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- author Jackie French

Thursday 27 July 2017

Meet the Illustrator: Penelope Pratley

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less. 
Delicate images created to capture the heart of small things.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
I need fresh air, lots of light, art supplies (loads of lead pencils, paper, Schminck watercolours and good quality brushes), books (lots of books; story books, reference books, picture books), music, and being by myself. 

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Beatrix Potter, Nick Bantock, and Paul Klee – I could literally fill a page. Only listing three was very difficult because I have so many artists and illustrators whom I adore.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
There is no particular art period I would like to visit. I truly appreciate how privileged we are to live in the present day and have access to the world history of art. I am so thankful to be surrounded by amazing female Australian illustrators who model what I love and long to do.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I have always loved painting and drawing. One of my earliest childhood memories is creating a finger painting and swirling my chubby fingers through the paint. I credit my parents for providing a home full of books Come Play With Me, Peter Rabbit, Pookie, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Muddle Headed Wombat, vast collections of Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm, my grandmothers, my Grade Two Teacher, Mem Fox / Julie Vivas, and a certain invisible possum.

I missed a lot of school, both primary and high school due to ill health. In year two I distinctly remember returning to school from hospital and my class teacher reading Possum Magic. As a follow up activity the class was asked to recreate one of Julie Vivas’ beautiful watercolour illustrations. The beauty of the pictures and the paint transported me to another world. And in that moment a light shone on the thing I knew I wanted to do. But it is ultimately my husband who said I needed to do this and provided me with the stability and encouragement to take a dusty dream off the shelf.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
I love the back wall of my studio. It has a ‘washing line’ that I hang inspiring pictures and cards from friends. I also have shelves full of books and reference material.

This is my painting desk and you can see my tepee. It’s not really for napping. It’s more a space for pondering and consolidating ideas with my eyes closed. The chair in my ‘sunny spot’ is very precious to me. My Mum upholstered it and it is sooo comfy.


What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I adore the initial spark of an idea. Then refining those first sketches and finally adding colour – it’s all so wonderful.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Keep faith in your dream – I wish I realised this sooner. Don’t rely on others for validation (I was told for years through high school and University that my style was too ‘naïve, innocent, and cute’ and that illustrating was not a worthwhile pursuit). Know the reason behind what you are trying to achieve and to loosely quote Ralph Emerson, 'Be yourself in a world that constantly wants you be something else because that is the greatest accomplishment.'

Penelope is a Mum, harp player, drawer and painter, who believes art should develop the imagination and form lasting memories. She spends her days creating lovely images for clients, illustrating her first picture book (to be published in 2018) and enabling others to interpret their world through creativity in Art.
·       You can follow Penelope on facebook and visit her website for more information.