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childrens books

Interview with Susann Hoffmann | Inspiring Illustrators

Inspiring IllustratorsCara OrdComment

Hello Susann, Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us today about all your beautiful creative work. You are a very talented illustrator with a unique style which captivates the eye. How did you find your ‘voice’ in illustration, that makes your work specially yours?

Thank you so much for reaching out (and for the compliments!), happy to have found your blog! It’s so funny that you mention “my style” because for the longest time, I was sure I didn’t have one. Up to three years ago I found myself copying illustrators whose style I admired, but apart from feeling bad about it, I didn’t feel like it was “me” – it was a lot of pencil work and very reduced colour. 

In 2017, I saw people on Instagram using paint markers in their sketchbooks and I was captivated by the vibrant colours and the smooth surfaces that made the drawings seem like printed artworks. Usually I would never say that a medium defines your style, but I think for me it did change something. I started doodling, not thinking too much about what I wanted to draw but merely playing with those colours, building shapes and seeing what could develop from them. Also, when working digitally before, I was SO bad with colours! The markers gave me a limited palette to work with and I just chose 4–5 colours and stuck with them for the whole illustration. That really tied my work together, I think. 

Journey to Publishing a Picture Book | Part 3

illustrationCara OrdComment

Before you start reading, if you want to catch up on part one and two just click below.

PART 1 | PART 2

If you are all caught up let’s begin with part 3. We finished off last way back in time at university. Well now we move forward a bit and it is time for a bit of self exploration. Now it is time for ‘The Elephant Who Forgot What He Was’. This is a beautiful poem I found online by Christopher Ronald Jones (if you are reading Chris please let me know what you think of my adaptation, would love to get in touch). I had decided after illustrating an Australian classic it was time to dip my toes into the water of children’s poetry, and see what my imagination came up with.

This little project took me about a month to develop from concept to completion and is still one of my favourite personal projects to date.

It started like all good picture books do, with a pinch of reading, a dash of pagination and a big dollop of story boarding. I spent about a week figuring out the layout of this 32 page pipe dream and then off I went full steam ahead into the fun of character design and creating an aesthetic for this sweet little story.

Journey to publishing a picture book | part 2

illustrationCara Ord

So as I said in a previous post. My love of books runs deep and I hope to publish a children’s book before I am thirty (or even twenty five… but let’s be realistic). My first step into the world of children’s publishing happened at university doing a class assignment to, well, illustrate a children’s book.

For this task I chose the below poem, an old famous Australian piece from 1889 by Banjo Patterson.

Journey to publishing a picture book | part 1

illustrationCara OrdComment

A few of you reading this may know a bit about me, or even know me personally, and if you do you would know that even though I am an established and confident designer, my current goal in life is to work with books as a designer and illustrator, and further to publish my own children’s book.

It is here in this series of blogs that I will chronicle my journey to the conclusion of a published book. 

The first thing we should discuss is my why.

Why do I want to publish a children’s book?

I do not have children (yet) to share my stories with and I don’t remember reading as a child. But I wish I did. I am an avid reader and bibliophile, but this didn’t really come about till mid way through high school for me (around 9th grade for non-Australian readers). I discovered reading quietly on my own, I am a slow reader and was shy to admit to my book obsessed friends that I enjoyed books too because it would take me a month to read one when they had read 10. I even got shamed in front of my english class by my teacher because I was reading our assigned book too slowly, apparently reading every night wasn’t enough for her. But I have gotten off topic. The reason I want to write and illustrate books for children is because I believe reading in a vital happiness in life and I want to help young readers discover this as early as possible and not be like me in their mid twenties returning to famous children’s and middle grade books to read them, because I had missed out on them in my youth and want to know what the fuss was about.

Even though I am an adult, I have a guilty pleasure for collecting beautifully illustrated children’s books. From Shaun Tan to Oliver Jeffers, I have a collection any child or mother would envy. I love the world and colours that come in children’s books and the level of imagination that they trigger.

My journey into children’s publication started 3 or so years ago at university when I was assigned to illustrate a book. I fell in love instantly. I had decided that apparently the task of illustrating an entire book wasn’t challenging enough and thought I would also teach myself to use a new medium at the same time. This is when my little university project of ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ came into being.

A collection of the original paintings used in creating the book.

A collection of the original paintings used in creating the book.

As you can see from the pictures I illustrated the book through acrylic paint on art board. the whole book was around 32 pages and it was a broken up version of the famous Australian poem, ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. The whole process from story boarding to finished product took a semester to complete and I learnt so much along the way. I learned more from making mistakes then my class curriculum but that is what life is all about, mistakes help us improve for the next time.

In the following blog I will go through my entire process from start to finish of that first book. The first of three (and a half) I have currently illustrated.

