Teaching Press, which made me truly consider illustrating children’s picture books. I have spent the past few years learning how to illustrate children’s picture books and am excited to be on a new creative journey.
The discovery gives me the enjoyment of creating imaginary worlds where I can break design rules and really play with my imagination and quirky characters that I lead through wondrous plots. I’m hooked and I just want to keep creating these worlds.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
After taking a basic illustration course, I guess I was hooked and wanted to learn more. I went on an intensive Children's Picture Book course and that was it, I just want to keep learning and getting better. I find that every piece that I do, pushes and challenges me. I started to look further than illustrators, at films and how the award winning directors use POV to tell the story.
I actually trained as a Fashion Designer and did that for the children's market for 12 years in London and further afield. Then 16 years with my own studio, representing artists as well as myself, supplying surface pattern and graphics to international markets. Once covid-19 took over, it gave me time to really consider my path.
Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?
I currently live in Northern Ireland where I am from. I have lived abroad and the experience that I gained was amazing. It obviously has an impact on who I am, travelling and meeting people from other backgrounds is always very enlightening. I might not always be aware of why I decide what I do, but I imagine that the experiences that I have gained will be part of that decision.
Have you always loved to draw?
I have always drawn. I started drawing Goofy and Pluto. My Dad made bunk beds for my brothers and I was allowed to paint under neath the top bunk bed base, so that whoever slept in the bottom bunk got a painting of Goofy and Pluto.
Do you have a favourite picture book or recall one of the first picture books you saw?
One of the first picture books I bought was Button by Sara Fanelli. I looked that is was a collection in images collaged into a characters and formed into this magical story. Then I bought A Dog's Life and It's Dreamtime. Her work is so creative in a completely free and unhibated way.
What piece of software or hardware could you not live without and why?
I do love my computer and Adobe Photoshop. Once I have completed all the hand work on the illustration, I will scan the image in and just tweak anything that needs it.
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I do love to work in colouring pencils. I have a studio filled with paints, felt tips, pastels and inks, but I seem to keep returning to pencils. I love the challenge that they bring. I will work out the colour composition on the computer first and print it out, then use this guide to mix the colouring pencils to get the colour that I want. Sometimes I can use as many as 5/6 different colours to achieve the one colour, but the layers of pencil and how I have applied them to paper give a unique texture and wonderful striation marks.
How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?
That's funny as I have never counted, but I keep going until it looks right and my trusty gut is telling me that I am there.
What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
After answering emails, I like to take a while looking over work from the previous day with fresh eyes, just to make sure that I am happy or I need to tweak anything. If I am starting a new piece, I like to do research. For example, if it is children playing, I will research for a couple of hours, getting different activities, different lighting, what time of the day, year, then look up children's expressions. If there are any other elements included I'll research that too. I only start to sketch once I feel that I have enough research material. I can spend between a day and 2/3 just sketching the idea, until I get it right
How do you overcome a creative block?
I use 2 methods to overcome a creative block. 1. is to go for a good long walk and 2. is to do something completely different but still creative, so I might needlefelt, or make something out of fabrics. It takes the pressure away from the block and doing something creative in a different form seems to relax me so that I can then go back with fresh eyes.