Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Welcome to the Plum Family, Katarina Gasko!

We had a great chat with our new Plum Katarina Gasko about her life as an illustrator!

Where do you live?
I live in Ontario in Canada in the city of London. Yes, I know, it’s funny that we have a London in Canada, it’s a little bit more snowy than rainy here. I work from a room in my home.

What do you like about working there?
I enjoy working in the room in my home because it is a quiet place, I like my chair and my large white table and I have a beautiful view from the big window that I face.

What do you love most about being an illustrator?
I love having the ability to create and draw my own characters. I enjoy being able to interact with individuals from publishing houses to create something fantastic from a simple idea, to a sketch and into a final product that we envisioned. 

How do you work — what are your techniques?
I work digitally. My technique is to begin by creating a sketch, and then using it to turn it into a final illustration.

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
My favourite things to draw are children, animal toys, cars, insects, buildings, nature and busy cities. I enjoy drawing these because I am able to play around with them in many fun ways!

Do you have one favourite character that you’ve illustrated?
There is this one bug that I absolutely love. The bug looks bizarre, because it has red pants, wears a yellow t-shirt and has blue sneakers. 

What or who are you most inspired by?
My inspirations come from many other brilliant artists, from everyday things that life brings, from humorous situations, from photography and from the places that I have visited.

Do you have a favourite illustrator?
I have many favourite illustrators, but I admire Marija Lucija Stupica Richard Scarry, Marc Boutavant and Dušan Petričić. 

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating? 
As I work alone on the daily, I like to go out with my friends, to the park and go on trips with my husband and two daughters when I have free time. One of my favourite things to do is to go to Toronto on a day trip, I love the city and I enjoy observing how people interact, live and act in the big city. 

How did you get into illustration?
I studied arts and illustration at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in the city of Bratislava in Slovakia. After graduation, I moved to Canada with my husband and daughter. I then slowly started to create a portfolio for myself, I uploaded some of my very first illustrations on the Association of Illustrators (ASIL) and after a while, publishers began contacting me. After that, I started illustrating my first children’s books and educational books and magazines.

What are your top three tips for aspiring illustrators?
Firstly, you must always make a good sketch and do research before you move on to the final illustration.
Secondly, don’t forget to believe in yourself, especially when it gets tough.
Lastly, push through, and withstand what pulls you back from achieving the progress you want!

What were your favourite books when you were younger?
I used to love reading and playing with board books! I liked books that had a lot of details in the illustrations, I enjoyed seeing a busy setting and trying to figure out what was going on. Books from Richard Scarry were some of my favourite books ever, and still are! I also really like a lot of illustrations from former Yugoslavian artists, I really like their style and I still remember one of the books, it was titled Kako se radi Kuta? It means, “how do you make a house?”

What was the last book you read? What did you think?
The last book that I read was the one that I just finished illustrating! It was an adventurous love story. I really loved the style of writing that was used in the book, however it made me realize that I had a lot of work to do on this book. Since the book was very adventurous and detailed, I had to constantly imagine and create a new scenery, new action and movement and new characters. Instead of reading, I love listening to the radio, and I especially enjoy tuning into podcasts that interview individuals. I like to hear the story of someone's life, their good times and their bad times, and how they have dealt, or are dealing with it. I find myself listening to podcasts like these very often when I am working. 

What are your aspirations for the rest of the year?
I have to work on and finish some of the projects that I have recently started, then I plan to take a break from work to be with my family, to have some fun and to eat good food!

What’s your ultimate dream?
My ultimate dream is what I am doing right now! But maybe on the next level. I want to continue to illustrate children's books, work on new and interesting projects and be satisfied with the work that I do. I also envision myself meeting new colleagues, attracting more publishers and creating something that will be very worthy and valuable to me.

Welcome to the family, Katarina!

Monday, 4 November 2019

Welcome to the Plum Family, Brittany Lakin!

One of our new Plum family members and 2nd place runner up in the Plum Awards, Brittany, had a chat to us about her life an an illustrator!

Where do you live/work?
I’ve moved around a bit but I’m currently living in Woking! 

What do you like about working there?
I’ve not lived there for long so I’ve been having a great time seeing new sights and meeting new people. Everything feels fresh and interesting and I’m having a good time exploring the surrounding areas. 

What do you love most about being an illustrator?
That I can create anything through the power of pencils! I’ve always loved to draw, even as a kid, and I’m so happy to know that I can make it my career as well. 

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
Nature is a big favorite of mine, forests seem like such an interesting and versatile setting. From fairies to spooky ghosts I can really play around with what I like. Having lived in cities and suburban areas more recently I suspect that deep down I’m craving some greenery! I also really love anything with myths and legends, it’s a lot of fun interpreting them in my own designs and giving them my own twists. 

