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

Thursday 26 September 2019

Meet The illustrator: Devon Holzwarth

Name: Devon Holzwarth

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Playful, dreamy, nostalgic, hopeful…I like to tune into the mood of the work and accentuate
that feeling with colour and texture.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My old drafting table my dad refurbished and gifted me, stacked with supplies. It’s a cosy
slightly cramped spot under an eave wall that is always too full but it’s my favourite spot.

Next to my work table is a long table with my computer, scanner, printer, iPad etc. as well as drawers and shelves of supplies and resources.

It’s a lovely spot for watching the crows and magpies that hang out on the roof nearby. Another essential in my studio is my ever growing collection of children’s books - including lots of vintage favourites from my childhood (and my parents’ childhoods!).

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I’m drawn to pastels for their softness and saturation and almost always include them in my
process. I also work in gouache and watercolour, and colour pencil is a staple. However, I
adore experimenting and love bits of collage, or working on large canvas with acrylic, or
creating 3d worlds.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Oh, just three?! There are so many…in the children’s book genre my favourites are Roger
Duvoisin, Adrienne Adams, Gyo Fujikawa, and I have to include Beatrice Alemagna. 

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
There’s so much to love from the mid-century era: Ray Eames - pairing playfulness and
practicality. Also mid-century and into the 1960’s - Mary Blair and the early Disney animators
with exquisite colour, shape and movement. And from the 1940’s and onward, Feodor
Rojankovsky, who illustrated several Little Golden Books, which still inspire so much today.
Time periods that come after years of war or repression are often full of hopeful, fresh ideas
and I find those times very exciting and appealing. 

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I’ve been drawing and making things my entire life. My dad is a highly creative person
(painter, sculptor, maker of many things) and our family has a long history of artists in
different fields. I went to Rhode Island School of Design to study and settled on Textile
Design, though looking back I probably should have gone into illustration! You can only know
so much about yourself sometimes, though, and textile design gave me focus on colour and
texture. I discovered illustration later on, only after my kids were born and we had moved to
Germany. I couldn’t do the same work as I had been doing and thus discovered how much I
loved to create stories and characters. I took classes with an online platform called Make Art
that Sells and their children’s book illustration course brought something out of me I didn’t
realise was there. There was no turning back afterwards! I submitted a dummy book to an
art director I admired and through a bit of a process it turned into my first author/illustrated
book publishing next spring with Alison Green Books. 

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work
most often? Talk us through it.

In my studio I’ve created different areas and try to keep things separated (otherwise it’s a
crazy mess and I can’t work if it’s too disordered). I’ve got my main area where I’m
continually editing what can live there (currently it’s supplies for the book and cover projects
I’m working on), my table with electronic stuff and random bits of things I need to get to, a
cosy area for visitors (usually my dog, Phylo, and sometimes a kid or two), a desk my
husband says is his but is stocked with supplies and is always set up for drawing so the kids
can jump in when they like. And I have a cute little table under the other window that I had
imagined for writing but has mostly been for kids drawing also. I find I write mostly in my
head when out for walks and then transfer it to my computer or a notebook when I get home.

Sitting still at a desk is one of the most ineffective places for me, and I imagine for a lot of
people! I feel super grateful for my space…it’s full of creative energy, light and materials. It
often feels like a really good friend. 

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
Probably the first bit - getting something down on the paper. There’s so much possibility at
this stage and my mind is whirling with ideas. After that it’s probably when a character
comes together and they feel perfectly alive. Like they’ve always been there and you’ve just
been finally introduced. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
The process of growing and getting to know yourself in your work takes time so keep at it
consistently and be kind to your efforts (and remember that it’s always changing). Try new
things, join groups and challenges, and spend time with other illustrators.

Devon Holzwarth grew up in Panama with the jungle as her garden and parrots and iguanas
as pets. Her work is strongly inspired by childhood memories and her collection of vintage
children's books. She currently lives in Aachen with her husband, kids, and beloved old
hound dog. She’s the Author/Illustrator of 'Found You' with Alison Green Books, publishing
spring 2020, and 'Sophie's Stories' also with Alison Green Books, publishing 2021.

Please vist Devon's website for more information or follow her on instagram.