How did you get started doing what you do?
Even as a kid I knew I wanted to be an illustrator and my academic achievements were very much art-based. But by my late 20’s, I felt creatively fatigued and wanted to do something different. My passion for plants lead me to retrain as a gardener with the Royal Horticultural Society where I discovered drawing the plants I was learning about served as a fantastic aide-memoir. So perversely it was this change of career and my immersion into the world of plants that reignited my desire to paint.
What’s your inspiration?
Obviously plants excite me, there is such an incredible variety of form and colour in the botanical world. Scientists at Kew Gardens estimate there to be more than 400,000 different species of flowering plants alone, so that’s a fairly inexhaustible pool of inspiration right there. But I think many things inspire me. In terms of aesthetic, I seem to be drawn to travel posters and educational illustrations from the 30’s and 40’s I find them both tonally and graphically very pleasing.
What is art to you?
For me art is the expression of an idea through any creative medium. I sometimes have trouble recognizing what I do as art since it’s usually intended for commercial use and largely more decorative than conceptual. Perhaps the idea to beautify is enough to qualify my illustrations as art?
What does your typical day look like?
I get up and walk Ida, my wonderful rescue dog- fresh air and good company is the best start to any day and it gives me a chance to think about what I want to achieve. I go through my emails over breakfast and take care of any pressing client requests. Then I turn the computer off otherwise it’s too much of a distraction. The bulk of the day is usually spent painting, drawing or visual research. Because I work from home it’s really important to have an end of day routine. I clean my water pots, tidy my desk and put the paints away so I know I’m done.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
It varies, how long I am able to spend on a piece is usually dictated by the client’s timeline, but usually between 2-5 days.
How do you keep motivated?
I love what I do so it’s easy. As an illustrator you never know who is about to commission you or for what purpose and it can be very surprising. Because every job is different I never get bored. It can be a little isolating though so I make time to meet up with friends doing similar jobs, it’s good to let of a little steam and spur each other on.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
A happy client and an image I can feel proud of.
What do you want others to take away from your work?
Plants have tremendously uplifting qualities. Some research even supports the argument that just seeing an image of a flower has a positive effect on mood. If my illustrations have the capacity to do that in even the smallest way I’d call them a success.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Understand the virtue of tenacity, grow a thick skin and be prepared to have a second job at least for a while. Accept that the client is always right (even when they are wrong) except if they aren’t paying you, that’s never right! Join the Association of Illustrators, the advice they provide on contracts and pricing is invaluable.
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I am particularly happy to do any work which educates and promotes conservation efforts, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given a couple of editorial gigs like this recently which is great. I’m also trying to diversify a little from just plants adding a few more animals to my portfolio.
What’s your dream project?
I really hanker to be involved in the campaign for Macy’s flower show. Simply fun floral frivolity!
What’s your process like?
I still work in quite a traditional way, creating pencil drafts then painting with designer’s gouache onto some nice heavy water colour paper. I love everything about painting by hand, mixing the colours, the feel of the brush as it moves over the paper, the elation of achieving the perfect line…. I know it’s possible to achieve similar results digitally but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t enjoy the process nearly as much. That said, I use digital tools to get the artwork ready for the client to use and if I’m working on a complicated piece there is often a bit of switching between drawing, scanning and digitally re-shuffling elements until the composition is just right.