Monday, 14 October 2019

Welcome to the Plum Family, Emily Emerson!

We had a chat with our brilliant new Plum Emily Emerson, about her life as an illustrator. Take a look here!


Where do you live/work?
I live in Kansas and work from my home studio! Kansas is sunny and beautiful with big sunflower fields!

What do you like about working there?
I love being able to wake up and be right in my studio, making healthy meals in my kitchen and listening to my pug snoring on the couch! I also love getting out and walking around the neighborhood whenever I need a break.  There is a magical, tiny green park with a small brook running through it nearby. Being in nature makes me feel instantly calm and happy.

Emily and her pug Meena!


What do you love most about being an illustrator?
Using illustration to create my own magical worlds and tell stories brings me just as much joy now as it did when I was a child. I’ve always loved fantastic stories. As a child, I would read books about Egyptian mythology and folk tales from around the world.

How do you work – what are your techniques?
I sketch everything by hand in my sketchbook. I love to sit outside and sketch on a nice day, early in the morning. Then I take it to the computer and finish the piece in Photoshop.

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
Animals! I had many different types of pets growing up. Apart from the usual dog and cat, we had lizards, frogs, gerbils, and multiple aquariums (which housed wild creatures like starfish, serpent starfish, and sea urchins). I loved them all. Going to the zoo was always a huge treat! I love the diversity of textures, sizes, shapes, and personalities of all the animals. As a child, I wanted to be friends with all of them.

Emily's Animals!

Under the Sea

Do you have a particular favourite character that you’ve illustrated?
I love drawing my pug. I often draw her going on fun adventures (riding in the Tour de France, or traveling the world) on birthday cards I make for my friends.

What or who are you most inspired by?
The flowers, birds, and butterflies I see in my garden. Also, vintage children’s books, Tove Jansson, Studio Ghibli, folklore, fairy tales, and other illustrators! I have a collection of children’s books and some of my favorites are Kaya Doi's Chirri & Chirra, the Provensen's Funny Bunny and Simona Mulazzani's The Big Book of Slumber.

Do you have a favourite illustrator?
There are so many! The classics like Mary Blair and Alice & Martin Provensen. I love Alison Jay – I want to live in one of her paintings. Hsinping Pan - such a unique creative voice. Her whimsical characters always make me smile. Simona Mulazzani and Isabelle Arsenault always have me in awe.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
I’ve recently gotten into gardening with my partner. We planted a Monarch Waystation last Spring and get so excited when Monarch butterflies stop by and lay eggs on our milkweed. I also spend a lot of time with my pug, Meena. She’s 12 and I love her so much. She sleeps in my bed and snores all night, which I love.

Meena in a Monarch caterpillar Halloween costume made by Emily!
How did you get into illustration?
I’ve always loved drawing and decided when I was small that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I was always drawing as a child and having art contests with my friends. As I grew, I slowly became aware of illustration as a career and did my best to learn all I could about it. Illustration is what I love to do and I’ve never entertained the idea of doing anything else!

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?
1 - Listen to yourself. Make sure what you are creating feels right to you, don’t be swayed from yourself by other people’s work. Listen to your own unique creative voice and do what brings you joy. I was much happier once I took that advice. 
2 - Take breaks if you feel you’re getting worn out. Self-care is important for creativity.
3 - Beware of distractions – your phone and the internet are fun and a wonderful source of inspiration, but they can also distract you from doing your work!

What were your favourite books when you were younger?
There are a lot. I immersed myself in very detailed worlds like Animalia and I Spy books. I also loved thoughtful stories like The Velveteen Rabbit. Lots of Shel Silverstein. Of course, Harry Potter – I remember my teacher reading the first book to our class when it was still unknown in the US. She just happened upon it in a bookstore. She would read it to us for the last 20 minutes of each school day and we would all sit with rapt attention! I remember when it exploded with popularity right after that.

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 
I actually just re-read the entire Harry Potter series. I love them - what an adventure! Over the years, you forget little details so it was fun to read them again.

What are your aspirations for the rest of the year?
To keep expanding my portfolio and drawing subjects I don’t normally draw. I would like to work on an idea for a picture book as both author and illustrator. We’ll see what happens! That’s probably more of a ‘next year’ goal though.
This year, I am going to attend my first ever local Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference!

