Wednesday, 5 October 2016

5 Minutes With.. NEW ARTIST Chloe Douglass

When we asked NEW PP ARTIST Chloe Douglass if she wanted to take part in our "5 Minutes With.." series of interviews, she was very happy indeed and has even dug out her primary school books to show us some of her very first drawings! We are incredibly excited to have Chloe with us at PP, and we can't wait for you to see her wonderful work and get to know her a little better...

Where do you live/work?

I live in a little tiny flat in South Wimbledon, London (not quite the glamorous part by the common!) with my fiance and our two cats, Samson who's half norwegian forest and Lucifer, who is a felix black and white cat. 

It has a small L shaped garden, the long bit of the L is paved which holds a wood store under the window, a cold frame for seedlings and a bed of hollyhocks in the summer and dahlias that flower into Autumn. The kitchen windowsill is full with pots of flowers and geraniums that never stop flowering. The shorter bit has the smallest lawn you’ve ever seen, a couple of flower beds and lots of plants in pots everywhere. 

I love having a potter about outside as the kettle boils, to have a break from the computer screen. I work in the corner of the living room at my little wooden school desk by the window. All the walls are covered in pictures, of which some are by amazing illustrators.

What do you love about working there?

I mainly have the living room all to myself during the day so I can crack on with drawing whilst having the radio on. I’m an avid Radio 6 music listener so that keeps me company along with the cats, all day long.

I also live a few minutes walk away from Morden Hall Park which is fantastic for a stroll when you need your stretch the legs after crouching over the desk for a long time, and helps me think over projects if I’m getting stuck with one. 

Plus just living in London! There are always talks and events about illustration and meetups to go to and get inspired by. I love the bustle of it around me as I wander along the Southbank, in a bit of a daydream letting ideas pop in and out, jostling for attention as to what could be drawn next in my sketchbook. 

What are your dislikes?

Sometimes not having a shared studio to brainstorm and get feedback on an idea instantly with people around you, but then I wouldn’t be able to sing out loud along to the radio like I do at home! (I love singing, I’m just not very good at it!)

Rubbish drawing days are always a drag. No matter what you do it just won’t look like what is in your mind's eye.

Otherwise I really, really dislike spiders and moths in a HUGE way. And that DC comics can’t make a decent film since the Nolan Batman trilogy *sighs*

What do you love most about being an illustrator?

That I can say things without words but through a picture instead, as I find that much easier! And that feeling when a picture comes together really quickly and just how you imagined it! The best thing is when something you’ve drawn makes someone laugh or smile or ahhh’s at it!

How do you work – what are your techniques?

Always firstly with a cuppa earl grey tea. This is essential! Then I’ll start off with a rough doodle in my sketchbook, which I’ll then scan into my computer, either tweak it about if it needs it and then colour it in on Photoshop.

Sometimes though, the sketches aren’t behaving how I want them too, so then I’ll have to re-jig it about on the screen, print it off and then redraw it on the lightbox until I’m happy with it, then scan that back in, tweak it again if needs be, and then colour it! 

It can be quite a process sometimes! But I like how I can manipulate the image traditionally and digitally at any point if I like to get it to where I’m happy with it 

What is your favourite thing to draw?

Bears, ducks, cats and people from the 18th and 19th Century, they have the best fashions! Not necessarily the bears, ducks and cats though!

Are there any tricky parts to being an illustrator?

When the creative block sets in. It can be a little wallowy at times and self doubt can sneak in with this also! They’re a nuisance pair! So I get out, have a whinge with friends, go for walks or listen to illustration talks to get ideas to try and shift it and not feel guilty about not having drawn that day or days sometimes if it’s a big block!

What or who are you inspired by?

My Mam would take me and my brother to the library every week when we were little until we were quite old actually! There are so many picture and fictions books that have been a source of inspiration through my whole life.

And I’m always blown away by all the illustrators I follow on twitter, it’s great to see styles change and evolve and see what’s popular and what’s working.

Do you have a favourite illustrator?

I have tons of favourite illustrators! It’s hard to pick one, but my current favourite three are Sara Ogilvie, Benji Davies and Jim Field. I love Sara’s energy of line, Jim’s expressive characters and gorgeous spreads in books and Benji’s use of colour and sense of nostalgia he evokes at times in his illustrations.

What do you like to in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?

I LOVE gardening at home or on my allotment, quizzes (either pub quizzes, tv quizzes, quizzes in books etc!) watching the latest period drama, or all the DC comic series from America, like Arrow and gang, and getting to the cinema or theatre. I do like a bit of mind escapism! 

How did you get into illustration?

I’ve drawn since I can remember, but it was my year 5 teacher Mr Stroud that made me realise that being an illustrator was a real option for when I grew up, and would often let me spend most of the day drawing! 

At secondary school I had the same art teacher, Mr Johnson, all the way through and he encouraged me to go to art college after my GCSE’s. I luckily lived in a town that had a brilliant art school, so I studied BTEC in Fine Art at Hereford College of Art and then did a degree in illustration at Southampton. After a brief stint back in my hometown volunteering at a media company there, I then moved to London and worked in Colour and Trend Forecasting for 5 to 6 years. This was the real tipping point as I had my degree in illustration but wasn’t illustrating in the way I wanted too, so I went back to university at nearby Kingston and did a masters degree, focussing on children’s illustration. 

So since then I just kept plugging away at it! I go to the London Book Fair every year as I like meeting face to face with editors and art directors to get instant criticism and advice. It’s a good opportunity to meet other illustrators too! But with the feedback I’d receive I would develop and work on what I’d been given, gradually improving and updating my portfolio. 

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?

1. Keep drawing. You can only get better and better by doing so! But don’t forget to draw for you. Obviously listen to crits and feedback when you get them, but ultimately by drawing what makes you happy will be what makes you unique and stand out. 

2. Make friends with other illustrators! It makes for a less lonely ride, and you can help boost each other along with feedback and sharing advice, going to local meetups, talks, events and so on. It’s just so lovely having a group of support to lean on and vice versa! 

3. Believe in yourself. If it’s your dream to illustrate then you can do it. Grow a bit of a thick skin for all the no’s you’ll come up against, learn from them and improve, observe the wallowy times then pick yourself back up and crack on. And eventually those pesky no’s will become yes’s! 

What were your favourite books when you were younger?

*shouts* MY CAT LIKES TO HIDE IN BOXES! By Eve Sutton and Lynley Dodd. Shouting out loud is the only way to read it, and I loved the Brambly Hedge’s by Jill Barklem. You could spend hours pouring over the details! And the classic Ladybird Fairytale books. I think these (and a healthy dose of Disney) ignited my love of all things romantic, ballgowny and historical! 

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 

The Storm Whale in Winter, which is wonderfully heartwarming. There’s something really timeless about Benji Davies’ picture books. And also the last Poldark novel! I LOVE a historical fiction! If you haven’t read them do, there’s a whole load of social history running through the novels that the tv series isn’t able to go into much depth about.

What’s your ultimate dream?

To illustrate books! Be it for a writer or my own one day, it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do! Or if Aardman wanted me to work on a project for them that would be insanely marvellous!

... Although if Kit Harington knocked on my door and whisked me away… *stares into the far distance dreamily* (I'm sure my fiance wouldn't mind!)

We really hope you enjoyed getting to know Chloe, her folio is now live on the PP website so please do go and have a look around here!

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