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Thursday 27 December 2018

Meet the Illustrator: Mandy Foot

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less. That’s hard! Whimsical characters with a story of their own.

What items are an essential part of your creative space? Daylight lamp, a good paintbrush with a nice pointy tip (I have lots of worn out ones but they also have their uses), lots of paints and an assortment of drawing pencils. If I get a creative or drawing block, I generally just change pencils and that seems to fix it.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium? At the moment, graphite pencil and watercolour. I love being able to maintain the life of those early sketch lines and see what happy accidents the blending of colours can create.

Name three artists whose work inspires you. Oliver Jeffers, Robert Ingpen and Aaron Blaise.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why? The Impressionist period and the Box Hill artists. The way their colours and paints brought their canvases to life has always been kind of magical to me. I love looking for those unexpected colours.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator? All the people who told me my work wasn’t good enough for me to be a children’s book illustrator, those are the people who inspired me. The what was my desire to share my drawings, characters and stories with as many people as possible. To inspire, particularly children, to indulge their creativity and push it to see where it can take them. Books take the imagination on a journey where anything is possible.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it. This is my drawing table. At the time of this photo I am putting the finishing touches to my first book as both author and illustrator ‘Joey and Riley’ due for release with Hachette in July 2019 (just a small plug there!) As you can see there is not a spare space! My daylight lamp is crucial to be able to see colours correctly, lots of brushes, I currently have around 4 paint palettes on the go.

Tissues for blotting the brushes and resting my hands on while working, colour charts, water pot (which I never clean the edges of by the way – I think it’s superstition now but I remember my illustration lecturer from Uni coming into class one day, many years ago, with one just like this and just as paint covered, and I so admired his work that I decided I needed one just like it. There’s around 25 years of paint on that water pot!), oh and the Swisspers are cotton tips that are flat on one end, great for blending chalk pastels.

My green tea in the same mug my brother in law gave me when I started my first job 25 years ago and to the left (which are out of the picture) are some of the other paintings from this book which I keep at hand for reference. At the conclusion of each book I attempt to tidy this work space up.

My border collie, Arty, is my constant companion/shadow, not more than two feet from wherever I am working.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process? The drawing part definitely. Creating the characters, watching them evolve on paper and when they finally have their own life they will want to jump from the page.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator? 
Never ever give up. Work hard and try not to be a hermit crab... be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as possible. Seek out those you admire most, who are creating the type of work in the field you would like to work in and learn from them. They have obviously made mistakes and learnt along the way so learn from their life's lessons and it will make your journey a little bit easier and even more enriching. Ask lots of questions, no matter how small you think they are but, most importantly, enjoy what you do.

The obsession with drawing animals, and giving them an abundance of personality, started when she was about two... with chalk, on her grandparents' pavement. Only then they didn’t look like animals or anything much for that matter. Now Mandy is a best selling picture book illustrator, soon to be author.
You can follow Mandy on facebook and instagram or visit her website.