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Thursday 4 February 2016

Meet the Illustrator: Maree Coote

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Impressionistic sketches and paintings; Digital works in Illustrator; Typographic illustrations.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Quiet, and occasional music, my favourite inspirational books, artworks and objects of the moment, my computers, coffee, and a garden escape for a sit in the sun.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
A Fineliner pen and a Pentel Sign Pen - both good for line work and smudging. I like to work quickly, whether drawing or painting. I also love my Mac and Illustrator for typographic design, and for the infinite colour options – and the equally infinite revision options. Wonderful.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
For very different reasons: John Tenniel, Bruce Petty, Albert Tucker, Pablo Picasso  (- sorry it had to be four!)

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I’d like to be a fly on Picasso’s studio wall, to witness the generation of that unique expressionism. But I am actually very happy with the present because of the vantage point it provides – from here we can learn from every period of art, and enjoy the freedom to invent and express ideas in any style we choose.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
My father was always drawing and painting, in fact the whole family was at it when I was little – I  just thought it was something everyone did, like eating or swimming. I had brilliant art teachers at High School who encouraged an entire cohort into art during their tenure, and then did a truly wonderful course of Graphic Design at RMIT. It covered every possible medium and approach to visual arts and gave me the broad visual lexicon I draw upon today.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often?

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
The ‘thumbnails’ that begin the process - those tiny scribbles that contain the essence of the idea – they always look better than the final thing. That first iteration is so full of energy and intensity.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Read. Illustrators need to have a well-flexed imagination and reading is great exercise for that. Feed. See live theatre, live music, film, fashion shows, photography, typography, sculpture - fill your illustrative reservoir with all manner of creative ‘food’  and it will serve you well when you need to draw on it. Not to regurgitate the ideas of others of course, but to reference and filter styles, idioms, techniques, languages, allegories, moods, structures... It’s important to have a good creative vocabulary.

Maree Coote is a writer, designer, illustrator, photographer and publisher. In addition to her artistic pursuits, Maree has written several books for adults and children. Her picture books for children combine her love of typography and Melbourne and include the books Letters from Melbourne, Alphabet City Zoo, and Alphabet City Melbourne. Her latest book, Spellbound, will be released this month with the official launch on Monday, 8th February 2016. For more information about Maree Coote's books and artwork, visit the Melbourne Style and Alphabet City websites.