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Thursday 25 January 2018

Meet the Illustrator: Sylvia Morris

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Trying to inspire my 11 year old self.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Definitely my computer, both for creating the art itself and also for researching interesting people and times and places. A full length mirror and my phone to take reference photos of myself in different poses. A sketchbook and pencil for trying out new ideas and a cup of tea keeps me on task.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
A black pencil--either digital or traditional, I don’t mind which.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Pam Smy, Rovina Cai, and Nuria Tamarit. Ask me tomorrow and it’ll be different though…

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The future! Maybe 100 years from now. Then I could hopefully see the connections back to current illustration and be in awe of what they’ve done with it.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
In early 2013, Neil Gaiman was working on a collaborative art project. He wrote short stories inspired by conversations with his twitter followers and then people online illustrated the stories. I was a post-grad maths student who thought ‘that sounds interesting’ and tried to draw something for the first time since year eight art class. I fell in love with illustration while working on that picture and it turned my life upside down… So I really am very grateful to Neil Gaiman for that.

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 mostly work at my computer with my trusty old Bamboo tablet. I’ve also got some desk space and a printer/scanner so I can flick between traditional and digital whenever I want. Sketching mostly happens on the sofa though, so the desk is usually just used as a dumping ground.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
The problem solving aspect of composition. I love trying to figure out how I’m going to convey stories, settings, and characters within a single 2D image.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
I think most people already know that you’ve got to draw a lot and practise a lot. But on top of that, two things really help me:
1.  Find projects to work on. Make it so that some of that art you do (not all of it!) is for specific purposes—whether that’s a book cover for a book you like, or illustrating a nursery rhyme, or designing flashcards for a teacher friend. Projects demand that you step out of your comfort zone and do things you might ordinarily skip.
2. Make your practice count. For example, if you want to get better at backgrounds, then first think of a variety of ways you could improve at that, such as drawing landscapes and buildings in real life, researching types of perspective, and studying how your favourite artists have drawn backgrounds. Doing a variety of things will be more effective than just drawing ten backgrounds completely from your own imagination. Make sure the time and effort you put into your practice is worth it!

Sylvia Morris is a middle-grade children’s illustrator inspired by fascinating historical figures and adventure stories of all kinds. She grew up in the Adelaide Hills but now lives in Melbourne with her husband, her cat, and a small balcony garden.
You can follow Sylvia on tumblr and instagram or visit her website for more information.