Welcome to my new blog; where you'll be able to follow my journey being part of The Lightbox Gallery's, new children's book retrospective, Escape To Wonderland. 7 Aug-2 Jan '11. Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions. Prints of my work will be made available. And you can also book me for workshops and talks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Illustration tip to myself No. 1. Draw what you like, or what inspires you.

It sounds obvious, but it's sometimes easy to forget. It is good to conquer things you find difficult to draw. But I usually find there is a way of doing this more organically than forcing yourself to sit there and torture yourself over it. For example, I'm not that strong at drawing buildings, however, I'm pretty sure I'd make a darned good stab at rising to the challenge if I were given a sketchbook and a beautiful, empty, ornate theatre! As a professional illustrator, I can't always draw what I want. However, there are always ways of bringing in elements of what I love into my work. And oftentimes I find what I'm most pleased with in the end, was the thing I was most worried about drawing in the first place.

My favourite things to draw are:

- monsters- both scary and friendly. 'Nuff said.

- trees of all kinds. I love the crazily quiet and still kind, that you expect to find faerie rings at the bottom of. I love the gnarled kind, you can see lots of different mangled faces in. But I also like the fat, portly look of toupouri and the swishy little new trees just as much. There's something about trees that makes me want to commit each to memory; the fact that there are so many different characters, perhaps. And a good tree can tell such a large chunk of story; about how a character is feeling and suchlike.

- Odd machines. This is a new one for me. I've always loved clockwork and steam engines etc. The way they work is fascinating. It sounds strange, but I think I was made aware of this by a book called 'The Tasks of Tantalon' which I had as a child. It was a puzzle book and there was a spread in which you had to work out which way to pull a lever to save the prince. You had to follow the workings of all these different cogs to figure it out. I thought it was so clever. Perhaps though, because of the complexity of that spread, I've been hugely scared of drawing machinery. I've always wanted my drawn machines to work! It wasn't until recently, finding Heath Robinson, I realised some of the joy of drawn machinery was that perhaps it didn't! (See image above, for my depiction of a machine that hasn't got a hope of lift-off!)
- Children. I'm always drawn to the human form. It's part of what got me drawing in the first place. There's a purity and expressiveness in a childs' movement that's particularly appealing in story-telling, regardless of the fact that most narrative illustration centres around them anyway. Kids tend to show you exactly how they feel in their facial expression and posture. Adults learn to hide everything, and teenagers purposefully adopt poses to contradict their emotions. Their honesty makes children very good storytelling tools. I mostly like to team one child up with another non-human character, so that they have a sounding board to really emphasise each others emotions.

- Lighting. Lighting is another one of those things that can play its' own character in a piece, and that's why I love it. If you draw nothing else on a sheet of paper, but a character standing still, we'll still know how that person's feeling by how you light it. Theatre and film are two of my greatest influences, and these are two mediums that use lighting to it's best.

So, find what you love and draw, draw, draw away. Passion will bring the best out of your artistic ability, and give you the confidence later on to handle subjects, you're not so sure of.


  1. What a brilliant post - excellent advice! I love the bit about the trees. I once had a gorgeous, big photo-book of just trees: beautiful, dramatic, full-page photos on every page. Wonder what has happened to that book...

  2. oooh, it's always your favourtite books that don't come back when you lend them out- has it gone that way?

  3. Cass,Hi! Feel such a heel for not stopping by and getting up to speed on all your news! As luck would have it I was in Woking this AM and happened by the show anyway...so surprised was I. Had made a note to 'tell Cass' about the show...then I walked to the back of the gallery and I was stunned..."I know her"!!! Then who should blow by like a mini tornado but the lady herself!!! About now I cannot take anymore surprises... you looked hassled (sorry, professionally focused on the task in hand) so I opted to hang back and find you in a moment... but you'd gone, poof, vanished...? I had to go before 1 so I missed your teaching session, hope you broke a 'lead' and knocked 'em dead! WELL DONE again, I'll read the blogs with great interest. Hope to catch up soon! TTFN