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.   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  

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  


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