You can read the first part of this interview here.
What is your favourite artistic medium to work with?
I struggle with favourites. All mediums are exciting to me and a trip to the art store is like a trip to the lolly shop. Of course I use the magic brush and the computer a great deal, because I can get things done quickly, it’s easy to make changes and you don’t have to scan your work at the end either. Also, there are just some beautiful things that you can do on a computer that you can’t do in any other medium, but that is true of any medium I guess. Thi
s is especially true of watercolours and I have been painting watercolours a lot lately. For me this is one of the most challenging and rewarding mediums. For watercolour especially it’s sometimes a battle between who can master who, the artist or the medium. I love to paint with oils and acrylics too but at the moment I only have so much time.
Where do you like to work?
It depends on the time of day and the medium. When I do digital work I like to do it at night or at least in a dimly lit room because it is easier to judge colour on a monitor in those conditions. The problem with that is that I love natural sunlight so I try and mix it up a bit and make sure I am in a naturally lit environment whenever possible, like when I am just drawing for example. At the end of a project when I spend days and days in dimly lit rooms painting it can take its toll and you crave for some sunlight. For watercolours and oils and acrylics nothing can beat natural filtered sunlight.
When did you discover you could draw?
At an early age… my Mum says I always had a pencil in my hand as a kid. I’d often fall asleep at night with a pencil or texta in my hands and wake up with strange marks on my face. In primary school I remember winning a few competitions and making a bit of money to spend at the tuck shop from kids paying me to draw pictures of the guys from KISS, the rock band! They were big in the late 70s in Australia.
Do you ever feel uninspired artistically? If so, how do you overcome it?
Sometimes it is as simple as having a deadline. There is nothing more motivating than that for finding inspiration!
If I am short of ideas I often go somewhere to relax and nap and that’s why I like to have a comfy sofa in the studio. I let myself fall in to a semi conscious, dream like state, and I find that this allows the true creativity that is inside us all to surface from underneath all of the day-to-day madness that occludes it. I have had some amazing revelations and ideas this way. Meditation helps too.
If that doesn’t work I might take a walk or watch a movie or look at the work of other artists, which always inspires me. As the saying about inspiration and perspiration goes… inspiration is only a small part of getting the job done, it’s mainly just a reason to start something. Simple, old fashioned, work is what get’s you through to the end.
How did you get discovered as a children’s illustrator?
I got lucky, but you know what they say, the harder you work, the luckier you get.I never really thought I would have children’s illustration as part of what I do but I’m glad it has happened. I went to art school for a couple of years and in the final year I won in the student category for the Australia and New Zealand Illustration Awards and that got me a bit of publicity. In addition, I was in an exhibition that my art school held each year for the graduating class and there were some publishers in the crowd, including Black Dog Books, who took a liking to my work. Black Dog was nice enough to make contact with me after that.
Do you listen to music while you work, if so, what do you listen to?
Yes I do. I have broad taste in music, from alternative rock, to soul to jazz to classical, so it could be anything. I have a couple of favourite radio stations, one of which broadcasts from East Brunswick, and because I live in Brunswick it almost feels like community radio when I listen to it. Illustration can be such an isolating endeavour at times so hearing friendly, sometimes kindred voices, helps you get through the hours without feeling like a complete hermit. I also like to multitask and sometimes listen to audio books about science or psychology or religion etc while I work. I punctuate it with small doses of talk radio when I can handle it.
Who are your favourite illustrators and what do you like about their work?
Hmmm, that is a long list. There are so many emerging illustrators and I seem to have a new favourite every month. As far as big names of people who are still alive go I like Shaun Tan for his concepts and creativity; Dave McKean for his ability to balance the unsettling with the beautiful; and James Jean for his tenderness and drawing style. I also like a guy called Jon Foster who not many people in Australia seem to know about but is as good as any of the greats. My favourites of the past include Alphonse Mucha for his drawing and line.
What are some of your favourite picture books?
It’s a little ironic but I didn’t ever really read picture books as a kid. When I was a kid I liked reading non-fiction like encyclopaedias (before the internet!) and books about dinosaurs and science and nerdy things like that, as well as a few comics here and there. I also seemed to be more obsessed with moving pictures like cartoons than by books full of pictures.
In recent years though I have been exposed to more and more picture books and like most people I love most things from Sean Tan.
Do you have any words of advice for budding children’s book illustrators?
My advice is go for it if you really love books, can work well with people, are reliable and are OK with constructive criticism. I would also say don’t hurry to be published, work on your style and doing what you love first and being good at it.
Dean is the author of All Through The Night, available from your local and leading bookstores.