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

Thursday 15 June 2017

Meet the Illustrator: Aska

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Fun, quick, instinctive, energetic, still-in-development.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Big, fat permanent markers, fine-liners, ultra-fine black ball-point pens and kilos of recycled bond paper. These are joined by my workstation, a scanner and a Wacom tablet. I also end up surrounded by hundreds, literally hundreds of pencils, but I don’t really use them, however kind people keep on gifting them to me.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Permanent markers and pens. No erasing or going back. There is a finality to every stroke. It looks great if you’re spontaneous, but slow, over thought strokes spill and wobble awkwardly. I find it a really satisfying medium, which teaches me how to live with my ‘mistakes’ or work around them, and encourages planning. I also enjoy how my hands end up stained, from knuckles up to my elbows, a living memory of the fun I’ve just had.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Gus Gordon – love the niche he has found through combining classical and digital art techniques, as well as his slightly anarchic layouts. The ‘Gus Gordon’ stroke that holds it all together commands attention and recognition. This guy sure knows how to draw!

David Roberts – he makes me laugh and then take a closer look. I sometimes even ‘try out’ his illustrations of figures by copying them, often thinking to myself “can’t believe this works!” I hope to one day be able to simplify life to such an extent, whilst retaining all the energy and joy of David’s work.

Shaun Tan – I admire Shaun’s ability to create his own, very unique and personal visual style.  Rather than just sprinkling his work with whimsy he plunges it right into it, and somehow, rather than getting lost in his imaginary world, we all go along with it, recognising the signposts he has left for us, somewhere among the dusty memories of our childhood.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
Art Nouveau! I’ve always experimented with this era. It is art’s first move towards graphic design and using decorative elements in simple and clean way (as opposed to something like Baroque). I simply love Alphonse Mucha’s women, their flowing hair and the bold outlines of their soft dresses. A lot of my graphic work tries to capture this balance of grace and boldness.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I read a lot as a kid, and for each big tom I’d finish, I would make a bookmark on which the entire story was summarised. I’m not sure why I always had this compulsion to draw the things I saw in my mind, and weave images into stories, but this persisted to my adulthood.
I didn’t know I wanted to be an illustrator. I tried my hand at fine arts: painting, sculpting, media and installation art. I worked in design and created craft-products for children. I also dabbled in animation, e-books and comic books.
All of these explorations seemed to have one thing in common – their focus on visual storytelling.
Hence picture book illustration is where I ended up, and where I feel I belong.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often?
I am fortunate enough to have several working spaces, stretching across my entire house.
First is mostly digital, where apart from some sketching, most work occurs on my computer and Wacom tablet.

Second is where the drawing and light-box action happen. Here I also store my art supplies and many things which inspire me.
Sometimes I also venture to my living room – the third space - and lie on the floor in front of my bookshelf, where solutions to various art-conundrums can be found among the pages of my beautiful books.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I like to come up with a visual problem and then find a way to solve it and refine it. What is the best way to say the most, without cluttering the page or being obvious? How can I add humour or another layer of information to an illustration? Where can I hide an additional sub-story?
The very final stages of colouring never bring me as much pleasure as this initial set-up, construction and building of the piece.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Never stop seeking - there is so much more to learn.

Aska is an artist, a scientist and an avid traveller, and curious about the wonderfully rich world around us. With over ten years of experience in children’s illustration, and her work as a science communicator, she likes to collect adventures and channel them into exciting book illustrations to be enjoyed by kids big and small. You can see more of Aska's work on her website ~ www.askaillustration.com