I hope you can join me as I continue this journey of learning and art as I make my way to a published children’s book.

I invite you to comment and question and share advice on this blog for me and for others. I know I am not the only person on this journey and I hope we can all grow together to get to our goals.

 

Interview with Nathan Ferlazzo | Inspiring Illustrators

Inspiring IllustratorsCara Ord

Today we speak to a man who shares my passion for animal conservation and uses his gifts to do what he can for the cause he loves. Originally an illustrator Nathan broke away and created his own business illustrating amazingly detailed animal portraits to support animal conservation.

Koala Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

Koala Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

Hello Nathan, Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Your unique and highly detailed work is so fascinating to view and your focus on wildlife and conservation connects deeply with me.

Your business Marini Ferlazzo is really inspirational, using your talent for a cause. How did you come about the concept for your business, and in what ways has it contributed to wildlife conservation?

I had always wanted to start my own business in art and design. It was 2011 when I began developing ideas after visiting a Eugene von Guerard exhibition in Melbourne. I was inspired by his immensely detailed painted landscapes and ink illustrations. I had always loved drawing with detail since I was a child, so I think that was inevitably going to be a key element of my illustrations. So I began experimenting with ink, drawing animals made of flora. I did more and more of these illustrations and felt this could be something more. If this was going to become a business it needed to have a positive impact that people could be a part of. I love surrounding myself amongst nature and I find animals fascinating, so of course the decision was easy, I wanted to support wildlife conservation. My mother and I teamed up to further develop ideas as to how we could convert these illustrations into products. In 2014, we launched the business and started off with limited edition prints and shortly after introduced greeting cards. We partnered with non-for-profits organisations and found that we could offer them a unique way to spread their messages and also raise funds for their initiatives. Anyone trying to push a conservation message or welfare issue has to compete with the noise of social media, it can be difficult to cut through and get your message to new people. This is where we found we could communicate in a different way and potentially reach new supporters for these important conservation issues. 

Your style is very distinct and highly detailed. How did you develop your style?

I had never used a traditional nib and Indian ink when I began these illustrations, I grew up drawing with graphite pencils, but I loved that it was something new, at least to me, and was hooked. It was a matter of trial and error, the earlier illustrations look very different to more recent ones. The more I drew, the more I understood what made an illustration work and what would compromise the form. That’s the trickiest thing, ensuring the form of the animal is still captured while completing removing all it’s fur, feathers or skin and replacing it with botanicals. 

How long does it take you to finish a piece? Do you research heavily into the Fauna and Flora forms that you use in your compositions?

The more detailed pieces take up to 60 hours to complete, which I do over several weeks. The fauna is always very carefully considered and researched, as they need to be relevant and also engage people so they’ll sit up and take notice. It depends on the collection, as to whether or not I research the flora. Sometimes I’ll include random flora, as it’s not always the focus of the collection. But for instance, the Australian range, it was important that people saw a complete picture of Australia within each illustration.

Was it a conscious choice of yours to work only in black and white. How has this impacted your art and career?

Yes it was. I experimented with colour in the beginning and really didn’t feel it added anything, in fact, it actually took away from the animal. I didn’t want people to be persuaded by the colour palette, I preferred they chose based on the animal they felt they most connected to. 

You do collaborations and commissions with your art. How does this effect your illustration practice?

I try to fit in one or two commissions each year so clients can get exactly what they would like. However, it’s getting more difficult to find a place for them, as it’s important that each piece can relate to a conservation message, and client’s projects don’t always have a relevance to our business. If we can’t make it part of our range it’s unlikely I’ll take on the commission. 

Is illustration your sole career or do you balance your creative work with other pursuits?

It’s my sole career at the moment, I love expressing myself creatively and working with my family. However, my type of illustration is a very slow process that can often feel quite static, so I have hobbies like martial arts, rock climbing and skateboarding – these activities allow me to release some energy and get my body moving!

Can you talk us through your transition from graphic designer to full time illustrator, what were some of the challenges? What are the biggest distinctions, you think, between the two creative careers?

Unfortunately, I never had a teacher explain to me the potential avenues of illustration. It was either become a struggling artist with a part-time job at the local super-market or become a graphic designer. I opted for the latter. I was a graphic designer for 8 years when I finally felt like I had achieved everything I had wanted to do – it was no longer fulfilling designing ads and point of sale for beer brands. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything of real meaning, nothing to contribute to the world in a positive way. So I went back to my passion – art. 

