Hi Magpies. Today I’d like to introduce you to Emmeline Pidgen, an illustrator who creates dreamy, magical images for little (and not so little) people. Emmeline makes pictures for escaping into, that feel familiar and fantastical all at once and characters we can see ourselves in. I interviewed Emmeline to find out more.
Tell us a little about yourself. How would you describe your illustrative style and what are your inspirations from art, design and beyond?
I’m an illustrator fighting my way through the freelance jungle. I work for both children and grown-ups in a variety of contexts in both my professional and personal work. I’m currently illustrating my fifth published children’s book and I have a nice gold-award tucked under my belt for the first one.
Like most illustrators, I find it hard to pigeon-hole myself exactly in terms of style, and to be honest I wouldn’t want to – having a bit of freedom and variety in your style is always important. I’d generally describe my work as specialising in strong use of character, colour and a sense of narrative.
I find almost everything inspiring. I’d say I’m more or less a giant sponge (yes, a giant one) who sucks up every visual snapshot, overheard conversation, imagined world and of course other artworks and draws from them unexpectedly when I’m illustrating. I read a lot, watch a ton of films and go on adventures and I can definitely pinpoint specific influences from those in my work.
Tell us about your involvement with/ the articles you write for Ten Paces and Draw. What do you enjoy about writing for the blog? What would be your top tips for would-be freelance illustrators?
The articles I write are all about sharing advice about developing your creative freelance career into the best it can be. I try to get a number of relevant industry professionals involved, giving out their insights, processes or what they look for in an illustrator’s portfolio and weave that in with my own experiences as a freelancer and how I’ve got to this point in my career.
I’m a keen believer that knowledge is for sharing, and creative freelancing is a very tough world indeed, especially as over-saturated as it is at the moment. It’s also mostly a very lonely career and we all need a little guidance now and then. I enjoy the chance to connect with and help fledgeling illustrators along.
I think my very toppest tip would be that you shouldn’t try to imitate other people’s work – you need to find your own style and your own unique way of working. It’s so easy to look at some amazing illustration and thing “Ohh, if only my work was like that!”, but that does no-one any good at all. Sure, let yourself be inspired by it, note colour palletes and interesting compositions – but have faith that developing your own way of working will set you apart from the rest.
Do you keep a sketchbook? Tell us about how using a sketchbook informs your practice and what you do inside it.
Oh no no, I don’t just have one sketchbook. No siree, I have a huge bag bulging with sketchbooks I haven’t used yet, and a whole box under my bed of ones filled to the brim with sketches. Most of my work these days starts out with an ink sketch in a sketchbook, so in my current one you’ll find pages upon pages of bits and bobs from the books I’ve been working on as well as observational drawings, character ideas and general mark making messes. I don’t get quite so much time to at the moment, but I love taking a sketchbook with me when I go anywhere and sneakily sketching interesting faces or poses. It’s all practice and a simple sketch from years ago can sometimes go on to inspire a full coloured illustration!
You do a lot of illustration for children but we like the work you make for grown ups too! Such as the graphic novel type images you draw. Tell us more!
Half way through my illustration degree I was feeling determined that I wouldn’t be a children’s illustrator. I think it was just because I thought that’s exactly what people would expect me to be. I eventually got over that somewhat rebellious phase and just figured I can make space for both the children’s work and a more grown-up style together – I love them both completely.
I’ve always enjoyed writing stories and illustrating in a slightly more sombre tone, but still retaining that sense of magic and impending adventure that my children’s work does. I think that my work reflects my personality and the books, films and music I enjoy, and so of course the more grown-up work is just another side of that.
Over the coming year or so I’m definitely looking to expand that area of my work and delve further into a more graphic novel style, editorial and advertising illustration whilst still working on the next few children’s books I have lined up! I’m going to be one busy, illustrating bee.
Lovely, thanks Emmeline!