Illustrator Richard Smythe has recently joined the Plum family - read on to find out a little more about him!
Where do you live/work?
I live in a fairly quiet corner of Sussex, England. I work in the smallest room of our house which has paint on the walls and lots of pieces of paper and materials scattered about.
What do you like about working there?
It’s a stone’s throw away from the Ashdown Forest (Winnie the Pooh country!) which is a really nice place to walk around and sketch. I’ve lived in Sussex for most my life, so it’s always been familiar to me but am always taken aback by the wildlife and nature you can see in the forest.
What do you love most about being an illustrator?
For me with illustrating picturebooks it’s how they can be loved and treasured for years and years afterwards. I still remember the books I loved as a child, and I think having the opportunity to be part of that for someone else is really special.
How do you work – what are your techniques?
I usually draw or paint with watercolour and pencils, scan them in to Photoshop and see what happens. Everything starts with a sketch and some washes of colour. If I think it’s going to work then I’ll scan it into the computer and finish it off digitally.
What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
It changes all the time. My favourite subject matter for illustration is usually animals. But lately I have been studying the figure in my spare time. I have gone back to doing life drawing which I find very challenging but a lot of fun.
Do you have a particular favourite character that you’ve illustrated?
I recently finished a book about a self-conscious giraffe. I think she is my favourite for now.
What or who are you most inspired by?
I take inspiration from a lot of sources, I like different kinds of art. I love animals and the funny things they do, especially my dog – a rather highly strung (but very loveable) German Shepherd.
Do you have a favourite illustrator?
Raymond Briggs. I loved the fact that ‘The Snowman’ picturebook was set near to where we lived. I’ve always thought his work had a wonderfully delicate and dream-like feel to it.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
When I’m not illustrating I paint and exhibit original oil paintings with galleries around the UK – normally landscapes of Sussex, but sometimes other things too. I like martial arts and keeping fit. I like to read and to be with my family.
How did you get into illustration?
I always loved to draw and paint as a child, and when it came to selecting a university course my art tutor encouraged me to pursue something creative. I didn’t listen and stupidly ended up doing computer science of all things. It didn’t last long as I am terrible at maths, so I dropped out. Feeling rather distraught I remembered what my tutor had said. So I swapped courses and never looked back.
What are your top three tips for aspiring illustrators?
1 – Learn the fundamentals and practice lots.
2 – Do what you enjoy the most, it’s what you’ll do best
3 - Keep learning new things and pushing your craft forward.
What were your favourite books when you were younger?
‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs is my favourite picturebook, and I also loved ‘The Hobbit’ by JRR Tolkien, ‘The Indian in the Cupboard’ by Lynne Reid Banks, ‘Swallows and Amazons’ By Arthur Ransome and anything by James Herriot.
What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?
‘The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius’. The last year or so I’ve been reading a lot of western philosophy. It’s really interesting to read the differences in philosophical thinking and I especially liked Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism in general. It was quite easy to read and understand compared with Plato and the like.
What are your aspirations for the rest of 2018?
Really just to keep working hard, learning new things and making new ground where I can. The best thing about art is that you are a student for life and there is always opportunity to improve. There is never a dull moment really, always so much more to learn.
What’s your ultimate dream?
To carry on illustrating picturebooks.