I was lucky enough to have an interview appear in this weeks Buzz Words. You can subscribe to this email newsletter and get all 'the latest buzz on children's books'. Below is the full interview, which includes information on my illustration career and techniques.
Buzz Words chats with illustrator and graphic designer Jane Connory about her passion for illustrating and digitalisation.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I have been: an art director in the advertising industry, a graphic designer in the newspaper business and a lecturer at Holmesglen Institute, but my true passion has always been illustration – ever since I could hold a pencil.
I grew up in the smelly haze of the Western suburbs in Melbourne and travelled across town for three years to attend university at Monash, Caulfield.
In the few years post-education and pre-husband and babies, I spent a year backpacking through Europe and the US. I still view that time as a sort of artistic pilgrimage. I was truly humbled standing face to face with artworks like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles, at Moma, and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, at the Uffizi.
How would you describe your style?
Diverse; I try to choose a style and medium to suit every project that comes my way. But overall, I think my style is cheeky, bold and fun.
What media do you like to work with?
I am currently experimenting with acrylics on ply wood to get some real, tactile texture into my work, but I’m usually working digitally with vectors and pixels. It makes things so much easier when you have to change an element, like the colour of a t-shirt or the position of a character.
Who are the artists and illustrators you admire and why?
Shaun Tan is truly the man of the moment in the publishing world. I admire his unwavering passion and purity of vision. The man dedicated 10 years to his short film, ‘The Lost Thing’, and won an Oscar - who doesn’t love him?
But there is a huge bevy of local talent in Melbourne that extends beyond that found in books. I love the street art of Ghost Patrol and Miso and their underlying concepts. I also admire the digital techniques of Nigel Buchanan. I think the line is beginning to blur between traditional media and what you can do on a Mac.
When you are presented with a manuscript to illustrate what is your process?
I like to read the story and sketch ideas onto the writing. These sketches lead me to research certain characters, props and locations. My kids are often the best reference.
It is important to totally refine a sketch on paper before applying any sort of medium and colour palette to the final image. I often scan in these sketches and redraw the artwork as vectors in Adobe Illustrator (CS5) then take it into Adobe Photoshop to add texture.
I have documented some of my techniques at http://janeconnorysblog.blogspot.com/.
Is it the same process for each project?
Each project seems to ‘incubate’ in my mind for a different period before the ‘ah huh’ moment arrives and I decide on a style and medium. Some characters and worlds come quicker than others. I don’t think there is any way to truly explain how you work when you are in the ‘zone’.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have written an imaginary world in which two pirate children search for lost treasure.
Hopefully it will find a publisher and send a few pieces of eight my way! I am also applying to get a Fellowship with the May Gibbs Trust to assist in getting this project completed. Wish me luck!
Do you have any tips for aspiring illustrators?
Network, network, network. Find yourself a mentor and collaborate as much as you can to learn things you never thought you needed to know.
How will the continuing digitalisation of the publishing industry affect children’s books and illustrators in particular?
My three year old gets frustrated with the TV screen because it doesn’t interact when he touches it. He is very at home with interactive and visual information on the iPad, iPhone and laptop. The publishing industry has to learn to embrace new technology and forge forward. The world is not going to lose its need for well researched, well written and well designed content – it’s just going to evolve into new mediums. We should embrace it!
The bright hues of the RGB format add an intensity to colour that you wouldn’t normally find in print. The immediacy of an eBook means more and more people will have access to books. This has all got to be good news.
I have recently illustrated two series of chapter books (‘The Frequent Flyers’ and ‘Project Spy Kids’) and formatted them as eBooks with Hazel Edwards. I taught myself the new technology and found it wasn’t so scary after all. The re-scalable nature of the vector graphics makes the cover illustrations look fantastic both small on an iPhone and huge on a computer screen. They will be on sale at http://www.janeconnory.com/ in June.
Where can we see more of your work?
My folio is online at http://www.janeconnory.com/. There you’ll find a Book Shop where you’ll soon be able to purchase the “Project Spy Kids” and “Frequent Flyer Twins” eBooks.
My online store, http://www.redbubble.com/people/janeconnory/portfolio, has t-shirts, stickers and vintage posters for sale.
Finally my freelance graphic design business is also online at http://www.ineedalogo.com.au/.
Would you like to add anything else?
"When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely." - Truman Capote.
Illustration is something you do because you love it. It is time consuming and not very profitable but to be able to’ colour-in’ for a profession is amazing.