Wow. Apologies for completely falling off the radar last month. I won’t bore you with the details of how this eventuated, but it involved lots of travel, deadlines and some illness all mixed in together. But I am back on deck and ready to do some catching up.
I think last time we chatted, I promised to share my journey into Illustration.
One of the first questions I am asked when people find out I am a Children’s Book Illustrator is, “How did you get into that?” Well, in my case it’s a bit of a long story, but I will try to narrow it down a bit for you.
Let me be upfront right away. I am old school. I earned my Graphic Design Degree back in the days before computers. (Eeek!!) Times have changed and there are so many new and wonderful ways to get yourself noticed in the Creative Industries, but this is MY story. I hope it inspires someone out there.
During my school days I was known for my drawing ability, and everyone just expected that I would end up doing something ‘arty.’ However, during my University days I was a bit of a ‘nobody’. My ability was over shadowed by so many other talented classmates, that I think most of the teachers (and probably a fair amount of the students) probably wouldn’t even remember me now. It was intimidating at times, and is still one of the hardest things I have done, but I finished that Degree and I am proud of it.
Note to self: Having a Degree does not guarantee a job in your field!
Almost 10 years after finishing my Degree I still had not managed to get a job in ANY sort of creative capacity. In that time I packed boxes in warehouses, got some teaching qualifications, did some nanny work, and lived overseas for a few years.
Once I returned from travel I had to face reality. Was I going to put my hard earned qualifications to work or not? No-one was going to employ a Designer who could not use a computer, so I had to go back to school. I worked days and studied Computer Graphics at night.
MY BIG BREAK:
One day on a bit of a whim I scanned the local job ads over a cuppa, and a particular job caught my eye. It was for a “Junior Product Designer” for a Toy Company. Something compelled me to apply and I guess I had nothing to lose.
For so many years I was unsure why they picked me, but I will always be grateful that they took a chance on me.
This job was the beginning of my love affair with Product Design. I spent the next decade designing everything from Toys, to Bedding, Furniture, Apparel and Craft Products.
SO, HOW DID I GET MY FIRST BOOK ILLUSTRATION JOB?
In a word – networking. Once I finally had my foot in the door of the Design world, it’s amazing what a small world it actually is. One of the Freelance Designers I was using to help out during busy periods was working with a Children’s Publisher who was looking for freelancers to help with their work overload! Books were one of the few avenues I had not pursued, so I thought it was a good opportunity to get a taste for things and do some more networking!
The first books I worked on were the GO GIRL and ZAC POWER series, published by Hardie Grant (Egmont). At the time it was not my dream gig, as it was working with existing characters and templates, but I still see it as an apprenticeship of sorts. Many years later when one of the Publishers I was working with on picture books was looking for someone to develop a new Chapter Book series, suddenly my GO GIRLS experience was relevant!
Finally I was given the opportunity to not only create my own characters, but to also establish the look and feel of the whole series of these books. The ELLA & OLIVIA book series was born and is published by Scholastic Australia. The wonderful success of this series lead to the development of the ELLA DIARIES series, and I think I can finally say that drawing people is no longer my weakness!
HOW DID I FIND WORK WITH SO MANY OTHER PUBLISHERS?
Children’s book Illustration became my focus once I left full time work and became a Mum. One of the key factors that I can attribute to EVERY SINGLE ONE of my publishing opportunities since the Go Girls books, is my profile on the Australian website The Style File.
This site is well known and respected amongst the Publishing industry and Editors often browse for Illustrators here when looking for someone ‘new’ that they may not already have on their ‘books.’
These days I am lucky to have developed a strong working relationship with Scholastic Australia and their wonderful team. They have given me so many wonderful opportunities to extend and challenge my creativity and skills. I am proud to finally be able to call myself an Illustrator!
Phew. That was a long one! (And it was the edited version!) Like everyone, there is so much more to my story, but I guess that’s some key points!
I am still working through a few ideas for my next post, but if you have any questions or would like to know more, please let me know and I would be happy to share what I can with you.