Diana Mayo is a freelance illustrator working in Chelmsford, just outside London, UK. She gained a Ba(Hons) at Kingston University, and has since illustrated many children’s books as well as adult fiction, editorials, gallery shows and design projects. Diana paints with acrylics and also uses graphite, coloured-pencils, collage and tidies up her work digitally. She especially loves working with colour and pattern, and is inspired by fairy tales, her children and the flora and fauna found in her garden and beyond.
Why I Became A Children's Book Illustrator
I remember winning a colouring competition on holiday when I was five, which led, thereafter, to much competitive drawing and making stuff with my friends at home. My poor Dad had to mark and choose a ‘winner’!
I realised at school that as well as loving art and design classes, I was actually quite good at making pictures. So I made the easy decision to continue my love of all things ‘art’ and do a foundation course, followed by a BA in Graphics and Illustration at Kingston University.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones in finding the right course for me, and being ‘ready’ with an illustration portfolio just as I was let out into the big wide world. And I’ve been working as an illustrator ever since.
On an ideal day, I’ll go for a walk first thing to wake myself up and to sort out all the visual problems in my head.
Sometimes this works, and I’ll be ready to draw/paint having worked it all out beforehand. Though sometimes this doesn’t help, and it just feels like tiring procrastination!
I have to set myself mini deadlines everyday, and I’m quite strict at keeping to them. If I didn’t, I’d just be wondering off doing another load of washing or pottering in the garden.
I love the initial ideas stage of a new piece, and I can be quite quick at coming to a rough visual. Refining a rough takes longer, ironing out all the finer details.
Then the fun part of painting and collaging really begins, and I finish off by scanning my artwork and refining further digitally. I still get that buzz when I know a piece is complete.
It's great when this all happens during the day before my kids come back from school and its time to make dinner!
Go for another walk, potter in the garden getting fresh air, visit galleries and look at my favourite inspiring artists' work.
My teenage daughter who is a fantastic writer already.
Currently, my super agent Christine at Artist Partners looks and finds illustration work for me. I sometimes need to create sample images and character ideas to secure a commission, and then once we've signed a contract, I'll meet the publishers art director and editor and we'll go through initial ideas at a meeting.
It's then time to knuckle down and start drawing thumbnail size sketches of how each spread of the book will look.
These are then shared with all the people involved in making the book, including the author. Problems and thoughts are then discussed before moving on to more detailed actual sized rough drawings.
A lot of backwards and forwards of improving the roughs continues before I then move on to making the hand-crafted artworks.
Once these have all been approved (which sometimes includes making new pieces), the paintings are scanned in to then tidy up and enhance digitally by me using photoshop.
I then send the files to the art director who uses their magic to complete the text overlays, and get everything ready to go to print.
I then what 'very' patiently before the actual books finally arrive on my doorstep and are ready to sell in the book shops!