I'm often asked questions about my work, background or inspirations, by students, fellow artists, tutors or other interested parties. Although I enjoy answering these questions and like to help out where I can, time rarely allows sufficiently fulsome answers, so some information is provided here to help with your project or research. Or if you just fancy being nosy.
All of the following questions are taken directly from interviews or Q&A sessions with students and new illustrators over the past few years.
I always knew I wanted to be something creative as a small person, though it was never really conscious or a 'decision'. I just always did it, so it obviously was going to be the thing I did for a living as an adult. I drew, sewed things like dolls clothes, made models - all the things children do!
I didn't really focus on design, although on the Visual Communication degree I did, understanding basic design principles was an essential part of the foundation of my individual discipline. As I said, the most important thing to remember is that college is the start, not the end. You only stop learning when you die. I am learning constantly, just by doing my job. College can't teach you real-life experience in terms of client relationships, managing your business, promoting yourself in the real world and other skills involving work and fellow human beings.
At school I was a fan of the obvious illustration ones like Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen, Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake, but I had a serious thing for Sidney Nolan (Australian realist painter) and Andy 'Dog' Johnson, who worked for the band 'The The', very big in the 80s. I also liked Vaughan Oliver of course and anything involving tiny details and super-realism. At college, I became aware of people like Holly Warburton, who in the pre-Photoshop era was doing astounding things with multi-layered projections over water, and other 2/3d collage and multi-media artists (in the old-fashioned sense of the word, meaning paint, paper, wood etc.)
The list is quite long and again it changes all the time; but I look up to Melanie Tomlinson (my old college friend, still best chums now - her work almost makes me want to cry it's so beautiful),Anthony Saint James, Jill Calder, Edward Gorey, Nomoco, Aya Kato, Charles Keeping, Marian Bantjes, Kai & Sunny, Peter Horridge, Beth Robinson, Conor Harrington, Solo One, Becky and Richard Hogg. There are more, but you'll get bored reading the list!
I graduated from the University of Central England (then called Birmingham Polytechnic) with a first class honours in Illustration. I also won an award for my experimental typography.
I got busy on this long before graduation. I did a LOT of research for my final major project, particularly the written aspect. I made a lot of relevant contacts while doing this research, and made sure I kept in touch with those people, eventually inviting them to my degree show. This led to my first pieces of commissioned work as well as a job at the Royal Shakespeare Company. But I also got a place in the Association of Illustrators' 'Images' annual as a second year, which brought further work in.
A very difficult question to answer because this changes all the time! Nature, the news, my collections, other artists old and new, design, books I read, the music I listen to - it all inspires though often not consciously. The point is to remain fluid so you're always inspired by what's around you. And listen to lots of records, and go to shows.
For me, yes it was, because my work would have been hopelessly unevolved and directionless without it. A degree or other course of lengthy study gives you the chance to develop, make your mistakes and practise in a safe environment - all of which would otherwise be done in a 'live' situation, possibly at your clients' expense!
Having said that, a degree is not everyone's cup of tea, but if it is, it should only be the beginning, as it is extremely important to keep evolving and changing.
No, I don't, but I visit it a lot. The internet, my laptop and little scanner mean I can work wherever I want!
I have a US agent based in New York, Bernstein and Andriulli, and in the UK I’m represented by Central Illustration Agency.
I've devoted many years to building up a thorough and ever-growing list of UK clients who I remain on good terms with. I feel confident I have a sufficient 'presence' in the UK, and know the market well, though this is only gained through constant advertising and promotion (and making some handsome cock-ups along the way), and my agent Ben works hand-in-hand with me to reinforce those efforts.
In the States however, where the market is slightly different, and the country is much larger, an agent is crucial for me in order to help me cover areas of the market I cannot reach by myself, so an experienced and highly prolific agency like B&A is vital.
A good agent will not replace your own promotional efforts, but work with you to enhance them.
I'm pleased to say I don't really have 'typical' days, but every day certain things will be done - checking email, sending out any orders from my website, working on jobs (of course!), eating and a bit of cleaning, tea-making, perhaps sending out some invoices or other financial work, maybe a fast walk into town to fetch some crucial little item or two. I also exercise a lot since I spend a lot of time sitting down. Most of my day, however, is spent drawing, producing work. And by the way, it is always a very long day - I work most evenings.
Fees are based on the job and no two are ever the same. A good place to start is the AOI's Pricing Survey - but this is by no means prescriptive and you'll build up your own loose fee structure over time, and with experience. Fees are built up using several criteria which it is your job to obtain from the client - like usage of the image (ad? website?), length of use (1 or 2 years?), where the image will be used (UK or worldwide?), complexity and, of course, the profile of the company hiring you (eg: B&Q or Bob's Garden Supplies in the village?)
Constantly, and using a variety of methods. All roads ultimately lead back to your website, so it's extremely important to have a good, easy-to-follow one, but a website alone cannot promote you. Therefore I advertise annually in Contact, Images (the annual AOI competition), Workbook (US); I try assorted different press ads (Creative Review, the Drum, Graphis etc.), and do regular e-Campaigns to a carefully-maintained set of clients old, new and desired (incidentally, the second most important tool in your box will be this mailing list!)
In addition I make and post out frequent items - recent examples are my own sweeties, Halloween Surprises, jewellery, colouring books, Christmas wrapping paper and lots of others. Sometimes it's just a beautiful piece of print, nothing more complex. I also do exhibitions - solo shows plus those with other artists - and finally, though it probably won't get you too much work, thing like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter are fun and another route by which people can find you - make sure they link in and our of your own, main site. An interesting Blog keeps people coming back to you too, plus I make sure I’m active as possible on all illustration websites. It’s not easy to keep up with al of this, but a healthy sprinkling of all of them as often as I can is my motto.
If I see a company I want to work for, I just ask: I send them a juicy parcel of goodies, and be honest with them - 'Let me work for you' - you'd be surprised how often this approach has worked! Sometimes people have already seen my work elsewhere, or find me online, or in one of my books. An ex-student recently hired me too! Finally it can simply be repeat business or a recommendation - or my agent. And if you do a good job for a client they'll come back to you.