Carmen Saldana

Carmen Saldana

Represented by Good Illustration
Carmen Saldana Interview

Carmen Saldana

Children's Illustrator

Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?

I've always loved drawing! I remember myself being a little girl with a pencil in my hand, doodling on every piece of paper I could find. Becoming an illustrator was a natural step in my life, illustrating is what I do best.

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Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?

Yes, I studied a two year illustration course at the Oviedo School of Arts and another one of Graphic Design. After my studies, I started working at advertising agencies for several years as a Graphic Designer and Art Director. This period of my professional career was quite stressful, I learnt a lot about how to meet deadlines and work under pressure, but my dream was to become a full time illustrator so I quit and started my freelance career.

Describe your working technique and how you came to perfect it.

People often ask me about my technique and I always say that it is a mix of traditional and digital techniques. I would say it's about  30% traditional and 70% digital. I always start with rough pencil sketches to create the composition and the characters. Then I paint each element of the illustration separately (characters, background, details...) most of the time I do this using liquid watercolors and pencils. Next, I scan every piece and go to Photoshop to start retouching colors, shapes, contrast, fixing mistakes before then adding digital painting. I also create digital textures, which is a really important part of my style.

My working method is the result of a trial-and-error process that never ends. I'm constantly trying to improve my traditional and digital techniques.

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What piece of software or hardware could you not live without and why?

Definetely my scanner and Photoshop. I can´t imagine a world without PS to fix all my mistakes, hahaha.

Do you keep a sketch book?

Yes, in fact I have a drawer full of my old sketchbooks. I store all of them. Some illustrators have amazing ones, almost artist notebooks. Not in my case, my sketchbooks are full with rough doodles and messy lines. But they are essential for my working process, these quick sketches help me a lot to see if a composition works or not.

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Have you ever thought about trying out a different technique or a different style?

Yes, lately I have been thinking about starting to use gouache paint, a lot of illustrators I like use this technique and I love how it looks. But right now, I almost don't have time to experiment and play a little with other ways of illustrating.

How long does it take on average for you to finish a spread, from initial sketch to final colour?

If things are very clear and I know exactly what direction I have to take, I would say I need maybe 6-7 hours to finish a double colored spread. But this depends on many factors like the amount of details or number of characters.

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What would you say is a distinguishing feature of your artwork?

I would say the textures I use. They truly make the difference in my illustrations, giving them lots of life and depth, in my opinion.

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What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?

I'd just say don`t give up! It's very likely that at the beginning of your career no one notice you, and you feel you are not enough. Don´t panic, this has happened to many of us. Just keep working on a good portfolio, showing your narrative skills and the strong points of your work. Also, nowadays there are wonderful social networks to show your work to the world, use them! And It´s a good idea to go to illustration book fairs like Bologna. There you can make contacts and present your portfolio to editors, as well as meet lots of other illustrators. 

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How do you overcome a creative block?

This is the worst part of having a creative job! Everybody goes through that sooner or later, what I do is just stop working, breathe, go for a walk, play videogames, do the cleaning....anything except thinking of the illustration is giving me problems. Sometimes I even let a couple of days go by. The brain does its job and when you start over you are able to see the work from a new perspective.

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What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?

Definitely Nature and Wildlife, it is pretty obvious if you see my work. They are the subjects I feel more comfortable with, probably I should try to get out of my comfort zone and start to draw cities and lots of people, that would be a challenge for me!

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