Spotlight: Interview with Rowena Aitken
Rowena is a brilliant illustrator based in Scotland - we just had to know more about her charmingly mad characters! From starting out in RPG and fantasy illustration to your recent quirky and fun characters, you've maintained a healthy population of adventurous pirates, warriors and dinosaurs in space in your portfolio - could you tell me more about your own artistic adventure?I suppose I have always been on an artistic adventure - always drawing! I started finding my voice at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design where I started off on the foundation course and moved onto Animation & Electronic Media. The drawing side of animation was what I loved and I dug my heels in to stay away from learning 3D software! I love the freedom of drawing and it was clear after graduating that I wouldn't be happy doing anything else for a living so I boldly went into doing freelance illustration for RPG books and games. This taught me a lot and mainly that clients are (amazingly) people and while you have to maintain a level of professionalism you can have a lot of good banter! Over the years I have had many fun projects but I suppose my heart lay in "The Silly". I love silly expressions, fun colours, exaggerated poses - extremes, really! I made a deliberate move to go into children's illustration and I utterly adore it. You've recently finished working on a book called 'Ruan The Little Red Squirrel' - how did you build a working relationship with writer Rachel McGraw to bring the characters to life?Well thanks to the power of the internet this was made relatively easy! Forth Books, publishers of "Ruan The Little Red Squirrel" and Rachel are based near Edinburgh so in a combination of a few meetings and lots of emails we crafted the story of Ruan. Forth and Rachel are lovely to work with and I think it shows in the final product. Could you tell us a little more about the picture book you're working on at the moment? I can! The story is called The Kilted Coo - Rachel McGaw's second venture into children's books with Forth Books. Here's a poem by Rachel from her Facebook Page to tell you a little about The Kilted Coo:Facebook friends, if I could have a moment or two...I have some exciting news for you -I'm thrilled to announce that book number two Is on the way about a coo called Drew.Most of the details are still under wraps But for now I'll give you some of the facts:Illustrated by Rowena, published by Forth,I hope it'll be a hit here, up North.In case you haven't worked it out by nowIt's a rhyming story about a highland cow,Set on a farm on the West Highland Way About a cow and a kilt... and that's all I'll say!So please feel free to like and share(To spread the news everywhere)And look out for 'The Kilted Coo'In a bookshop soon somewhere near you!It's incredibly fun to work on as animals are my favourite thing to draw. There may be cameos from Pixel (The Studio Cat), some y-fronts and a certain Little Red Squirrel! What's your working process from inkling of an idea to fully-fledged Photoshop painting?Ooh it's a long one! If it's a book I start off by going through the story and reading any notes the author and/or publisher have added; If it's a painting I look at the brief or go with my own ideas if they're personal pieces then spend time looking for reference images of animals, environments, people, clothing etc to get the ideas going. Then I start VERY rough by scribbling out thumbnails - combo of digital and paper - to work out compositions. Then I mock up the pages, working out text placement (if this hasn't already been defined by the client), plan out characters, work out a rough colour scheme (this is all very messy!) and somewhere in between there and the finished piece the art happens! Lots of coffee helps too :) I loved the 'Haggis: a Simple Guide' - does the Haggis have a way to defend itself against the predatory Nessie and midgies?Thank you! For the Haggis avoidance is the best strategy but unfortunately they aren't very bright and can sometimes end up too close to the water's edge!Regarding midgies - no one can escape them! Revise your Haggis knowledge and see Rowena's brilliant work here
Spotlight: Interview with Stephen Waterhouse
Today we caught up with Stephen Waterhouse, an experienced illustrator who has been with us for the best part of a decade to find out more about his new slick, graphic style. Your portfolio is packed with fantastic cities, maps, people and animals - is illustration a way of documenting your own adventures, or a way of travelling in itself? Great question, thanks, I think that yes my work as an Illustrator is definitely a way of travelling in itself! Each project is a journey of discovery and certainly an adventure. I love the fact that I get to learn so much about things when researching each project. For example I learnt so much when researching the ‘My Pop-Up Atlas’s by Templar, the first was ‘My Pop-Up World Atlas’, the second was ‘My Pop-Up City Atlas’ and third was all about ‘My Pop-Up People Atlas’. I didn’t enjoy Geography at school but these books gave me a chance to learn all about different countries and cultures in a really fun way. I have always loved drawing when travelling or on holiday, as there’s no pressure to get things right so I can just draw with in any media, so yes I often do document my own adventures. It looks like you specialise in physically interactive projects such as advent calendars, popup books and jigsaws - how do you wrap your mind around how the artwork is going to give that 'moment of discovery' in its final 3D form?The physically