M-C “Tell me a bit about you and your background: where are you from, where did you study? Are you still Kate from the Block?”
I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, drew constantly, and always wanted to be an artist of some kind. My grannies were always asking for new paintings to stick up on the fridge.
After high school I I took a portfolio course and that helped me to get into the Glasgow School of Art, where I specialised in Illustration.
I’m definitely still Kate from the Block, my heart will always belong to the city and people of Glasgow. I’m trying to get as many Scottish words into my English friends’ vocabulary as I can
M-C “What do you feel was the best lesson you learnt while studying? Is there anything that still sticks with you or do you feel you’ve thrown out a lot of advice of tutors as your practice has developed?”
One of my tutors always spoke about the power of taking breaks and that’s something I do believe works for me, because when you work constantly you can experience burn out which is definitely not healthy or conducive to illustration. But I really wish I could remember more of what they said
M-C “Have you always wanted to be an illustrator?”
Pretty much. But after four years of art school I got a bit fed up and decided I’d had enough of illustrating, so I entertained some other careers like graphic designer and weirdly, teaching English abroad, and becoming a pastry chef. But when I actually moved to London to work in graphic design I missed drawing, and after I started doing a bit in my spare time, my love for illustration grew again.
M-C “When you started working ‘professionally’ how did you develop your distinctive visual language which we see in your work today?”
I’m not sure my visual language is something I’ve ever consciously thought about... it’s the same way I have drawn since I was a little girl - but definitely improved since then. But over time, because I have developed a passion for vintage fashion and design, a retro influence has definitely crept in to my work.
“What is a day in the life of Kate Costigan like? Tell me about your daily routine...”
I get up, make a coffee and start work around 8am. If I don’t have anything too urgent to work on I like to pick one of the ideas I have written down in my notebook to draw. I do try to get out of the house at some point because I can get a bit bogged down working non stop, so even if I walk round the park for half and hour and come back I feel refreshed. If I’m feeling up to it I force myself to do a workout or yoga video - hard work but I always feel better afterwards.
The temptation is there to keep working till 10/11pm at night but I do like to give myself a night off binge watching something on Netflix
“Do you have any rituals or daily routines to help get you into the right mindset?”
Coffee helps! And I find listening to music can spark ideas, sometimes I hear lyrics that paint a really visual picture in my head that I have to quickly scribble something down to draw later.
One of my favourite podcasts is called You Must Remember This, which tells of forgotten stories and scandals in old Hollywood - it’s brilliant and if I’m drawing any femme fatales it’s compulsory listening
“How do you spend your downtime?”
To unwind I read, or I’ll find a scandi-noir series to watch on Netflix, or walk along the canal where I live. At the weekend I’ll usually meet up with some friends to try a new cocktail bar or go out for dinner.
Have you experienced any major significant moments in your career to date?
When I worked for HemingwayDesign I was involved in the branding and identity design for the amusement park Dreamland in Margate. At times it was very difficult, mentally and emotionally exhausting - the team even moved to Margate for the two weeks before the park re- opened. For our work on Dreamland we went on to win an award and be nominated for another, and it’s something I’m immensely proud to have worked on.
“Talk us through your studio / work set up – what are the most important items in your creative toolkit?”
My dining room table is my work set up - thankfully my housemates don’t mind, but I should probably hoover the pencil shavings up more
often. The tools I definitely couldn’t live without are: pencil, black ink, and Photoshop! My notebook is pretty crucial too - it’s where I write all my ideas, and if I’m having a creative block I just need to revisit the notebook and I have a long list of new drawings I could pick from.
“Where do you live and how does the city / location / your surroundings inspire your practice?”
I live in London and I’m definitely inspired by all the super stylish and confident girls and women I see. They provide me with a lot of outfit ideas for my characters (and me).
“If you could trade professions for a day, what would you do instead?”
Some dream careers would be: puppy handler, a window dresser in Liberty’s, or a travel writer who gets to visit lots of exotic locations
“Do you have any secret passions?”
I do love a good murder mystery on tv
“What social media platforms do you use, and do you feel social media is very important to your practice?”
I share my work on Instagram mostly, it’s such a great (and free) way to get instant feedback on my artwork and definitely helps as an ego boost for me when my inner critic is telling me I’m rubbish
Malika Favre is an artist who needs little introduction. Her instantly recognisable style sees her create beautifully bold vector illustrations which simplify down her subjects their bear essentials. Her work has adorned billboards, magazines and book covers the world over and her recent collaborations with the New Yorker magazine have raised her profile yet further and seen a whole new audience discover her incredible work.