Graphic design is something very different to being an artist, but it’s actually not too dissimilar to being an illustrator. Graphic designers work to briefs supplied by clients. You are constantly in a balancing act of what you feel works aesthetically and what the client wants, trying to reach compromises and finally communicate a clients message. When I began creating my own artworks, I was free of anyone’s expectations or design briefs, I was just expressing myself creatively. The illustration I do now is a mixture of the two, graphic design and art. I create my pieces free of briefs and clients, however, I still consider the viewer because ultimately the illustration needs to work on our range of products. There are animals I’d like to draw, there are poses I’d like to draw, but I don’t do them because they won’t transition well to products. To put it simply, a graphic designer works for clients, an artist works for themselves and an illustrator can be a mix.

Does working professionally in illustration diminish some of your passion for the work you do?

I think it has the opposite effect on me actually. Working professionally in illustration makes me feel like I have a responsibility to achieve a level of quality. Plus the people I meet who are involved in conservation, are all very passionate and inspirational people – that fuels my passion.

It is clear that wildlife and nature inspire your work, is their any other things or people that inspire you in your creative practice?

Many other things inspire me; my family, my grandparents, design, architecture, people in conservation like John and Angela Lemon of Painted Dog Conservation Inc. are incredibly inspirational. Anyone who pushes them selves to do the seemingly impossible always inspires me.

Out of your published works which is your favourite and why?

The Dingo. It reminds me of our family dog I grew up with, Oscar. He was a jet black Kelpie. When I look at the dingo illustration I think of Oscar, who I miss very much. 

Dingo Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

Dingo Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

When you began as an illustrator how did you get your voice heard among the crowd?

I attended markets, I walked into stores and showed them my prints and greeting cards and I posted work on social media. I wasn’t scared of rejection or criticism, I knew not everyone would like my work, and I was fine with that, but I knew there was a group of people that would appreciate it. 

Finally, what is your dream project?

Sitting down with David Attenborough and discussing a collection that he would like to see me draw to represent his life in wildlife.

Interview with Tamara Campeau | Inspiring illustrators

Inspiring IllustratorsCara OrdComment

Welcome everyone to the first interview in our new blog series 'Inspiring illustrators'. Every week we will have a new interview with a professional artist working in the ranging field of illustration. I am more than delighted to introduce illustrator Tamara Campeau as our first amazing professional, sharing with us her experience and passion for her craft.

Autumn Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Autumn Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Hello Tamara, welcome to the blog, I am looking forward to what you have to say.
What are some of the biggest challenges you find in being a professional artist?

Hi Cara, thank you for having considered me for this cool project of yours! I’m delighted to contribute.

To answer your first question, I would say first thing that comes to mind, the business side. Something I’m working still to perfect and become well versed in. Other then that, I would say sketching regularly sometimes could become a challenge because life just happens such as house chores, grocery shopping and errands etc. 

Your style is a combination of analogue and digital techniques, Can you run us through how you create an artwork from start to finish?

My process starts with a quick thumbnail in my sketchbook, something to get the general gesture and feel of the piece before taking the next step. I then create a cleaner version of my initial gesture, cleaning up the lines and adding detail as well as making more final decisions about the lights and darks of the piece. I will then take this more finished sketch and scan it into my computer to work into the image more on my Cintiq tablet. Sometimes I will work directly from my sketched line work and other times I will draw the line work digitally. I will then proceed to doing gray scale studies to figure out the lighting and contrast of the image. Once satisfied, I then research reference images relevant to the subject matter of my illustration in order to have a more accurate representation.  After all these steps are completed I then move on to the final stage that being color application. 

The whimsy of your work naturally lend itself to children’s book illustration? Was this always your intention or did you just fall into this category of illustration? 

No. When I first studied in illustration at Dawson College in Montreal (2004-2008), I did not know what I wanted to do. The program was pretty vague; they showed us a little bit of everything in the industry of illustration such as technical drawing, 3D modeling, narrative, editorial and many others. By the time I graduated I had an interesting skill set but yet I had no idea what I really wanted to pursue as an illustrator but I definitely knew I wanted to further my education in illustration or fine art. So I ended up taking some time off and traveled a bit. I can’t remember exactly the moment I knew I wanted to be a children book illustrator but I remember looking at books in the children section at the local library in downtown Vancouver, and realized I could do this type of work and it looked really fun to do. From that point on I became obsessed with children books and their illustrators and started researching that industry and working on my skill sets. Before going back to school in 2013, I had tried freelancing a bit as a children book illustrator for about a 1-2 year period while working odd jobs. I finally got my first gig to illustrate a book just a few months before starting university at Sheridan College. During my studies I had freelanced a tiny bit in the summers for small publishing companies and editorial. To conclude, not at first, but eventually children book illustration became my intention. 

Your work has a beautiful quality for story telling, how do you convey story in your illustrations? Do you have a system or advice for developing the world in your works?

