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

Thursday 23 January 2020

Meet The Illustrator: Mel Armstrong

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whimsical, textured, a bit quirky and a little too detailed.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Coffee, bubbly water, podcasts & music, indoor plants, the cat in my in-tray and the birds outside my studio, all of which, make my space inviting, inspiring and creative.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium? 
I’m predominately a digital artist and at the moment I’m loving my iPad along with the Procreate App. I also love Gouache and try to mix some in with my digital artwork whenever I can. 

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
I love Benji Davis’s use of textures and colour. Katherine Quinn’s unique charming work always makes me smile. I love the simplistic and engaging characters of the incredible Oliver Jeffers.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
Hmmm, great question! I think it would have to be the Expressionism Art Movement (1905 - 1925). I see art as a way of expressing our joy, our turmoil, our struggles and aspirations and this period really indicated to us now looking back how dark those times were. The distorted and exaggeration of the art added to the turmoil they were expressing. 

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
Around 15 years ago, someone who was helping me through a tough time suggested I get into illustration, but I laughed and said, ‘are you kidding, I can’t draw!’. But to be honest, I’ve always loved drawing. As a kid, my school books were always covered in doodles. But I think my kids have inspired me the most. When my son was born and I stopped working as a software engineer I discovered surface pattern design when trying to find fabric. With a background in graphic design, I realised I could design the fabric myself. A career in surface pattern design grew and then developed into a Children’s book illustrator through my love of drawing characters.

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 relocated from Australia to Wellington, New Zealand (where I grew up) a couple of years ago and so my studio is still very much a work in progress. I‘m very fortunate to live in a house that has an incredible view of Wellington harbour. There is also an abundance of New Zealand birds outside my window, thanks to Zealandia - a fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary that has reintroduced many species that were previously absent from New Zealand. So there is an abundance of inspiration.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I love watching a character grow from scribbles to detailed sketches to final artwork. When I first start a book I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of me, but once I start, it all comes together so nicely.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Draw every day, don’t compare yourself to others, and know that not everyone will love your art, but there will always be some that do. 

Mel is a full-time illustrator based in Wellington, New Zealand. She is well known for her stunning surface pattern designs. With a great love for books, and inspired by children, Mel has ventured into the children’s book world. She has published a number of baby board books and in August 2019 she published her first picture book ‘A Home for Luna’ with author Stef Gemmill (New Frontier Publishing). Her second picture book by author Robert Vescio, also with New Frontier Publishing, will be published in 2020.

For more information, please visit Mel's website or follow her on instagram, twitter and facebook .