Sarah Fountain

Sarah Fountain

Sarah Fountain Interview

Sarah Fountain

Children's Illustrator

Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?

When I was a child, I loved Beatrix Potter. I had a few books and Wedgewood characters, but my Nan had a book with all the tales in. And, she had a video (taped off the telly!) of the Beatrix Potter ballet, which was one of my favourite things to watch, alongside Disney's Robin Hood (also taped off the telly!). I loved anything that was drawn and had animals doing human things. I think these things inspired a lifelong love of animals and illustration. I wanted to be Beatrix Potter :)

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

After my GCSE's and A-levels, I studied a BTEC Foundation in Art and Design, before studying a BA (hons) in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts from 2003-2006. Camberwell was a very fine arts based college, and whilst I was there I was really able to explore colour, printmaking and story-telling. I learnt so much about how colour works, and this topic in particular has always shaped my work.

During my time living in London, I became fascinated by the urban foxes I kept seeing, and these became the inspiration for one of my major projects at Camberwell, and also the first picture book I published, Reynard the Fox.

One day I would like to do an MA in children's book illustration. I have always loved learning and am constantly developing new ways of working.

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Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?

I live in Oswestry, a market town on the North Shropshire, Wales border. It is an amazing place to live, full of wonderful creative people, and nestled right into the countryside. When I walk my dog, or go out on my bike I can be in perfect, rural Shropshire within five minutes. There is no place on earth I would rather be.

I have loved Shropshire forever, and grew up here too. Through my years in London and Oxford, as much as I loved them, I always wanted to be in Shropshire. Cities are amazing places - they are beautiful, exciting and full of adventure - but for me there is nothing to grounding as walking through an empty field with only a few trees in it.

Have you always loved to draw?

Yes. When we used to go to my Nan's house as children, we would spend our time (when we weren't dressing up!), drawing and painting pictures for her kitchen wall. When I became a teenager I started to realise just how much I really loved drawing. It is something that requires concentration, and gives you a unique opportunity to capture a look or a feeling.

Creating something out of putting a pencil to paper by adding some lines and shapes is really special.

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Do you have a favourite picture book or recall one of the first picture books you saw?

Judith Kerr's Tiger Who Came to Tea is still one of my favourites. The orange of the tiger. The beautiful clean shapes that make him. The lovely use of white space too. Its an amazing book - and actually - delishously deadpan too! Infact, that reminds me of Judith Kerr's Mog books too - they are so funny. I love how Judith Kerr captures the feelings that we imagine cats to have.

Do you keep a sketch book?

My sketch book is where I work out how things look :)

It's my space to explore what a character is going to look like, and how they move. I love thinking about how animals move.

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What do you hope children take away from your drawings?

I want to show children how the world can be. I want children to see how beautiful the world around us is. There is a lot of hurt in the world at the moment, and I want picture books full of colour and wonderful shapes, and interesting, funny or silly characters to show that there is so much good in the world too.

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What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?

The day begins early around 5.30am! I like to get up before everyone else, and have some time to journal, exercise and also work on some drawings before its time to get everyone ready!

Once the children are at school, and Shadow the doggy has had his walk, I settle into emails first usually. Then its onto whatever projects are most important. We have a studio at the end of our garden, which is perfect. We listen to the radio, or calming chakra-inspired playlists and this sets our day.

After school it is tea-time, maybe a doggy-walk, bathtime and then chill. Sometimes a little more work, but I'm usually too sleepy! The children always laugh that mummy falls asleep first!

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