In this short film directed by Jérôme de Gerlache, we learn about her work process, influences and get a behind the scenes glimpse of her home studio in East London.
View the video HERE
French illustrator Thomas Danthony’s is known for creating beautifully crafted digital images that have led to commissions for The New York Times, Google and Penguin books. Earlier this year Thomas decided to relocate from London and set up his studio in Barcelona. As part of Handsome Frank's ongoing 'a little film about' series we decided to follow him to his new home city with a camera crew.
There is something extremely calming about Fiona Woodcock’s artwork — I would describe it as the hygge of picture book illustration — because each time I read one of her books, I feel so relaxed and content, gently swept up by the subtle colours and textures she creates. A Dot in the Snow is beautiful, uncomplicated, peaceful — and yet dramatic in composition of scale and landscape.
Illustrator Fiona and author Corrinne Averiss have been nominated for a Kate Greenaway Medal for Dot, and so here, Fiona talks about her creative process.
A Dot in the Snow, published by Oxford University Press and nominated for a 2018 Kate Greenaway Medal.
FW: As soon as I heard the title and Corrinne’s concept for the book — the idea of a little polar bear spotting a dot in the snow, I was totally captivated and knew I wanted to work on it.
My initial brief was to do something “artful,” which as an illustrator is a real gift!
I spent my Christmas watching wildlife documentaries to get my head around bears and snowy scenes. This was invaluable and helped to spark off compositional ideas for the landscape spreads.
We decided early on that it was important to highlight the environmental impact on the melting polar ice caps with the cracking ice spreads. This influenced the character design of the young polar bear cub Miki and we resolved to have him on all fours, rather than anthropomorphised on two legs. This slightly naturalistic approach seemed to help place him in the snowy world, where he has to contend with all the perils of the harsh environment.
I did lots of printmaking experiments to create the landscapes, printing with rubber stamps, and polystyrene from a pizza base was great for ice. I then composited all the elements digitally.
As well as the relationship between the characters, I was keen to capture their relationship with the environment, the filmic potential and the sense of space and distance covered on Miki’s epic adventure.
Corrinne sent me a link to this Björk track which she listened to whilst writing the book. It then became my soundtrack whilst illustrating it and we played it on a loop at our London book launch at the Bright Emporium!
My huge thanks to Fiona! LM
If you’d like to work with Fiona, you can reach her via her agent, Arabella Stein here.
If you’d like to know more about Fiona and her picture books, click the link below.
Fiona Woodcock — From Art Licensing to Children’s Books and Beyond…
Read the blog
When you think of children’s illustration, it’s only natural to think picture books, but the exciting thing about illustration is just how much you can do with it. Children’s illustrators do, primarily make picture books, but they’ll often do more where their schedule allows. They take part in all sorts of events, up and down the country, and they often share their skills closer to home — in their own community. This is exactly what Fred Blunt has done, and even better, it involves his local library:
FB: It all started when an artist friend of mine got in touch and told me that South Swindon Parish had taken over the Old Town Library, and were planning a renovation project. What’s more, they wanted large scale, fun murals for the children’s area. He thought it would be relevant for a children’s book illustrator to pitch for the job.
Fred’s rough drafts before the final artwork, and the final designs below.
At first I didn’t intend to pitch. The idea of taking the time out of of my picture book schedule to design and paint a mural seemed way too time-consuming. But the idea of creating something just for children, in a library, on a big scale was very exciting to me – especially in the present climate of library closures.
[Read more about library closures in an article by The Guardian here]
I then thought, if I could find a company to install it using vinyl print, I could save a lot of time and potentially make it work. I did a little research and contacted local print company, Signs Express with my proposal.
Much to my surprise, they got in contact the very next day, enthused about the project and eager to be onboard.
So I pitched my vision of a vibrant wall design, installed in vinyl print, instead of a traditionally painted mural. The Council library committee were quick to get in touch and discuss my ideas – all of which were enthusiastically received.
I went away with a vague notion of creating a bold and vibrant mural, which was going to be based on reading – showing the joy of books, and how they take you out of the everyday, and into the extraordinary.
Hot off the printing press!
