From San Francisco to the Sussex Coast: Profiling Artist Aaron Blecha

An illustrator with a back catalogue of fantastic books to his name, not to mention other exciting creative projects, we were delighted to welcome Aaron Blecha to The Bright Agency back in March of this year. With an exciting creative project currently under way with the Sea Life Centre in Brighton, and a forth-coming exhibition of his work at the Hove Museum and Art Gallery in February 2018, he is not only a successful working illustrator, but he is exploring the boundaries outside of children’s book illustration.

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Where did it all begin – in terms of becoming an artist?

From an early age, I was always drawing and working on projects of my own — lots of castles, pirates, monsters, and Star Wars aliens. I was a student with pretty average grades so luckily I had art to carry me through and keep me interested. I had an inspiring art teacher in high school who let us explore our style rather than demand you stick to specific rules (Captain Calamari was the title of my comic book senior project). After university, I worked as a graphic designer and then a 2D animator, but I’ve now been a freelance illustrator / character designer for over 12 years.

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What possessed you to leave sunny California to come to the mostly grey UK?!

Ha ha! Well, after living in San Francisco for many years I met a nice English woman there that talked me into moving to London with her! I have always been interested in the European lifestyle and backpacked around here a bit, so I was up for a new adventure (although I didn’t realise how grey the summers could be)! That nice English woman is now my wife and after five years in London and wanting to start a family, we moved down to Hove. We love it down here — lots of creative people/events around, all surrounded by inspiring coastal and hilly scenery everywhere — a little like San Francisco!

You’ve worked on projects for companies like Disney – are you able to talk a bit about that and what you’ve worked on there?

Sure — sometimes I’m hired to help design characters for television development pitches for studios (Disney TV, Cartoon Network, Curious Pictures, eOne Family). There’s usually a cartoon pitch already written and they need an artist to bring the characters to life. I enjoy the process of working with a team of writers and creative people to find the personality of the show. Like many development projects, none of the pitches I worked on made it to production but they are still super fun to work on.

I also work on other fun side projects like creating zombie, dinosaur and monster-filled art for stickers, cards and temporary tattoos for a variety of companies.

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Can you talk about your influences in terms of style, other artists you like – say from books or comics from your childhood to present day.

I’d say my influences are mostly Mercer Mayer’s early monster books, Sendak’s seminal Where the Wild Things Are, Paul Galdone’s scratchy, creepy folktale stories (Tailypo) and Richard Scarry’s fun creature-filled worlds are still influential.
I would especially say Mercer Mayer has a lot influence on me as an artist. He created such a rich world of goofy characters and monsters that still live with me to this day.

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I have two young daughters so I now have extra incentive to keep up on new picture books and their creators too. I love the humour and characters in Mo Willems’ and Jon Klassen’s books.

I’m also influenced by a lot of other creators and concept artists outside of children’s publishing —  Marc Davis (Disney Imagineer), Jim Henson (Muppets genius), Ralph McQuarrie (original Star Wars concept artist), Frank Miller (The Dark Knight), Charles R. Knight (vintage dinosaur artist), Gary Larson (The Far Side) and Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) to name a few.

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Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show

UK and US markets differ quite significantly sometimes in terms of trends in publishing: Do you find that working as an illustrator in the Uk means a change in perspective in terms of what publishers are looking for? 

Yes, definitely. The majority of my projects have been from the States, but I’m gradually now working on more UK books. I’ve been told I have an American style, which I think comes from my years working in animation and what entertainment I consumed while I was growing up. As time goes by, I’m still keeping true to my outlook and style but I’ve been altering some character proportions and mixing up the media I use to create my art. I think my style works well with middle grade books and I’ve been lucky to work on several long running book series in America: George Brown, Class Clown (Penguin) and Shark School (Simon & Schuster). I have just started to work on the super fun series, Dino Wars, here in the UK. I’m looking forward to engaging more with readers and book stores here rather than being far away across the ocean!

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What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?

I absolutely love the initial spark of visualising new characters and their undiscovered world. I’ve authored and illustrated two books for HarperCollins that follow a bear named Grizzle Grump on his adventures to find a quiet place to hibernate (Goodnight, Grizzle Grump!) and then when we finally wakes up, his journey to find a springtime snack (Good Morning, Grizzle Grump!)

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The problem solving on how an illustration creatively fits on a page is a fun challenge too. I also enjoy the last few days of project where I add finishing touches like shadows, highlights and textures to my illustrations.

I also love a good cover design project- I just finished one titled Margot & Mateo Save the World!

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What are you looking for in future projects?

I’m interested in projects that are fun and funny that take place outside of the normal events of day to day life!

I’m busily working away on my upcoming exhibition at Hove Museum titled Aliens, Zombies & Monsters! The show starts in February 2018 and will run for six months. My sketchbooks and illustrations showing the process of creating children’s books will be displayed alongside 3D models of my aliens, zombies and monsters – there will be strong emphasis on interactivity and fun for all age groups. Stay tuned for more news and hope to see you there!

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My huge thanks to Aaron, and we recommend his exhibition if you’re in the south of England, it’s going to be great fun!

If you’d like to work with Aaron, you can get in touch via his agent Arabella Stein here.

You can also follow Aaron on Instagram and Twitter.

Box of Delights: Profiling Ashling Lindsay

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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With my thanks to Ashling who is represented by The Bright Group

You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Regarding Diversity: Profiling Artist Alleanna Harris


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.

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Behind the Big Sneeze! With Simon Prescott

Simon Prescott is the illustrator of the Marvin and Marigold books – I say books because these characters are certain to have a long life in the world of publishing, and a Marvin and Marigold Christmas story is due imminently.

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Do YOU Know When The Grotlyn’s Been? Slipping Through Your House Unseen . . .

I knew I’d love The Grotlyn. It’s nostalgic — think Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Happy Families or Burglar Bill, only with an edge, and a thrill of the macabre. Dickensian London is captured so beautifully, it’s already filmic in it’s composition.

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Mark Chambers On His Creative Career

Art Is Never the Easy Option, Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Differently . . .

Mark Chambers has been with Bright from the very beginning. Through sheer determination, hard work and an ability to adapt and develop his style over time, he has made illustration his career, and a successful one at that.

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