What’s your ultimate dream?
That children will read my books and remember them fondly when they are older like I do with my books. Seeing my friend's children recognize and enjoy my work is the best compliment ever!


Welcome to the family, Emily!

Friday, 11 October 2019

Welcome to the Plum Family, Charlotte Cotterill!

Our new Plum Charlotte had a chat with us about her life as an illustrator and what she likes to do when she's not drawing- take a look below!
Hello Charlotte!
Where do you live/work?
I currently live and work in a tiny village in the Peak District, I have a desk in the spare room and take up a lot more room than I should. I have only recently moved here but it’s a really beautiful place to live. At nighttime you can usually hear owls hooting and see the stars shining really brightly.

What do you like about working there?
My desk is right in front of the window and I have a beautiful view to look at when I am stuck with my drawing or taking a break. 

Charlotte's Studio View
A sketch from Charlotte's back garden
What do you love most about being an illustrator?
There are too many good things to count! I love solving design problems with my images, that’s basically what illustrating is – problem solving through drawing. I also like meeting children at events and book festivals and showing them how to draw some characters or animals, I love to see what they have all created/learnt at the end of a session.

How do you work – what are your techniques?
I always start with rough designs and drawings in my sketchbook, usually in pencil. I draw out characters and ideas until I think I have them just right. Then when I am ready to start the finished pieces I will move out of the sketchbook and onto some really nice paper. For picture book illustrations I draw all the line work by hand with some beautiful Faber Castell polychromos pencils. Then I scan in the images and colour them digitally in Photoshop so I get beautiful bright colours. I also love working in ink and watercolour for sketches and one off pieces. 

Charlotte's Watercolours

What or who are you most inspired by?
I collect lots of beautifully illustrated books and I am always looking at them for inspiration. I am intrigued by the way other artists and illustrators use colour, tone, line, materials etc. to make images. I will never fail to find inspiration in the work of others.

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
I like drawing people and their facial expressions and body language, telling little stories through my characters emotions and movements.

Do you have a particular favourite character that you’ve illustrated?
I love all of my characters, but my favourites are Hack and Whack, the naughty Viking twins who are the main characters in the picuture book I illustrated, ‘Hack and Whack’ by Francesca Simon. They were so much fun to draw because they are so mischievous and caused total chaos for their parents and the other villagers. They also have amazing eyebrows. 

Hack and Whack!

Do you have a favourite illustrator?
At the moment they include; the Fan brothers, Melissa Castrillion, Vera Brosgol, Orlando Weeks and Alexis Deacon. I tend to be attracted to artwork that is very different from my own; I like more painterly and whimsical images as they are so beautiful and I wouldn’t be able to produce work like that myself. One of my all time favourite illustrators is Raymond Briggs because of the beautiful characterisation and the very British sense of humour in his images.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
I like to go on walks, visit stately homes, watch films, cook and spend time with my friends and family. I also really like music, I love collecting and listening to my records, I usually listen to quite melancholy music by people like Bob Dylan, Jonny Cash, Kate Rusby and First Aid Kit.
Chatsworth House, where Charlotte used to work as a guide
Charlotte at Chatsworth in the gardens

How did you get into illustration?
Like most illustrators, I have always drawn, ever since I can remember and I couldn’t stop reading as a child and listening to audiotapes. My mum used to take my sister and I to the library and I used to devour everything! This combined love of drawing and stories is what led me to illustration. Also, drawing is genuinely what I am best at and enjoy the most, it has been a steady constant throughout my life.

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?
Hmmm… this is hard one, but I would say:
·      See criticism as constructive – its really hard not to take criticism about your work personally whether its coming from a friend, tutor, agent or publisher. However, try and use the criticism constructively and to your advantage when creating your next image. Also, remember that your work is never going to be everyone’s taste.
·      Try using limited colour, colour can be very complicated and overwhelming and it really helps to work with just two or three colours carefully selected colours and then just build on it from there.
·      Don’t get illustrator guilt. Just because you love being an illustrator does not mean that you have to do it 24/7. It is important to take breaks and have a step away from your work every now and then; it is unlikely you will be able to create amazing work if you are running yourself into the ground.

What were your favourite books when you were younger?
‘Carrie’s War’ by Nina Bawden, the Famous Five stories by Enid Blyton, ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton, ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ by Roald Dahl, ‘Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents’ by Terry Pratchett, the Narnia stories by C. S. Lewis, all the Harry Potter books, ‘Artemis Fowl’ by Eoin Colfer, ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13¾’ by Sue Townsend, ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E. B. White and many, many more. I wish I read as much now!