Once I have an idea in mind and a thumbnail decided on. I will do a lot of research on my subject matter. Research is important because it makes your environment more believable to the viewer. When researching and thinking of the environment the character is living in and what he/she does in its everyday life I think of representational elements that would best describe the characters personality. I’m trying to describe who they are within the world they live in without using words. I leave it to the audience to put the pieces together. If they can, it means I have done my job properly in the end. My job being a visual communicator.

Where is your favorite place for creating?

Um well most of my work is done digitally, and I work on a 27 inch Cintiq, so I can’t really be mobile when I work on a finish piece. However, when working in my sketchbook, I do enjoy (with a nice coffee) drawing in café shops. Other then that, I like to doodle, while watching a movie/show, it’s relaxing and therapeutic for me. 

What is some advice you could give to artists starting their education or deciding whether to take part in professional art classes? As you have done several professional courses for illustration, did you find structured learning beneficial to your artistic practice?

I would say it depends on the person’s determination. There are many artists that are self taught and are very successful. But not everybody can do that. In my case, although very determined, structured learning was beneficial for me. But my maturity level also influenced my success as a student. When I first went to college and studied in illustration I was younger, early 20’s, and was not that serious about my education and it showed in my work. Having taken some time off made me realize what I really wanted to do. And that made of me an overall better student and me much more determined and focused when I went back to school. Therefore, I would advise, if you are uncertain about being an illustrator, if you can, wait! Take some time off. And really figure out what you want to study in first. Because once you do, you become that much more committed and focused on your education. Especially if the school your going to is going to be expensive make it worth the buck! For the most part, art schools are quite expensive!

If you had one key piece of advice that you would give an illustrator beginning their professional journey, what might it be?

Persistence. And draw everyday. I know it is a boring and simple answer but it is the truth. Especially drawing. Once your drawing skills get higher in caliber, everything else seems to fall in place to some degree.

What is some of the inspiration behind your work? 

I would say Disney movies definitely from the 90’s, such as Pocahontas, The Lion King, Hocus Pocus, Fantasia, Land before Time, A Bugs Life. In literature, Winnie the Pooh, The Bernstein Bears, Little Critter series. Especially Bernstein Bears and Little Critter I remember never really reading the words just holding the books close to my face and looking at all the details the artist would put in the illustrations and being so mesmerized by it. I would find other little stories happening in the backgrounds of the illustration aside from the main event. I love that so much. And when I can, I try to incorporate that concept in my own work.

Do you carry around a sketchbook at all times for those moment when inspiration hits? Also do you prefer to sketch analogue or digitally?

I do carry a tiny sketchbook with me in my bag. That said, for the most part I typically set a place and time for sketching only. I definitely prefer to sketch traditionally then digitally. I work digitally primarily when it is to create and finish an illustration.

Out of your professional and personal works which is your favourite and why?

I like a few of my personal pieces. Two pieces I did recently actually, about autumn. A top view of a girl laying down in a bed of fall leafs and another top view of the same girl looking in a puddle of water. I like them because they are simpler then my typical work. It was a bit of a challenge because I had to holdback sometimes but none the less they were fun to create. Other reason why I enjoy them is the concept behind them and my use of negative space. And lastly, one piece I still enjoy is one I created last year around the holidays for a school related greeting card competition. The theme was holidays. I did a toy storefront view and theirs a mother and her boy and their dog looking through the window on a winter night. I really like this piece because of the narrative, and also I was able to really play with lighting and warm colors versus cool colors.

Christmas card Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Christmas card Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Did you always intend to be an illustrator, how did you know it was the right career for you? When starting out did you partner your creative work with part-time jobs to help kick start your work financially?

When I first went to college in Montreal, I had applied in a fine arts program and I got rejected. That really hurt at first and I was starting to question my existence! As a result, I went in a general visual arts program. In the first year, I came across these students that were selling artwork in the hallway. Different types of artwork I had never seen before on different surfaces and rendered in different ways. At the time for some reason when I thought of art, I thought it was only drawing and painting. I remember seeing this alligator rendered on a black scratchboard, it was so beautiful. I asked the student selling what is this for?, he replied, ‘oh were selling this work to raise funds for our Illustration grad show ’ I was like what? Illustration what is that?.  Anyways I researched the school curriculum about the classes this program offered and was immediately amazed and in love. The following year is when my illustration journey began! 

Finally, what is your dream project?

As weird as this sound, I never thought of a dream project. I’m always focused on just being an illustrator and getting work. I guess I should think of that. However, I would like to eventually illustrate a children’s book for Scholastic. Does that count as a dream projectish? 

If you would like to know more about Tamara and her beautiful work please head to one of the below links.

Portfolio  www.tamaracampeau.com

Instagram  #tamaracampeauillustration

Society 6 Shop   https://society6.com/tamaracampeauillustration 

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/tamarasillustrations/  

Behance  https://www.behance.net/tamaracampeau