Monday 16 July 2012

Today's Illustrated Interview... Alison Brown

Here at PP we wanted to be able to share with you more of an insight into the wonderful world of being an illustrator and periodically will be bringing you our Illustrated Interviews, each featuring a Q&A session with a different PP artist. Today's Illustrated Interview comes from the fabulously talented Alison Brown!

Where do you live/work? 
I live in Leeds  and work from home.    

What do you love about working/living there?  
I like the diversity of Leeds, but also the traditional side of Yorkshire. Where else could you go to a country fair, see a handbag full of Yorkies in the W. I. baking tent and watch a ferret contest?

What don't you like?
It's much too far from the sea!

What do you love most about being an illustrator? 
Creating characters - whether I'm starting from scratch or they already exist in a text, I love the process of drawing and redrawing them until they feel really familiar, so I know exactly how they will react when they can't open a tin of beans or are faced with an angry bear.

How do you work?
I do lots of drawing. I try to use a range of different tools but I have to admit I'm addicted to my mechanical pencil. At the next stage, I use whatever materials suit the subject. At the moment I'm working in acrylic, gouache and coloured pencil, and I also use a computer. I try to draw from life regularly and experiment with new materials.

What's the hardest part of your job? 
Working alone can be difficult, as it can be hard to judge my work, and there are times when I really need a second opinion. Fortunately for me, I now have Mark and Hannah's honest feedback and great enthusiasm to keep me going! 
Also, while I like the flexibility of setting my own timetable, sometimes I miss having job with a going-home time!

What/who inspires you? 
I get a lot of inspiration from my family and from everyday things around me. Recently, I saw a rat making off along a train platform with a whole baguette - he'll probably appear as a character in a story one day!  I really enjoy documentary photography because it lets you witness those surprising or funny moments that someone, somewhere else, has experienced. 
There are so many illustrators from the past and present that inspire me, and something I find really exciting is seeing their original artwork. Seven Stories in Newcastle is a magical place, where you can see whole bodies of work by some of the best children's writers and illustrators. Being in a gallery with all of John Burningham's or Anthony Browne's artwork on the walls, complete with bits rubbed out, painted over and flaking off, is like hearing your favourite music live!

What do you like to do when you're not illustrating? 
My favourite things are spending time with my family (on a beach if possible!), going to galleries, exhibitions and films, and reading. I also like singing, it's the best stress-buster I know.

How did you get into illustration? 
Growing up, I read lots of cartoon books and comics. I used to copy them, and I think they taught me a lot about how expressive and subtle a very simple drawing can be. I studied fine art at college, and then worked as a graphic designer, before becoming a full-time illustrator.

Any tips for aspiring illustrators? 
Learn to love hands and feet - sometimes it's tempting to stuff them in pockets / under tables / behind bushes, but they convey all kinds of emotions that sometimes faces just won't reveal!

What's your ultimate dream? 
Apart from living beside the sea, one thing I would love to do is create some characters for animation. But at the moment I'm very happy to be working on my first picture book, and hope there will be many more to follow. And my son Evan would like to add that if Matt Smith could read it on Cbeebies bedtime stories, that would be awesome...

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