I wanted the design to be appealing over the age groups, bright and fun for the very young, but also to have enough design elements to be considered cool for the older kids (and hopefully enjoyed by their parents too).
Early on, I wanted to achieve a ‘pop art’ look for kids . . . a cartoony version of those bold Peter Blake designs, with the contained boxes of colour. I also wanted the characters to have a retro appeal, so they would be timeless.
Famous artwork by Peter Blake.
It was great fun designing each individual box, using limited colour, so that together, they would hang nicely as a bunch of interlocking, contrasting colours – creating an overall unity.
The committee were very open to my ideas. They gave me free reign to do exactly what I wanted, which was wonderfully liberating! I even got to choose the colours of the walls and new carpets to compliment my designs.
The installation itself, took only a day for the print team to complete, and I have to admit it was a nerve-wracking wait to see if the result would live up to my expectations — but quite honestly, they exceeded them.
The vinyl finish is great! No need to worry about mucky fingers and the colours are more vivid than I imagined — or could have ever achieved with paint. Exactly the bold graphic look I was after.
It’s been a great project to be part of, and hopefully many children will enjoy the murals as they choose new books for a long time to come.
Fred pictured next to the finished mural, and his children enjoying the books in the new space.
So if you live in the Swindon area, be sure to visit your local library!
With huge thanks to Fred Blunt. If you’d like to know more about Fred’s illustration and picture books, you can do so here:
Picture Book Funny Man: The Art of Fred Blunt
Fred Blunt puts the funny into children’s books, with his humour making both children and adults laugh. There’s something nostalgic about his style; animated, playful and with a warm palette, his pictures and characters tell the story, making his books an all inclusive experience. Here he talks about his journey, starting out as a working illustrator, covering a broad range of markets, to the present, where he works solely on picture books, much to the delight of his readers… [Continue reading]
If you’d like to work with Fred, you can get in touch via his agent, Arabella Stein here.
Ashling Lindsay has an immediately recognisable style. She understands how to use colour, and how to compose her subjects within the space on a page to create unforgettable scenes. The Night Box is everything a children’s book should be, with a thoughtful and poetic voice — comforting anyone who feels slightly less than bold in the dark. It is the perfect way to help a child to feel secure and comforted as the evenings draw in over the long Winter months. Ashling is still very set on honing and developing her skills as an artist, so much so that despite already working as a picture book illustrator, she has gone back to art school to continue her studies in the fine arts.
Ashling, where did you study, and did the course help to shape your style, or was it something you found organically?
I did a BA in Graphic Design and Illustration at Ulster University Belfast – and am now back there working towards an MFA. I’m not sure how the style I have came about, I think I just drew a lot and got to know what I liked and what I didn’t. For me what’s most important is that the image communicates what was intended.
What drew you to illustrate for children?
I’ve always been really into picture books – some of my favourites are The Shrinking of Treehorn by Edward Gorey, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and Moonman by Tomi Ungerer. I remember being read those as a kid, and when I realised that making them was an actual job that people did – I wanted to do it too.
Your colour palette is beautiful, calming and very recognisable. How did you develop this, and is there a reasoning behind that particular palette – as in, was it very thought out, or did it occur naturally?
I try to come up with a palette that feels right for the text and usually spend a lot of time working it out. I do have my personal favourites though, and am definitely guilty of trying to make them work whenever possible!
Can you tell me about any outside influences on your work – such as films, books, places, people?
I can’t say for certain what outside material has influenced my work – I do read a lot, and I definitely watch a lot of films. Book wise my favourite writers are probably Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace and maybe Proust – I say maybe because I’ve only read one of his books so far, but it was a good one. And with film – I really like David Lynch’s stuff, all of Studio Ghibli and a lot of Wes Anderson’s.
What’s next on the horizon for you in terms of picture books, and where would you like your career to be – say in five years time?
I’d really like to try writing and illustrating a whole picture book myself. And I would also really like to work with a writer from the very beginning of a project – to come up with ideas and story together – to make a more collaborative book.
Every October in the UK, for the past 30 years, we’ve remembered Black History and commemorated achievements made by people of colour. Not so long ago, America saw its first black President. From that incredible shift in history came quite a blow, as in the US, Trump came to power, whilst over in the UK we battle on in the face of Brexit.
From the point at which an artist signs with Bright; from early development — to their first illustration project — to the moment their career blossoms, is a wonderful journey to follow.