Some of Charlotte's favourite childhood books

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 
The last book I read was ‘The Subtle Knife’ by Philip Pullman, which is part of the His Dark Materials series. I am re-reading all the series at the moment and I am so enjoying them, the last time I read the trilogy I think I was probably in my early teens and it is interesting reading them again as an adult. Philip Pullman is so good at creating other worlds that are totally magical and believable.

What are your aspirations for the rest of the year?
My aspiration in life is always to worry less, I am a terrible over thinker. My new years resolution for 2019 was to take more photos with my friends and family and the things we do together, as I usually find myself forgetting. So far I am not doing too badly so I have to keep it up.

What’s your ultimate dream?
To get a dog and some day write and illustrate my own picturebook. (Not necessarily in that order).


Welcome to the family, Charlotte!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Welcome to the Plum Family, Jojo Clinch!

Take a peek into the life of our fantastic new illustrator Jojo Clinch!



Where do you live/work?
I live in a little village near Brighton, with my husband, two daughters, plus our Cat Hatty and Hamster Holly. We are lucky to have the south downs right on our doorstep with not one, but three windmills to explore close by. I have a cosy studio at the bottom of my garden where I work.
Jojo's Studio
What do you like about working there?
I love where I live for the beautiful countryside, plus a vibrant city and the seaside, all within easy reach. Working from home is a real luxury. To have a dedicated space to work and get messy, being able to leave art in progress without having to tidy up everyday, is just great. I’m a messy person that doesn't like mess, so this helps keep me sane and lets the work flow more naturally. Also, I’m a real homebody so it’s always been my dream to work from home, I feel very lucky.

What do you love most about being an illustrator?
Um, just everything! Drawing, painting, reading, making up stories and characters, admiring lots of other beautiful work, it really is my dream vocation.

How do you work – what are your techniques?
I think this is still changing for me all the time, but currently, I start with very loose watercolours and ink, then I work into those with coloured pencils and markers. Finally, I take the image into procreate and work over it digitally. I start this whole process with lots of messy pencil thumbnails.

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
Drawing characters, especially animal characters at the moment - cats seem to be my favourite, probably because I have a big old tabby called Hatty who is my studio buddy. I also love drawing the different environments for my characters to live in. Woodland, mountains, towns, psychedelic fields… and I find foliage and florals really therapeutic.

Hatty the Cat!

Psychedelic Fields

I get inspired by my everyday life; my family, where I live, things I notice when I’m out for a run or walking the kids to school. But I also get a lot from visiting new places, either far flung or closer to home, both can be so inspiring. We visited Lyme Regis for the first time this year and I loved the different scenery and coast line.

Do you have a favourite illustrator?
Too many! I admire so many people’s work. Marc Martin, Katie Vernon, Rebecca Green, Marianna Coppo and Isabelle Arsenault are probably top of my list currently, their work constantly takes my breath away. And I have always adored Sara Fanelli and Tove Jansson’s work.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
Oo, well having two young daughters keeps me pretty busy! But when I have a bit of free time I also make silver jewellery, which I sell online and at fairs, along with my illustrated cards and prints.
I find the one drawback of being an illustrator is being sat down most of the time, so I try to be active whenever I can by going to Yoga, walking lots and (short) runs in the countryside. I really, really want a dog for some company, so I spend a fair amount of time researching that at the moment…

Jojo's Jewellery
How did you get into illustration?
After graduating with a degree in Illustration, I worked with both gift and book publishers as an in-house designer until 2007, when I went Freelance. In the last few years, I decided to follow my dream to illustrate again, enrolling on lots of online courses to build my portfolio. I started with a Make Art That Sells class and never looked back really. 

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?
1. Draw as much as possible, and as many different things as possible. It’s easy to keep drawing the same things over and over but by drawing, say, the contents of your fridge, you will really push your observation skills and surprise yourself.
2. Take some online classes if you can. There is always something new to learn and the community you find can be really supportive. I’ve made some lovely friends from these classes too.
3. Persevere. Illustration is very competitive but I like the quote “a rising tide lifts all boats” there is room for everyone if you work hard and keep true to yourself.