How do you work – what are your techniques?
Typically I sketch up rough ideas and research nifty little facts that would be fun to incorporate into my work. Then for the actual artwork I use a combination of pencils and inks to create interesting textures before finishing it off in Photoshop. 

How did you get into illustration?
Like with most illustrators I always loved art! Me, my sister, my mother and grandmother used to have little craft days where we would just make stuff for the sake of it. Once I discovered illustration was a career path I could follow I’ve had my heart set on it since. 

Do you have a particular favorite character that you’ve illustrated?
I have one particular character I created back when I was at university, a bee called Bumble. Bumblebees are my favorite animals and it was great fun creating such a tiny wholesome character based off all my bee research. 

What or who are you most inspired by?
Mainly myths/legends and nature, I love taking little facts and turning it into an interesting detail in my work. I also have a growing collection of picture books illustrated by artists that I admire that all sit on a shelf in my room. Sometimes if I’m in need of a good drawing warm up I like to take old paintings and redraw them in my own style too!

Do you have a favourite illustrator?
So many artists! There are people like Emily Hughes and Isabelle Arsenault who are fantastic with mark making, texture and colour and are very big inspirations to me. I also love the black and white work of David Roberts, and the humorous pieces by Scott Campbell. 

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
I have big fondness for movies! I enjoy trivia about them; perhaps if I didn’t get into illustration, film would have been a path I’d go down. I also enjoy video games, and recently I’ve gotten into a bit of geocaching! 

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?
-       1) Keep experimenting! This is especially great if you’re struggling with your style direction, but it’s also a great way to generate new fresh ideas. 
-       2) It’s ok to take a break. It’s easy to get burnt out when you’re working hard on a project. Take a walk, change your scenery, even look at a different project or draw for yourself – you’ll feel a lot better after. 
-       3) Surround yourself with inspiration. I like to keep my desk space fresh an interesting, it really helps me get into my workflow an gives me ideas for experimentation. 

What were your favourite books when you were younger?
Meg and Mog, Winnie the Witch, The Worst Witch I was a big fan of anything spooky! It was so hard to find as a kid and I’ve always wanted to make sure that when I became an illustrator I would make stuff that I wish I could have read more of as a kid. I also remember adoring the art in the Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events; I loved all the small details in them. 

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 
I’m currently rereading Faerie Tale by Raymond E Feist! It’s a nice blend of horror and magic - dark faerie mythology is a weakness of mine and it’s great to have another book to add to my collection. 

What are your aspirations for the rest of the year?
I really want to knuckle down on my work and get working on new projects! Recently I’ve been experimenting with clay and it would be great to get a little shop going.

What’s your ultimate dream?
I would love to be able to go into a bookstore and see my own work sitting on a shelf! 

Welcome to the family, Brittany!

Friday, 1 November 2019

Shooting for the Stars at the Irish Book Awards!

We are very excited to announce that Shooting for the Stars, written by Dr Norah Patten and illustrated by our Plum Jennifer Farley, has been shortlisted for Children’s Book of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards! 

The Irish Book Awards was founded in 2006 by Derek Hughes, and the main message was
“to celebrate the extraordinary quality of Irish writing, to help bring the best books to a wider readership annually, and to promote an industry under intense competitive pressures." (https://www.irishbookawards.irish/about/)

Since the awards’ conception, the three initial categories have grown to eighteen categories each representing a different genre in the world of literature, and the general public of readers vote for the winners each year. The Awards has become more popular each year, and highlights of the Awards Dinner have been shown on RTÉ television since 2011. In 2018, headline sponsorship passed from Bord Gáis Energy to An Post. 


Jennifer Farley has been a part of the Plum Pudding family since April 2017, and we just love her expressive characters and eye-catching non-fiction work!

Shooting for the Stars (published by O'Brien Press in September 2019) follows Norah’s journey into the world of astronauts and space. In 2017 she was selected to take part in Project Possum, a scientist-astronaut training programme, and she is now on her way to becoming Ireland’s first astronaut!

The book takes the reader on an exciting journey through space, with fantastic illustrations by Jennifer that show what astronauts do to prepare for a space mission, what life is like in space, and what the astronauts do on spacewalks:

You can vote for your favourite books from the shortlist of the An Post Irish Book Awards now, at https://www.irishbookawards.irish/vote2019/.

Voting closes at 6pm on 13th November 2019, and the Book Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner will be held on Wednesday 20th November 2019 in The Convention Centre, Dublin. For more infotmation visit https://www.irishbookawards.irish/2019-ceremony-tickets/

Best of luck to Norah, Jennifer, and all the other brilliant nominees!