interactive projects are really fun to do but are the most challenging due to the technical side of how things are going to fit together, especially the pop-up Atlas's. The client / publisher often sends me a rough mockup of the physical product so I can see how the bits and pieces fit together which really helps me to visualise and understand and wrap my mind around those ‘moments of discovery’ as you say. It’s then a case of creating the drawings and adding them onto the various parts. Once those drawings are approved I then create the colour artwork but I don’t usually see how everything fits together until the jigsaw, advent calendar or book is published usually a year later! I hope to do more of these ‘3D’ projects as they are a really great challenge and are so much fun to do. Could you tell us more about your working process from multi-media to final digital art? My working process usually involves, pencil, acrylics, oil pastel and then finally working digitally. I enjoy the hands on physical side of creating lots of rough pencil drawings to develop and work out compositions. I then use acrylics, pencil crayons, oil pastels and sometimes felt tips to play around with colour, lighting and atmosphere to discover the time of day and mood. I then scan all this work in and create the final artwork using Painter and Photoshop. I like to think that using a mix of materials and media results in the artwork being fresher, more experimental and more exciting. It sounds like you combine the best of both worlds, what would you say are the perks and challenges of your process? I enjoy each part of my working process but the start is definitely the most challenging, trying to find the right research, the right way of drawing something from a particular unique angle and the right composition. My favourite part is when the colour painting is about 60% complete and you can see that it’s all coming together and how it might look when it’s finished. Another ‘perk’ is seeing the final printed and packaged calendar, jigsaw or book about a year later. What's your next adventure, illustration-related or otherwise?In terms of illustration work I’ve just finished this years Divine Chocolate Advent Calendar which is my 10th for Divine! So it’s a special one for me and I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a long standing relationship with the team at Divine Chocolate. I’m also working on a large site map for a school in North Yorkshire which has about 50 buildings! I’m also currently trying to invent new characters and write new stories, but they often have to wait and take a back seat due to other commissioned work. The ‘in development’ projects can take me a while to develop and I often have to live with the ideas and characters for months, maybe even years before they progress any further. Last year I went to the west coast of America and travelled from Seattle down through San Francisco to Las Vegas, so I'm hoping to create some new work from my experiences over there. But Iceland is the next place I would love to visit and create some large drawings!Check out Stephen's brilliant portfolio
Spotlight: Interview with Conor Rawson
We're excited to get to know Conor Rawson, a Swindon-based illustrator who creates bright, playful images to make people smile. What are the childhood memories and adventures that come out to play in your work?So many things. I have a very vivid memory of my childhood. Holidays to the seaside, Sunday afternoon car drives, school holidays and time with family all play a big part. I wrote little stories and drew together with my Dad and he made these wonderful wooden toys. His shed was very much like an elves workshop at a certain North Pole. I was certainly never short of inspiration or encouragement as a child. As we grow up, our books tend to have fewer pictures - why do you think this is?I think as we grow up we gather more and more life experiences and in turn we are able to to picture things in books for ourselves. Having that marriage of words and pictures in books is not only helpful but also a comfort to children. However I do feel that books with pictures should not be seen as solely for children. Some of the best books i've ever read are picture books and if my shelves were filled with books with only words I think they would be pretty bare. Your playful illustrations are obviously appealing to kids, but how do you appeal to the inner kids of parents and teachers?There is normally an element of nostalgia in my illustrations, which I hope evokes happy memories for a parent or teacher. On another level I also make my illustrations as happy, safe and secure as possible. I think that's probably the three main things a parent or teacher want their children to be. The clean shapes and bold colours in your work are achieved through your skill with digital technologies - what's the most useful thing that hasn't been invented yet?That's a tricky one. Digital technology certainly enhances my work but everything I do always begins with a pencil, a technology that I feel will always stand the test of time and be more useful than anything that is invented in the future. I'll jump in my DeLorean and get back to you just to be sure though. What's your dream brief?Definitely a 32 page picture book. I love creating characters so it would probably be about a big friendly monster, or dinosaur or something like that. It would start with a pencil as always and end with books on shelves in well known bookstores. That's always been my dream. To see samples of Conor's work, click here
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