I’m 22, a freelance illustrator currently living in Somerset. I have recently completed my studies at Falmouth University, amongst the Cornish beaches and tropical gardens, receiving a first class Hons in BA illustration.
I love to conjure up strange characters, animals and multiple eyed monsters and create fantastical worlds and places for them to inhabit and get lost in. My first commission was the Dark Lord series of teen books by Jamie Thompson, the first of which won the Roald Dahl Funny prize in 2012. I have since been among the 12 winners of the Lemniscaat illustration award with illustrations from my picture book ‘Little Kong’.
I am now hoping to get a few of my own picture book ideas off the ground and pursue a freelance career in children’s illustration.
When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
Well, my dad and my grandpa are both illustrators, so I guess I had no choice in the matter really. I’ve always loved drawing, my bunk bed as a child had drawings stuffed in every corner, even under the pillow, and I used to stay up all night drawing mice… I was quite obsessed with them for some reason. I don’t think there was ever a point when I decided I wanted to be an illustrator, it just sort of happened.
Would you recommend studying at art school?
I really, really enjoyed my time at university; I studied at Falmouth in Cornwall which is just about the most idyllic place to be as an art student. The best thing about going to art school is the time it allows you to make your own work, if you are given a brief you should always twist it as much as possible into something that sparks your imagination and that you enjoy, even if it means coming up with something completely incomprehensive and not commercial in any sense, you can do all that stuff later. I don’t think that it’s absolutely necessary to do an art degree to have a career in illustration, but it is a lot of fun.
How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Haha…ummm, it hasn’t quite happened yet. When I was in my final year of uni I just sort of assumed I would walk straight into an illustration job after graduating, I don’t know who or what made me think this. It’s actually been incredibly difficult finding illustration work and although I do have a couple of projects waiting in the wings now, it’s taken a while to get going, in the meantime of which my confidence in my work has almost plummeted to the floor. Not that I want to put anyone off, I think that it’s a slow start for most illustrators coming out of university, if you pursue it long enough it will eventually take off. I’ve begun to look into other means of making money from illustration that I can do off my own back as it were, I’ve been designing a series of simple children’s toys, cards and wrapping paper that I’ll be taking to a trade fair in January, and I’m always trying to come up with new ideas for children’s books.
Could you describe your typical day?
My days haven’t really slid into a typical routine yet. I’m currently staying in my brother’s room while he’s away at university, it’s cluttered with teenage boy stuff so isn’t the most inspiring environment to work in. Most of the time I work next to my dad in his studio, as I mentioned earlier he’s an illustrator too, it’s always good to bounce ideas off each other and talk about the industry, he’s always saying encouraging things like “the whole industries going down the toilet” and “maybe we should just give this up and become accountants”. Despite his cynical comments, it is really nice to have someone to work with, illustration is known for being quite a solitary occupation otherwise.
What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
I’m first starting out right now, and I wish I knew a lot of things. I wish somebody told me how to start a career in illustration, other than just telling me to send out some postcards and keep up my blog, though actually I don’t think there is a lot else you can do. Someone needs to tell me to structure my time a bit more efficiently, at the moment I’m working on about 10 projects at the same time, none of which are anywhere near finished.
What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Being allowed to draw as your job. Drawing really is my favourite thing, so it’s great that I can (someday) do it for a living.
What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
I’m constantly worrying that my work isn’t ‘cool’ enough.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I’m not really sure, I’d love to do something ridiculous like own a sweets factory, or an exotic chimp breeding farm, be Queen! … seriously though I have no idea.
Any other tips you could share?
Send postcards, start a blog. Making connections is really the most important thing, I don’t have a lot of advice on how to go about doing this, but if you make one connection or go to an event, give everyone else and their dog a business card because you never know how or where a job could crop up. And don’t get too bogged down, like me, with all the ‘trendy’ stuff filling your tumblr newsfeed, stay true to yourself, there is space out there for your work too!