Can you briefly describe for us the type of illustration work you do?
Just about all my illustration work these days is related to the publishing industry. While I’ve always had a passion for books, illustrating children’s picture books is a dream come true. Up until 2012 I used to illustrate traditionally (with paint and brushes) but as clients started to ask for work supplied digitally I decided it was time for me to teach myself how to illustrate on the computer. I still do all the concept roughs and storyboarding on paper, which are then scanned and worked up in Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq.
How did you embark on your career as an illustrator? Is this what you have always done for a job?
My background is graphic design, with most of my experience gained from working in small design studios and print houses. Ironically, I fell into illustration as a way of avoiding working on the computer. While I began providing a commercial illustration service to advertising agencies, souvenir manufacturers, small business and publishing houses in the late 1990’s it wasn’t until 2002 that I received a contract from Scholastic to illustrate my first children’s picture book A Kiwi Night Before Christmas, by Yvonne Morrison. Of course now with the departure of the bigger publishing companies from New Zealand, there’s a lot more opportunity to not only illustrate but also to provide a full book design service for authors wanting to independently publish their books.
How would you describe your illustration style?
I always struggle to define my illustration style, I think I actually have two styles; the realistic style which is shown in the Te Reo Singalong series by Sharon Holt and Counting in the South Pacific by Jill Jaques; and then there’s the more fun, quirky style depicted in 10 Kooky Kiwi and 10 Goofy Geckos, both published by Scholastic. I’d like to think that even though I’m still developing my ‘style’ underneath it all there’s something about my work that people recognise as being done by me.
You have illustrated lots of books: do you have a favourite?
I think all up I’ve illustrated around sixty books; fiction and non-fiction; around twenty-six of these (I’ve lost track a bit this year!) are children’s picture books. I think The Hoppleplop is still a strong favourite although I’m really excited about the next book coming out in February 2016 for Scholastic – it has ten rather cute penguins in it…
Did you draw as a child?
Constantly – I also remember loving colouring in books; I was excellent at keeping within the lines. Of course these days I want to break out more! Art was the only subject I ever came top of the class in.
What other illustrators inspire you? Do you have a favourite book by another illustrator?
There’s so many illustrators that inspire me; Oliver Jeffers, his quirky style; David Wiesner, his stunning watercolours; Helen Cooper for her use of colour and then of course there’s our home grown illustrators like Ruth Paul, Donovan Bixley and David Elliott. I don’t think I have a favourite book – there are just so many good illustrators out there, all with something different or special.
You are also an artist: what types of art do you make? Do you find there are opportunities to directly use your art in your work?
Prior to 2009, when I graduated from The Learning Connexion with an Advanced Diploma in Art and Creativity, my art was very much about landscape or still life. Taking part in the course gave me permission to experiment. I now work (when I get time) with encaustic wax and mixed media and produce work that is more of a response to the material rather than pure representation. I’d like to think I would find a way to bring the two together in some way – perhaps it’s something to explore in between illustrating books.
I have heard rumours that you are writing a book: can you tell us what it is about?
I’ve actually got three on the go at the moment and they’re all picture books. I’m just in the process of finalising the illustration ideas for two of them before I submit to publishers. The third one I’ll be independently publishing. This one is about a hare that has a bad day and while his friends all attempt to help him with his problem, Hare manages to resolve it himself. It’s a bit of a play on the old ‘I’ll just go back to where I remember having it last’.
Deborah will be appearing on Word Cafe’s Illustration Panel, alongside Paul Martin and Kat Merewether on Saturday 15 August, 1.45pm-3.15pm in the Raglan Town Hall. Individual session tickets cost just $20 each.