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

Thursday 9 April 2020

Meet The Illustrator: Amanda Francey

Name: Amanda Francey

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
In the moment, soft, heartwarming, humorous, relatable.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Apart from the obvious – pencils, paper, paints and drawing devices etc – a cup of warm tea and something chocolatey to munch on.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I struggle to limit myself to the one medium as I prefer to work with mixed media. However, I love to play with watercolour. It’s unpredictable and full of surprises. No matter how digital my illustrations become, there’s usually an element of watercolour included to give my work an organic feel.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Ann James, Nancy Carpenter, Julia Denos. I could go on to list about 50 more.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
It’s funny, I was recently thinking about this, while flicking through the latest edition of Womankind magazine. As I read the article on Spanish painter, Maruja Mallo, I imagined how awesome it would be to step into her shoes for a week during the early 1920s. During this period, Mallo studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando alongside her kindred spirit, Salvador Dalí. I’ve always been interested in the Surrealism Era, especially Salvador Dalí’s work. I’m curious about what he would have been like as fellow art student. And spending a week inside Mallo’s wild and quirky mind would be an adventure in itself.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
My father was my first inspiration, George A Smith. He wrote and illustrated comicstrips for Australian newspapers in the 70s. I grew up watching my dad drawing comics, designing detailed illustrative logos, painting large signage and cutting intricate silkscreen stencils by hand. I’ve written a blog post sharing my dad’s comics.

Also, I was never without drawing materials, especially once my mother expanded the craft shop to include a full range of art mediums, papers and canvases.

Another motivation, was winning a special award for best story during Book Week of 1986, when I was in primary school. I kept the award as a reminder of the day my school librarian took me on an excursion. It was the experience of meeting authors and illustrators that really inspired me to want to become a children’s book illustrator.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
Until recently, I was using the family dining table to do most of my drawing and painting, which wasn’t ideal. Not long after our old dining table was moved into the lounge, I realised this would make a perfect art space. It’s a huge art table, looking out over the deck and the forest. I quickly moved in with all of my art materials.

So basically my creative space spreads out over three areas, a traditional art space, a digital art space – and since having an iPad – a mobile art space. The deck lounge is a great place to draw. I can listen to the birds and discuss the shocking state of world politics with my dog, which doesn’t concern her nearly as much as what the future holds for the remaining half of that biscuit in my hand.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
Developing the characters during the storyboarding and rough stages. Sketching facial and body expressions of characters interacting with each other or the events happening on the page is by far the most creative part of the visual storytelling process. That first splash of colour gives me a bit of a buzz too, however the hours spent drawing final outlines and colouring can become quite mundane. I try to keep this part of the process interesting by experimenting with different textures, patterns, mediums and techniques.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Observe life around you. Experiment with different mediums and techniques. Practise, practise, practise.

Amanda Francey grew up on the leafy edges of Brisbane, Queensland.
As the daughter of a comic strip artist and art supply retailer, Amanda’s early storytelling and picture book making antics were greatly encouraged and supported. 

Amanda went on to study at Queensland College of Art and worked for many years in graphic design and art direction before returning to her childhood dream of illustrating children’s books. 

Amanda’s first picture book, Jonathan!, written by Peter Carnavas, was shortlisted Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award (3 to 5 years) 2014. Her most recent picture books, Take Ted Instead, written by Cassandra Webb, and That Christmas Feeling, written by Lili Wilkinson, were listed Children’s Book Council of Australia, Notable Book (Early Childhood) 2017 and 2018 respectively.

For more information please visit Amanda's website or follow her on instagram. You can also find her blog here .