Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 28 Jan 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Gillian Hibbs

My name is Gillian Hibbs, I’m 22 and I live in Crystal Palace/Croydon (depending on who I’m talking to). I graduated in 2012 working on my first self-authored picture book which is due to be published in the near-ish future.

jump hoops web

When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
At sixth form, I tried to decide my future by process of elimination. I loved all my A level subjects, but German wasn’t creative enough and music was too hard. That left art. During my foundation year I saw how broad illustration was, and realised how much I enjoyed being set briefs. By the time I got accepted for the degree course, my mind was made up – I knew that illustration was what I wanted to do.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
If you are full of ideas and love making things then yes, definitely look into it. I think A levels and other further education qualifications can often leave people disillusioned about the creative industries because you have to jump through so many hoops to get good grades that you forget what it’s all about – creativity. Before my art foundation I was a self-conscious ball of fine liner portraits and perfectly shaded still lifes. Higher education made me love art again.

How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
I was totally blessed when I got my picture book contract during the final term of my degree, so I already knew that I would have something to do in the post-grad slump. A large part of my week is spent illustrating, but I have another couple of jobs to keep the pennies flowing and also to remind me of the joys of human contact. I help out with art sessions for disabled adults in a creative daycare centre which is so much fun, and allows me to be involved in a very different art environment. I also work in my Dad’s bike shop and cafe (, pretending to know what a rear derailleur hanger looks like and supervising our cycle operated smoothie maker.

HIBBS Gillian

Could you describe your typical day?
My studio is in the basement of my Dad’s shop, so I go to work when he does, at about 7:30. I probably don’t become productive for at least 45 minutes, and then I get started on whatever seems the most pressing/fun for that day. When I start forgetting what being warm feels like (usually about 11), I head to the gym, sweat for a bit and then eat as much as possible to balance things out. After lunch I work until the shop closes at 7. Solid efficient work is interspersed with “inspiration sessions” which involve activities such as looking at blogs, making weird playlists, thinking of funny things to say on twitter and then deciding against it, and browsing (and often buying) the beautiful picture books section in the local bookshop (

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
Black ink definitely won’t come off.

I am definitely still in the ‘starting out’ period now, so I’ll probably be able to give a better answer in a few years. When I was at college, it was a joint effort between the tutor and me to call the shots as to when a project was ‘finished’. In the real world, I’m beginning to realise that there is a lot more editing involved than I previously thought, and that I no longer have the final say as to when something’s done. These are not necessarily negative points, the end product is a lot more polished and obviously fits the brief better, but it’s just something to get used to after a few years of being in control..

clive and clar heart

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
When someone is telling you about their terrible day at work and you can legitimately say “I finger-painted a happy caterpillar”.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Inspiration droughts.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
A hype man.

Any other tips you could share?
Have other hobbies and interests outside of illustration. Go out. Read books. Make music. Discover new places. Be active. Visit galleries and museums even if you think you won’t like them. Talk to lots of different people. The best way to get truly new and individual ideas is to be inspired by everyone and everything – not just other illustrators.

Don’t believe the hype – you don’t actually have to like tea to make it in illustration.


music theory


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