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  

Spotlight: Interview with Jabier Erostarbe

We are pleased to introduce Jabier Erostarbe, an artist based in the Basque country specialising in watercolour and ink drawings who has recently joined the ODI network.  As a child, you would spend hours reading and creating your own stories - what characters would you create? Which comics inspired you?I think that in this world there are lots great stories to tell about unknown people who have had great courage and bravery in confronting the difficulties of life and have been a great example for all. These stories inspire me.Since I was a child, I have been a reader of comic books and the most interesting ones were Westerns comics. When I became a young boy I began drawing and creating stories. The first one was “La nueva era del sueño” ( in English “The new era of the dream”). It is about the adventures of a Peruvian immigrant child of 12 years in Australia. Years later I published another comic called “Mattin basoko gidaria” ( in English “Mattin the forest guide”). It is about a young boy who helps pilots crossing the border from France to Spain during the second world war.  It's clear that art is something deeply engrained for you, but was there ever a question of becoming something other than an artist?If I couldn´t be an artist I would like to do something related to geography. I love to read books about people from all over the world and find in maps different places (countries,cities and towns) where they come from.  Detailed, realistic illustrations of birds often feature in your work, is there a lot of nature to work from where you live in the Basque country? What's your process from inspiration to completion for these works?Yes, the Basque Country is very green with a large fauna, we have a lot of mountains and we also have some beaches. I live in a town called Oñati very close to the mountains and there are lots of farms in it so I am used to seeing animals. But I also like to have a walk to see different animals in their natural habitat.In the Basque Country we have the second Europe's largest forest called “IRATI”. It is beautiful!  You work in both traditional and digital media, what would you say are the advantages and challenges of each?Honestly, I prefer to draw by hand, I think that it is more authentic and the work is more elaborated. But nowadays the digital work is essential and facilitates things, especially takes less time and it is important for printing. I'm very fond of your illustration of the Mongolian girl peeking out from under her fur hat, what's her story?This painting is special for me. I am very interested in nomad people from Mongolia. I collect articles from magazines and newspapers about these amazing people. And this little girl photo was in one of these articles and she captivated me. She looked so happy living with her family , laughing with the lamb and without computers or electronic machines. It is true that the smile of a child is more beautiful than the most valuable jewel. What's captured your imagination at the moment?Before painting, I like to take my time thinking about what to paint and sometimes takes me minutes but other times I have something in mind but I need more time to create some ideas. When I feel ready to paint it is the most pleasant moment and I enjoy making my thoughts.  Finally, what would be your perfect brief to work on in the future?In these moments I'm painting about the nature (landscapes and animals) but I’m also painting houses and buildings from different countries, I think they are very interesting and part of the identity of each country. I can paint a typical English pub,  an “horreo” from Portugal, a traditional Iceland cabin or a cottage in Ireland. To see samples of work from Jabier's portfolio, click here  

Spotlight: Interview with Ai Higaki

 Ai Higaki currently lives and works from a small village in Spain, under a stork's nest - read on to explore a little more of the wonderful world behind her artwork. Was there an illustrated book which you really sunk into the pages of as a child?I really loved a book called “Guri and Gura”, a classic Japanese children book. It’s not a gorgeous fairly tale about magnificent dragons and princesses, but a simple and friendly story of two food-loving field mice. Guri and Gura go acorn-gathering in a forest to make a preserve but find a huge egg, They decide to make a massive cake, which they share with their animal friends including an elephant, a lion, and a crocodile… It’s not a complex story, but I was fascinated by how Guri and Gura enjoy life; ideal for me! They live in me still.  Do you think the changing of the seasons comes through in your work, for example in use of palette or choice of subjects?I draw from nature a lot, so naturally my work is influenced by the seasons. It's getting warm these days, so I draw spring flowers and colourful birds a lot now instead of fluffy squirrels or plump robins. I grew up in Japan where cherry blossom trees have a very special meaning, so I find myself at the moment making designs which remind me of these frothy pink flowers. I do have some favourite themes though, whatever the weather. Can you unpick where on your life's journey the motifs, techniques or styles in your work were found?I grew up surrounded by classic Japanese cartoons, which form a kind of creative foundation for me. Since my first visit to England I have been captivated by the wonderful tradition of British illustration - Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham, E.H.Shepard and Raymond Briggs. One of my heroes is William Morris who I first experienced, many years ago, when I visited Kelmscott Manor. I admire his work, of course, but also his character, his principles and his love of English nature. I think I first fell in love with the wildlife of England when I did The Cumbria Way on foot with my husband, camping in the fells; such an inspiration! What's caught your imagination recently?Currently I'm living in West Spain which is a bird paradise!!! After the winter rains finally ended, swallows and house martins arrived, right on time, and we wake up now with a blue thrush singing in our terrace, white storks busying around us preparing and fixing their nests and a black redstart that comes to our ’bird café’ for lunch. A few days ago we went for a walk, and I saw the newborn jumpy happy lambs. The cheerful spring atmosphere always inspires me to draw something colourful and vivid! What would be your perfect brief?I enjoy mushrooming and bird-watching nowadays. I wish I could have done these things in my youth! I would love to show people how enjoyable these activities are. When you go mushrooming or birding you also study trees, insects, animals; not just how they look, but how they smell and feel. I would love to be involved with a natural guidebook for children, which you could take with you on trips, and which would wear out gradually as you read more and more. I’m always thinking of children. I would love to entertain them with my work, make them giggle when they see my illustrations. To see samples of Ai's artwork, click here. ‚Äč

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