Today's Illustrated Interview comes from fabulous artist Martha Lightfoot! Enjoy!
Where do you live/work?
I live in Stroud in Gloucestershire, and work from home. At the moment I work from a corner of my bedroom, but now I have a lovely studio in the garden which I can't wait to move into! It's nearly finished - I spent a long time looking at old scaffold boards to use as floorboards, but got new scaffold boards instead in the end - once they're down and sanded I can move everything in and set up.
I love living in such a beautiful area - I can see hills, fields, trees and houses from my bedroom and studio windows, but can also walk to the town. I also love being surrounded by so many other artists and craftspeople.
I sometimes miss the studio I shared in London before I moved here. And as a student I lived by the sea and I miss that too.
It still amazes me that I can be doing something I enjoy and calling it 'work'. Researching subjects I don't know much about is fun - it pushes me out of my comfort zone. I realised recently that tractors and diggers are much more interesting than I expected, I see now why kids love them so much. I even got a Tractor magazine from Father Christmas last year...
So far all my books have been in acrylic paint, some on brown paper. In between books I've been experimenting with combining collage and paint, and more recently I've been using colour inks, which feels far freer than the thicker outline of paint. If I'm working on a series then I have one sketchbook for each title (have only just thought of this!) for roughs and character studies. When I start the final artwork, I'll sketch out all the pages of the book, then do all the outlines, rather than working on one spread at a time.
Finding enough time to fit it all in. With two young school children and a toddler I have to be very strict with myself about working hours, and most of it gets done when they're asleep. When I have a deadline looming and lots of late nights, it's hard to be the patient parent I'd like to be. I have also learnt to accept that when I have a deadline my house will be very messy (or more messy than usual). I recently sketched a team of mice clearing up the house for me while I painted, only to find that we really did have a mouse, and he wasn't doing any cleaning, as far as I could tell (he's now released into a far-off field...)
I could write a very long list! Early Italian painters such as Simone Martini and Giotto - the facial expressions and gestures of the people they painted really seem to tell a story. The questions that my kids ask me, and their imaginative role-play games. Wandering around museums with a sketchbook. So many amazing children's book illustrators, such as Polly Dunbar, Oliver Jeffers, Anna-Laura Cantone, Barbara Nascimbeni, Neal Layton, and Delphine Durand. Finding things I can paint on, like old wood, or sheet music for collage. Talking to other artists - I've just started a project with illustrator Rebecca Ashdown, doing a sketch a day for 100 days, which I'm finding very inspiring (familyofbeasts.com/100-sketches/). And my grandparents - I grew up surrounded by their paintings on the walls, and used to visit my grandpa in his studio. Oh and my two artist brothers, who are full of ideas, very different from each other.
I'd like to say roller skating or swinging on a trapeze, but more realistically it's picking toys up off the floor and painting my studio. Sometimes sewing, knitting and doing tai chi. I also meet with some lovely local artists to make things and exhibit together, and some lovely illustrators (including PP artist Rachel Oldfield) in cafes.
After my Art Foundation course I studied History of Art and Italian, and towards the end of my MA in Venetian Art History I suddenly realised I still wanted to paint rather than write about other artists. I remembered that as a child I'd always wanted to make books and for the first time I really knew what I wanted to do. After much work on my portfolio and some courses (and various jobs such as making fancy dress costumes, working on film sets, and designing cards), I began sending work out. PP's Mark Mills was the Art Director at Meadowside Children's Books and asked me to bring my portfolio in - soon afterwards he commissioned my first book in 2005.
It's good to draw every day, even if you don't feel like it or have very little time - just 5 minutes is worth it. I keep a visual diary - on and off - in which it doesn't matter what the sketches look like, as they're not meant to be shown to anyone. They can be detailed or hasty, they might inspire another project or not - the point is to do something creative every day. It's a good way of finding your own style. And a good way of loosening up before working on something more structured too.
To illustrate books that I've written myself. I have two planned, and several others floating around in my head. One is set in Venice, and the other in my street, and at sea.
Check out Martha's portfolio here