  Jojo's Sketchbook

Animal fun!

What were your favourite books when you were younger?
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. Goodness knows how many times my lovely Mum read that book to me as a child, I know every detail of every page - pure magic. I also loved Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and The Enchanted Wood.

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 
I’ve just finished, and really enjoyed, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book is a beautiful read, I’d recommend that to everyone.

What are your aspirations for the rest of the year?
To keep working on my art for picture books, especially my human characters, and expanding my portfolio by venturing out of my studio and doing some more drawing from life.

What’s your ultimate dream?
Stories and pictures have inspired and delighted me for my whole life, so if I could create a book that sparks that joy in someone else, that’s a legacy I’d be more than happy with.


Welcome to the family, Jojo!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Welcome to the Plum Family, Sara Rhys!

One of the newest additions to our punnet of Plums, Sara Rhys, lets us in on her life as an illustrator! Get to know her here:



Where do you live/work?
Ive mostly been in the West Country for the past few years, but I seem to move around a lot and I’m currently in-between permanent homes - hopefully that makes me sound enigmatic! I work wherever I am at the time, luckily illustration is a pretty portable past time. I was a silversmith for a few years, and it was much harder to transport lots of metal and tools about! 

What do you like about working there?
Not being properly settled anywhere at the moment gives me the opportunity to find somewhere special to settle! Considering most people have to live wherever the work is, I think my flexibility makes me pretty fortunate. I’m very fond of the West Country in particular though for it’s variety of landscapes, the light and colour, the people, and the relatively laid-back lifestyle - I’m not a hectic city person.

How do you work – what are your techniques?
It’s always evolving to be honest, I often make quite big leaps in style because I’ve discovered a new material or process. But right now I work nearly entirely by hand, with watercolours and pencils. I’m good at repetitive work and I find drawing in particular very meditative. Just this year I’ve moved away from graphite pencils, and towards coloured ones.
I always have sound while I’m working, music or words, and I try to do creative stuff in the morning because my brain goes dead after about 3 o clock. That’s when I edit images in photoshop and do the boring admin side of things.



What do you love most about being an illustrator?
Hmm, permission to be silly for a living, and have serious conversations about things like what kind of pyjamas a lion would wear? Being able to read my picture book to my nephew, and hearing him say he wants to be ‘an artist like Auntie Sara’ when he grows up is pretty great. On a practical level, I love constantly learning and evolving my creative work, and I enjoy being self employed, though it can be quite stressful at times. 

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
Armchairs! And dogs. And dogs on armchairs. My illustration is often described to me as cosy, and warm, and I do seem to gravitate towards peaceful scenes, maybe because my brain is so chaotic.

Do you have a particular favourite character that you’ve illustrated?
All of them really, I get very attached! At the moment I’m enjoying getting to know a very scruffy, adventurous dog called Rosie. One of my all time favourites is a melancholy, ancient alien called Picnic, from a shadow puppetry show I designed and performed a few years ago.

What or who are you most inspired by?
Emotions, stories, nature, human kindness, folklore, colours, textures - loads, everything! I especially like small things, and I’m creepily observant so I like spotting the things around me others might miss, and love adding such tiny details into my work. I also take in a lot of information through reading and podcasts and it all tumbles round my brain like a washing machine and smushes together with lots of colour to form my ideas.


Do you have a favourite illustrator?
Oh gosh, more than just one! Tove Jansson, Edward Gorey, Raymond Briggs, Elena Odriozola (she was very influential when I first started, I love her colours and characters), Isabelle Arsenault, Kitty Crowther, and I’ve recently been enjoying the colours and textures of Edward Hopper. It’s a never rending list. 

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
I’m a bit sad, and I really do like drawing a lot, so I also do it for fun, and lately I’ve been practicing going out into the world and drawing from life. It doesn’t feel like work, and I love the random conversations I have with people when I’m drawing in public. But I do also do other things! I read, walk, write, listen to music and comedy, cook, talk to my houseplants, visit friends scattered across the country, go to festivals, and really enjoy just chatting with people over a pint in a good old man pub. 


