I work with pencil, pen and ink, watercolour, and sometimes digital. I love wonderful art supplies!
I love working first thing in the morning. I drop my daughter off at school, then walk home, make a cup of coffee, and sit down at the desk in my tiny studio (It's barely bigger than a closet!). I open my sketchbook, sharpen my pencils, and then get to work on my project. If my inspiration needs a little boost, I do some personal doodles in my tiny pocket sketchbooks. I love doing daily drawings, making observation of my daily life. These sketchbooks have become like a visual diary of my life.
I hope they see the beauty of the world all around them. I hope they're transported on wonderful, creative, whimsical adventures. I hope they put the book down and feel like their lives have been enriched.
When I need inspiration I often go for a walk. We live near a very large wilderness park just outside London, called Richmond Park, and I love wandering among the trees and watching the deer grazing. Or I'll walk into our town centre, get a coffee, and people watch. There is so much inspiration all around us, if we take the time to slow down and look. Often I'll have a notebook or sketchbook along, so that I can jot ideas down as they come to me. I might sketch interesting faces, or buildings or trees, and as I work on them a story or composition might emerge.
Once I have the story (either my own or someone else's), I sit down with a large sketchbook, and a few sharp pencils, and plot out the illustrations for the story in thumbnails. That way I can see the book at a glance, and get the pacing and compositions right so that they interact nicely together from page to page. Then I'll start doing very messy gestural and composition sketches of each page (these are definitely for my eyes only!). Once I'm happy with the shape and energy, I start adding detail to the sketches. I'm usually surrounded by pencil and eraser shavings. Once I'm happy with the sketches I send them to my editor and art director for comments and approval. Sometimes we make a few changes. Once they're approved I transfer the sketches to Fabriano Hot Pressed watercolour paper with my light box. Then I ink them. And then, I paint them with watercolour and touches of gouache. Then I scan the finished illustrations and edit the colour and exposure in photoshop to make sure they're ready for publication. At each step in the journey, I try to add more detail, depth and richness to the illustrations.
I started off studying Classics and History at university. One year I got a job as an illustrator for the Classics and Archaeology department, drawing plans and reconstructions of the buildings and broken objects they found on their Roman digs in North Africa. Seeing those technical drawings in print made me realize that I loved the process of making books so much that I wanted to pursue it as a career. After many more years of studying, I decided to take the leap and see if I could make my dream of an illustration career true. It took a lot of dogged determination, experimentation with my portfolio, and networking, but it seems to be working at the moment! I'm always so grateful that I can spend my time making books and illustrating stories so that they come to life on on the page.
My daughter influences my work in a huge way. When I'm stuck for ideas, I tend to draw her. Sometimes the drawings are more like fine art sketches, where I experiment with technique and different art supplies. Sometimes the drawings are more like comic book pages, where I tell the story of an event or moment in her life, to get practice with story-telling and facial expressions.