Illustrator Interview 17: Laura Anderson
1. How long have you been an illustrator/artist?
Well I studied for three years at University College Falmouth taking on professional projects in the meantime, so it makes sense to say three years!
2. What inspires your work?
Well, there are quite few things that inspire me, but I think people who know me will agree that I am heavily influenced by anything to do with space and the cosmos. Somehow, even to my own surprise, a star will appear somewhere in most of my work!
People I know usually have a part to play in my illustrated books, especially my children’s stories…certain traits may come in handy or their style of dressing etc.
Also, I find music has a huge impact on my work. I am very much a fan of the film soundtracks, especially the epic pieces of music. If I am creating a particular scene for a double page spread for example, and I have the right piece of music on, I just find myself ‘in the zone’ and there’s no stopping me! For my most recent book, I was creating a scene which looked down from above a range of skyscrapers, so the perspective was extremely challenging to get the exact look I wanted.
However, listening to the new Inception movie soundtrack certainly worked perfectly to help me get into the right frame of mind, and I managed to render the scene exactly as I saw it in my head. There’s nothing more satisfying than when something in my head finds it’s way out on the paper/screen accurately!
3. What media/software do you work in and why?
I have two approaches when it comes to my illustration work; the traditional one and a more contemporary method. When aiming for a more traditional approach I use gouache paint, which gives a lovely matte finish to the work, and I’m able to create the exact look I want.
I find Gouache quite easy to use, and it allows me to create definition in more detailed areas of an illustration. The nice thing about gouache is the fact it’s so adaptable. I can either use it more like watercolours to create an illustration with real atmosphere, or use it to create block colour to give the illustration a more graphic look to it.
If I’m not using gouache, I work digitally in Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator. I think this is where my comfort zone really lies at this present time. I find I can work quickly and achieve the exact look I want. Recently my artwork has been a mixture of fine-liner pen illustrations scanned in and rendered in Photoshop. The finished product is very clean cut with bold outlines and vibrant colour. I definitely prefer this way of working lately.
4. How would you describe your style of artwork?
Well, my work is predominantly aimed at a kid’s audience. It’s often quite quirky and fantastical, but at the same time in some cases quite atmospheric and dark.
Characterisation is a huge element of my illustration work, capturing expressions, building personalities and emotions…I find the whole process fascinating and enjoyable, and often find myself becoming attached to certain characters I create!
My most recent work has been very much comic-book style, using bold outlines and block colour to create striking images. I focus very much on characterisation and composition, as these are such important aspects of an illustration/illustrated book. These are also my strongest areas.
A lot of my work tends to have a certain ‘glow’ about it; I really like the ambiance it creates in a piece and can feel inviting to the viewer. Elements of myself often find themselves into my work; usually things that I love such as the stars, the Moon, things that glow like lanterns and fairy-lights, characters with stripes and big jumpers…A variety of weird and wonderful things!
5. Do you do any initial sketching or planning before starting a new piece?
Yes, most of the time… unless I have an absolutely crystal clear idea of how I want something to look; so in some cases I’ll jump straight in! However, I have my handy scrap/sketch book…well it’s a sketchbook with no cover so it looks a bit sorry for itself; but it’s the inside that counts! Anyway, I take that pretty much everywhere with me because I am constantly thinking up new ideas for stories and illustrations, and it annoys me when I have nothing to write them down in!
So yes, most of my initial sketches are jotted down in there, then I usually re-sketch the idea on separate pieces of paper which I then take to final stages either by tracing the image again with a fine-liner and scanning in, or using paint to render the image. When it comes to children’s books, I always storyboard the double page spreads first very rough, then create numerous dummy boards until I feel it’s ready to take to final artwork.
6. Which illustrator/designer/artist most inspires you?
I absolutely adore the concept artworks produced for animations, like those of Pixar. The concept artists have this magical ability to capture a real sense of light and environment with striking compositions.
I am constantly flicking through my Pixar art books if ever I’m lacking inspiration and I find they get me fired up again to want to draw.
I also love the work of illustrators such as Raymond Briggs; his ability to capture a story without words and create if not more emotion than one with text.
Also Tom Gauld and Shaun Tan produce beautiful illustration work that never fails to amaze and inspire me.
7. How do you deal with the business inside of being an illustrator?
Having only graduated a few months ago I don’t think I can say I’ve experienced the business side to it’s full potential yet! However, what I have experienced so far takes a lot of ‘To Do’ lists I’ve found. I am very pleased to be part of the Illustration Agency ‘Pickled Ink’ based in London. I am in constant contact with my agent bouncing new ideas back and forth, and producing new work to build up my portfolio.
I have found the most important thing is to keep in touch with people you’re working with, whether it’s via email or phone. It’s so important to constantly stay up to date with an Illustration job so that if any changes do need to be made, there’s no rush and panic to get it right. And when an illustration you’ve completed is what the client wants and they’re happy with the outcome, it gives you a real sense of achievement.
8. What words of advice would you give to any aspiring artists out there?
Hmm, well, the main thing is to just keep at it! Keep drawing whenever you can, wherever you can. Keep a small sketchbook handy that you can take everywhere with you, and jot down any idea no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time…because you never know when it might come in handy, or something else might catch your attention which links nicely to something you’ve written down previously. And then you may have an award-winning book idea in the running!!!
Illustration is not an easy profession to go into, as I’ve found out. It’s extremely competitive and it’s a lot of work, but if you’ve got that passion and you’re willing to put your absolute all into your illustration work, then you’re sorted.
Don’t ever give up. Even when you’re thinking ‘Oh my work is rubbish’…just step away from it, have a coffee and when you go back with a fresh head and eyes and buzzing with caffeine, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Well, maybe not the T-shirt, but hey, there’s an idea right there… make a T-shirt design reminding yourself to KEEP DRAWING!!!
You can see more of Laura’s work over at her website: www.lauraellenanderson.co.uk