In Conversation With Annabel Tempest
last updated 24 January 2023
Talk us through your creative process. How do you approach a brief?
I love the beginning of the project, doing research and finding the things that really interest me within the brief. I particularly like building characters and their environment, and I think it’s really important to make sure that you do something fun right at the start, to loosen yourself up and not get too tight and precious – like making some splashy textures or collaging some backgrounds or collecting leaves and sticks to print and draw with, just because it can lead to interesting outcomes.
Your work is aesthetically unique to you, how do you approach translating your ideas to the page?
I think everything starts with drawing. Draw, draw, draw and then gathering the colours that I want to use. I love colours so being strict and selecting a limited colour palette is really useful. Otherwise, I get completely carried away and want to use them all. Then I’ll start making and gathering textures to use within my illustration and put it all together in Photoshop. I LOVE photoshop and like layering drawings and textures and patterns to build the atmosphere I want.
Who/What have been your key influences as an illustrator?
I studied textiles at Bristol UWE back in the olden days, and I think my textiles degree influences my illustration work in the fact that I love to use lots of patterns and textures and colours. I think in terms of influences and inspiration I gather them from everywhere. I think I’ve got a very eclectic sense of style. I walk every day and love being outside, I’m lucky enough to live in the countryside in Somerset UK so nature and the seasons are a big influence and I’m an avid collector of Children’s books and vintage reference books. I much prefer having a book to do my research rather than from the Internet, although when I did the two non-fiction titles for Puffin the internet was invaluable. I think it’s really important to go to exhibitions, I’m excited to visit the Hilma Af Klimt and Piet Mondrian exhibition at the The Tate Modern this spring. Also, I often sketch when I’m watching tv and films, they’re a brilliant source of inspiration for characters and costumes and colours.
How did you begin illustration? What was the spark of inspiration?
I love storytelling, so even from the very beginning after I finish my degree in textiles, my designs had elements of storytelling in them and so I think the leap from textile design to illustration wasn’t too great. I love drawing characters and my happy place is definitely doodling and dreaming up lots of different people and animal characters. Building worlds is such a fun part of any illustration.
What’s your favourite part of the illustration process?
I always love the very beginning of a project. A new brief is something that gets me really excited, and I love planning it out, thumb nailing and doing my roughs, lots of drawing. I use really cheap printer paper and a very sharp pencil! This is often the hardest part of the process and takes the longest. Once I’ve decided what I’m going to do I’ll scan my drawings into photoshop and tweak the layout etc. Having said that there are parts of the process that I enjoy all the way through, when it comes to colouring my artwork, I listen to lots of books on audible as I think you use a slightly different part of your brain for the colouring up and so listening to a really good book makes me excited to be at my desk. And as I said I really enjoy making and adding all the textures and patterns to my artwork. I feel so lucky that I get to do this for my job!
To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?
I think my advice would be to stick at it, be determined, stick your elbows out and draw, draw, draw all the time and don’t get too deflated if you don’t get the job that you think is perfect for you. These things have a way of working themselves out and if you are committed enough something better will come along. Work hard, be nice and communicate regarding deadlines or difficulties all the lovely designers and editors are there to help. I don’t think I realised when I first started what a collaborative thing making a picture book was.
What would be your dream brief?
This is such a difficult question because there’s so many things that I’d really love to do! I’ve been lucky enough to illustrate wonderful texts by really talented authors but I’m currently working on some author illustrated ideas of my own. I think it would be really exciting to work with amazing editors and designers on something I’ve written. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 2023. If we are going to dream big, I’d like my author illustrated books turned into a children’s television series! I like the idea of designing a character and world for animation and have a spinoff merchandise and attend lots of events and do window paintings. It’s good to dream!