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

Friday 28 October 2016

Meet the Illustrator: Tania McCartney

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whimsical, colour-driven, quirky, sweet, textured, layered, detailed, orderly, retro-modern, ever-evolving.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
For practicalities: watercolours, silky brushes, fine-liners, my tablet, computer and digital software. For inspiration: light, silence, polaroids, artwork on the walls, books, plants, coffee, tea.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Watercolour, without doubt. It's absolutely magical. It has a life of its own.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Anna Walker, Gus Gordon, Charley Harper + around 300 more. (See a blog post with more than 80 of Tania's favourite illustrator websites right here.)

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The mid- to late-1800s, which was the first Golden Age of illustration and children's books. Advances in technology allowed inexpensive and beautiful art reproduction, and books for children featured stunning artworks by luminaries like Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, Howard Pyle, John Tenniel (who illustrated Lewis Caroll's books), Beatrix Potter and Edmund Dulac. What they created back then still enchants today.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
Childhood. I was a prolific drawer and painter, right through high school and into my early twenties. I was one of those artsy types (sans beret) who carried a journal and pencil everywhere she went. I wish I was like that now, but I'm really not ... I prefer to draw in my studio, in trackie dacks, sipping a nice cup of tea!

I was inspired to reconnect with illustration when I turned 40, and have gradually brought it back into my life and career--with Australia Illustrated released this November, my first ever self-illustrated work (and another coming soon!). The 52-Week Illustration Challenge, which I founded in 2014, was absolutely instrumental in re-honing long-lost skills.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often?
This is my studio, which sits at the front of our house, facing north. It's perennially sun-strewn, with a garden outlook. I sit at the desk at the window to paint and draw. My writing and digital artwork is done at the Varidesk, which can be lowered up or down (so I can avoid butt-spread, but methinks it's actually too late for that now ...).

I also--of course!--have bookshelves. And the walls are covered with polaroids of my family travels and artwork from friends, colleagues and the artists I'm obsessed with, including a limited edition print from David Mackintosh (from his book Lucky). The paper mobile was created a few years ago using just some of my collection of paper and collage items. My daughter Ella made a mini one, too.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
There's a few parts I love the most. The first is when I 'meet' the characters. I have a rough vision in my head but it's entrancing to watch them unfold on paper, as though someone else is doing it, not me. The second is watercolour application--it's also entrancing because the result is different each time, and I love that it's imprecise. The third is finishing the art digitally, touching it up and placing it where it needs to go on the page. It's so rewarding to see it all come together. In fact, that last part if probably my favourite part.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Never stop creating and learning. Grow yourself and your style. Look at (and copy, in private) the work of other creators for inspiration. Do and view things that uplift you and encourage you to create. And lastly, create in a style that you absolutely love--never in a style you think you 'should' do.

Tania McCartney is the founder of Kids' Book Review and the 52-Week Illustration Challenge. She is an award-winning author of 22 books, with seven currently in production. Her latest books include Australian Kids Through the Years (a CBCA Notable Book 2016) and Australia Illustrated, and she has been published in the UK, New Zealand, China, Canada and the US. Tania is an experienced magazine and book editor, a juvenile literacy ambassador and picture book obsessive (see her Tania's Picks picture book posts here).

Learn more at her website - www.taniamccartney.com

Stand by for your chance to win a copy of Australia Illustrated--right here on KBR on 31 October!