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Thursday 25 April 2024

Meet The Illustrator: Blithe Fielden

Blithe Fielden

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Fun, playful, colourful, scribbly, imaginative, narrative, child-like, nostalgic

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
If there is one thing I have learnt since my move from England to Australia 18 months ago, it is that it's possible to work almost anywhere as an illustrator. As long as I have a sketchbook on hand, a pencil case filled with an assortment of colourful pencils and somewhere to sit down - whether that is a table in a park, a blanket on the grass or a bench in the city, I can happily sit for hours, scribbling away.

Sometimes, I love to listen to music or have a TV series on in the background (admittedly, I watched all six series of Gossip Girl whilst working on ‘Dinosaur in my Pocket’ over the two and a half month time frame). However, there are times where the only way I will get work done is in silence, with no distractions.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
My go-to medium at the moment has to be Caran D’Ache Neocolor II Aquarelle crayons! I’m starting to build my collection, treating myself to a new colour each visit to the art shop. I love the creamy texture against my sketchbook paper and the colours really pop! Whenever I leave the house, I always have a small sketchbook with me. When I moved to Australia I started drawing on location to help me get out of a creative block and now it's become a habit, second nature to grab a sketchbook and some drawing materials before I leave the house. I really enjoy working with Tombow Brush pens and Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils as they complement one another really well. I go through phases of different colour palettes too, at the moment I love working with lime greens, pinks and cornflower blue.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Lauren Child, Judith Kerr & Sara Ogilvie

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I feel torn between Impressionism - Claude Monet's dreamy water and hot summer scenes, and also the pop art movement in the 1960s, especially David Hockney. I love his use of bold colours, greens and blues and pops of red.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I grew up surrounded by lots and lots of picture books. My parents believed in the positive impact of reading stories to children, so it seems no surprise that I grew up with an interest in picture books. I have always been interested in the world of storytelling and it has been a dream of mine to illustrate books since I was 4 years old. I can’t remember where the initial idea came from but I do remember making little books out of toilet paper with my friend in lower school. I’ve been influenced by so many artists and creatives over the years, from picture books to animations and films. Animals, nature and being outside all influence my work. I feel very fortunate to have family and friends who have always been cheering me on from the sidelines throughout my whole illustration practice.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
My workspace varies from day to day, depending on my mood, the weather or the project I am working on. Sometimes, I am at the dining room table. I like to have the balcony doors wide open and it's nice to see the plants on the balcony. Working as a freelance illustrator can be isolating at times and on top of moving countries, it can feel quite lonely, so I do make it a mission to leave the house. I sometimes like to work in cafes - not only does it allow you to explore a new area but can be a great conversation starter as well. There are always people interested in what you are drawing. I like working in local libraries too and made it my mission to visit all the libraries dotted about Brisbane (four down, 29 to go!). I also secretly claimed a table within the botanical gardens which I would visit frequently when working on the early stages of ‘Dinosaur in my Pocket’.

Back at home in England, I was fortunate enough to have a gorgeous art studio. I had a large double desk, places to store all my materials, a shelf stacked with picture books (predominantly books from my childhood). It was bright, it was airy and it had a light shade that would catch the setting sun, reflecting beautiful patterns on the wall. When I came to Australia back in January of last year, I had no clear plans of how long I would be staying so I limited myself to one small suitcase full of art supplies. I bought a storage trolley from IKEA to store my materials. 

A year and a bit later, with a plan of staying in Brisbane for a few more years, I have accumulated quite a bit more art-clutter (either purchases I have made or that my parents bring over when they visit) and it has got to a stage where I definitely need more space. So right now, I am in the very early stages of transforming a corner of the garage into a little art studio sanctuary. I am looking forward to having a space which I can call my own and not worry about having to tidy away everything I have been working on each day. At the moment, it's a slow process as I am starting from scratch, but with time and patience and lots of creativity, I'm hoping to create a beautiful workspace once again.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I think it has to be seeing it all come together at the end but not necessarily the finished piece (although that is a very exciting moment too). I love it when I come towards the end of a project and I look back at all the work I have done, the part that the client of the project does not see - the hundreds of roughs to produce a 32 page book. You get to see how a character has evolved. It’s also a good way to return to past drawings that you may have not liked when you initially drew them and recycle them.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Be persistent. Be patient. Most of all, have fun.

Having an online presence is quite important in this day and age. It is not only a platform to share your artwork to others but also a place they can reach out to you. Don’t be afraid to post your artwork, treat your instagram as an online portfolio - this is how my agent found me!

Be true to yourself and make work that you love and are proud of. Post your artwork online but don’t feel like you have to share everything. It is very hard not to compare ourselves with other artists online, especially if you are just at the beginning of your creative journey. Sometimes the harshest critics are ourselves. Don’t feel the pressure to post something you dislike. Give yourself some time and after a few weeks, months or years, return to that artwork and see what you think about it. If you still dislike it then move on and step away from it for good, but there’s a high chance that you’ll see the potential within it again.

Be playful with your artwork. Take a sketchbook on a walk and draw what you see, document the little things in life or stories you overhear on the bus or someone’s outfit you see on the street. So much we see, do or hear in our everyday life influences our work and if you are ever feeling in a rut, it's great to have these documentations on hand - you never know when something may spark a new idea.
Remember, that unfortunately, not everyone is going to like your work. It’s really hard to hear criticism about our illustrations but also key to improving and developing us as illustrators. Sometimes I find it helps me to take a step back to digest my feedback instead of going full blown panic mode! 99% of the time, people are here to help.

Most of all, enjoy the process. The world of illustration is such a fantastic industry to be in.

Blithe Fielden is an illustrator and picture book maker living in Brisbane, Australia. Originally from England, Blithe graduated from Leeds Arts University with a BA (Hons) in illustration. She loves to create playful, colourful and happy illustrations, depicting the world through the eyes of children. Blithe is represented by The Bright Agency.

For more information, please visit Blithe's website or follow her on instagram.