How did you get into illustration?
I’ve always drawn to some extent, and I’ve certainly always been ‘the arty one’ but I started to pursue illustration seriously when I realised my former career as a silversmith wasn’t floating my boat any more. I’d been drawing a lot for fun, and have lots of creative friends, including some illustrators. I lived with Emily Hughes (of ‘Wild’, ‘The Little Gardener’) for a short time, and chatted to her about her books, and realised illustration could be a viable career. And then one day, I put down my hammer, and decided to be an illustrator. And then I obsessively researched, read any picture book I could find, bought myself a set of watercolours, and started drawing. A lot. I was very single minded about it. That was about four years ago, and I’m still learning all the time, which is part of what I love about illustration.


What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?
1)The old classic: draw every day, it really is the best way to find your style. Experiment with as many different materials as you have access to, and draw as many different subjects as possible.

2)If you’re interested in becoming professional, take time to learn about the business side of things, about contracts and licensing, and the appropriate fees to charge, the industry needs everyone to take this more seriously. The Association of Illustrators has so much valuable information to offer. 

3)Don’t call yourself an aspiring illustrator on your social media! If you illustrate, you’re an illustrator, have confidence in yourself, and others will too. 


What were your favourite books when you were younger?
When I was small, I know I particularly liked ‘Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?’ by Martin Wadell and Gilly Meredith’s ‘What Shall we Be Today?’ and ‘Where Shall we Play Today?’ - I can still remember a line from that one! I also liked Beatrix Potter and Brambly Hedge, which we had an audio tape of and listened to on car journeys. The Autumn and Winter Stories were my favourite - I still listen to them sometimes on YoutTube! Thinking about it, I suppose I’ve always loved animal characters in books.

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 
I’m currently listening to The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, which I’m definitely enjoying, but it hasn’t had the have the same impact as the Handmaid’s Tale for me. I recently finished reading The Dumb House by John Burnside, which is VERY dark, be warned. I do lean towards dark themes in novels though, maybe because I spend so much time drawing lighthearted, sweet characters! The Dumb House was very thought provoking and pretty disturbing, but great. I’ve just started reading a battered copy of Sarah Waters The Little Stranger which I found in a charity shop.

What are your aspirations for the rest of the year?
Well, there’s not all that much left of it now, is there? I would dearly love to get stuck into a new picture book project before the year’s out. I am playing with writing several stories of my own, but I also really enjoy the honour of bringing someone else’s characters to life. Currently I’m (slowly) making a new website which will have a shop and blog, and I’m setting up a seasonal newsletter which will have a mixture of stuff I’ve been doing, and things I’ve found that will hopefully help others in the children’s book industry. 
I’ll also be getting out and sketching in public as much as possible, as I’d really like to do some live illustration next year, but I need a bit more confidence first. 

What’s your ultimate dream?
Oof! I try not to look too far ahead really, it makes me anxious! But I suppose my ultimate dream is to have Climate Change taken seriously by those in power. Once that’s sorted, I’d like to live in a home I love, and spend my days bimbling away making children’s books, having interesting conversations, being part of a community, growing vegetables, and have a bunch of strange, senior cats and dogs to keep me company while I illustrate. Ok, maybe I do think about it a bit. 


Welcome to the family, Sara! 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

National Doodle Day for Epilepsy Action!

That’s right, National Doodle Day is back!


Every year celebrities, artists, and illustrators sharpen their pencils, prepare their paints, and draw some brilliant doodles and sketches to raise money for Epilepsy Action, a charity that works hard to raise awareness of epilepsy and provide support and advice for people with epilepsy and their families. 


Epilepsy Action was founded in 1950, and over the past 69 years the charity has worked hard to give a better life to those with epilepsy. Over the years they have been responsible for making many changes to improve the lives of those living with epilepsy, not just in terms of social attitudes but also in the law, public awareness, scientific knowledge, and medical practice.
National Doodle Day was established in 2004 as a way to raise money for Epilepsy Action and has had many celebrities such as Tom Hardy & Darcey Bussell taking part, as well as notable authors, illustrators, and artists! All of the artwork is auctioned off on eBay for three days each year, giving people the opportunity to purchase an illustration from their favourite artist or celebrity while giving to a great cause!

We’re proud to say that our punnet of Plums have taken part in National Doodle Day for a number of years now, creating beautiful, fun, and unique pieces of artwork to be auctioned off for Epilepsy Action. You can see this years’ brilliant contributions below!  


This year’s auction will run from Friday 20thSeptember to Sunday 22nd. You can find out more about Epilepsy Action and check out the National Doodle Day auction