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- author Jackie French

Thursday 10 October 2019

Meet The Illustrator: Claire Powell

Name: Claire Powell

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less. Character led, filled with emotion, personality and humour.

What items are an essential part of your creative space? I have lots of pots filled with crayons, paintbrushes, marker pens, inks… the list is endless… but all I really need is a pencil, a light box and some paper!

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I’m out comfortable using pencil. Recently I’ve been experimenting with different ways of adding colour to my original work, trying out watercolour, brush pens, coloured pencils but I always come back to using just a pencil. It allows me to do what I want to do with minimum frustration!

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Bernie Fuchs, an illustrator from the 50’s - his use of colour was amazing. Kay Neilsen, his attention to detail astounds me and Quentin Blake, his work is so spontaneous and full of life - I can stare at one of drawings for hours.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
Good question! I think I’d visit the Art Nouveau period. There were so many talented, varied artists around this time both in illustration, painting and design. Artists such as Klimt, Schiele, Lautrec, Sorolla, Renee Mackintosh, Beardsley, Neilsen were all active during this time. It must have been an inspiring era to live and work in… I’d stick around for the art deco period too, it’s my favourite in terms of fashion, architecture and design.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator? A conversation with my mum inspired me to change career. I was previously an identity designer, a job I enjoyed but didn’t want to do forever. Mum asked me what I would do, if money and qualifications were no obstacle and I immediately answered - draw pictures! It was a surprise as I hadn’t drawn much in previous years and I didn’t study illustration at university. A few weeks later I happened upon a small exhibition of children’s book illustration at The British Library. I knew straight away it was what I wanted to do. It took me two more years to complete a picture book course, find representation, produce a portfolio and get my first commission.

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’m lucky to have a flat with a mezzanine level and I converted it into my studio space. It has big windows with lots of light and plenty of space to work. My drawing desk faces the windows, I like to stare out of them at the sky when I’m thinking… or procrastinating! I have all my drawing and painting materials near-by on a little trolley with wheels. My computer and scanner are on another desk. I have a lot of shelves with all my reference books and some plants which miraculously are still alive, despite me forgetting to water them. It’s a lovely space. Very peaceful.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
The beginning, definitely. I love receiving a new manuscript and feeling excited by all the possibilities. Designing the characters, researching and coming up with ideas for the roughs is so much fun and I love spontaneous nature of it. I find art-working enjoyable but relentless. I started off working digitally but I soon realised I’m not keen spending long periods at the computer so I’m slowly moving towards more traditional methods of working.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Create as freely as you can, without constraint. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or whether your work is any good and definitely don’t worry about style! It’s something I struggled with at the beginning and ‘how did you find your style?’ is a question I get asked a lot. But the truth is style evolves naturally, almost without you noticing. The best thing is to draw as often as you can. You will eventually find your own visual way of doing things. I would also say don’t be too concerned with what other people are producing. It’s easy to look at your peers and feel you’re falling behind, but everyone’s timeline is different. Being an illustrator can be isolating, especially if you work from home, so I’d recommend meeting up with other illustrators regularly, social media is great for reaching out to people in your area and it’s reassuring to chat to people. You find we’re all struggling with the same things and it makes you feel normal!

Claire is a bestselling children's book illustrator working in London, UK. She started out designing for big-hitting television brands, before an impromptu visit to a children's book exhibition led her down the path of illustration. Self-taught, Claire got her first book deal in 2015 and has never looked back. A hugely versatile artist, Claire has a talent for creating characters that are brimming with emotion and personality.

You can visit Claire's website for more information or follow her on her instagram.