'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 18 February 2016

Meet the Illustrator: Ben Wood

Credit: Kathy Luu Photography
Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Traditional and digital soup! Yum.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Good lighting is essential! But so is seating, and furniture flow. As an illustrator who paints both traditionally and digitally, I’m always moving from my computer to my painting area. Workspace set up is really important to keep my work fluid. My computer has its own space, and so does painting. Piles of books seem to appear everywhere though, and get in the way a lot.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
In my personal sketchbooks I love to use watercolour and pencil. But I don’t think I have an absolute favorite. I love being able to mix it up. From watercolour, gouache, ink, acrylic, pencil, to digital work. It really depends on how I feel or what project I am working on.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
This is always changing. Long-term favorites are:
Hayao Miyazaki: His animated films are designed with so much detail and magic.
Tove Jansson: Her Moomin books are a beautiful balance of words and images.
Norman Lindsay: His line work is incredible!

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
If I had a time machine I would go visit Melbourne and to check out the fellows from the Heidelberg School. Australian Impressionism, I love it! Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton! So good! (I think this answer is heavily influenced by my recent visit to Canberra, where I saw the Tom Roberts exhibition.)

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
When I was little I used to make picture books all the time. Drawing on anything and everything was a bit of a problem during school. And school projects were a good excuse to draw a lot! It is always something I’ve loved and wanted to do.

My art teachers were incredibly influential in primary, high school and University studies. In high school I was to be the only VCE visual art student, and it looked like I would have to go to another school to study it. But my art teacher decided to pop me in a lower age art class, and she taught me herself! During another class! She didn’t have to do that, but I still think of it a lot.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often?
My painting area becomes very crowded with paints and inks while I’m working on a picture book. Peggy and the Umbrella by Anna Walker sits above my painting area.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I love the immersion that comes with the process. I really jump in! I’m usually always working with someone else’s text, and I want to make sure that I represent the story and author’s voice the best way I can. It takes a lot of work to change illustration styles so much, but each story is different, and each author’s voice is different. It’s a great challenge.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Draw a lot! All the time! Any time, any place! Always carry a sketchbook with you incase you have ideas or inspiration. Drawing everyday keeps your hand and mind linked. There is a fluidity there that can become rusty if you aren’t drawing constantly.

Ben Wood is an Australian children's illustrator. He has illustrated several picture books, such as Small and Big (Windy Hollow Books) and Underneath a Cow (Scholastic), and has also illustrated the recently published Squishy Taylor series, written by Ailsa Wild and published by Hardie Grant Egmont. The first two books in series, Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters and Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust, are currently available with more books scheduled for release in the coming months. Visit Ben's website, Facebook page and Instagram (@BenWoodIllustrations) for more information about his books, illustrations and creative projects.