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In Conversation With Pauline Gregory

last updated 13 July 2023

Interview by Rachel Moffat

Pauline Gregory is a Devon based illustrator, living by the sea. She specialises in children’s literature. Following her passion, Pauline graduated from Plymouth College of Art with a First Class Honours, BA in illustration. She takes inspiration from the funny and endearing things animals and people do everyday as well as the superb imagination that children have. Pauline works with traditional materials to create quirky illustrations with humour and charm. Some of Pauline’s clients include; Bloomsbury publishing, Wren & Rook, Hinkler Books, Oxford University Press, NubeOcho, Miles Kelly Publishing, Bookoli, Highlights and more.


Pauline’s Agent Lucie Luddington comments “Working with Pauline is beyond a dream. Pauline’s wit and wonder translate directly into her illustration. Anytime spent with Pauline is a joy and this is reflected in the magic of her illos. Bright are very proud to represent her.”

How did you begin illustration?

I have liked to draw and paint and make things for as long as I can remember but as a child it never crossed my mind that I’d be able to do this for a living. I’ve had many jobs over the years, mainly to work around my children and family. It was only when they got a little older that I started to think about what I’d really like to do. I worked as a teaching assistant with a wonderfully encouraging woman who kept telling me that I was far too creative to be doing that job so I eventually started looking into what I could do that included drawing. I found Arts University Plymouth and went to their open day, and I fell in love with the idea of studying illustration. I loved the course, the challenges and the type of people I was surrounded by. I finally felt like this was where I belonged. At the end of the course we all attended New Designers for a week. We showed off our work and admired everyone else’s, and met lots of people from the industry. A couple of months later I received an email from Bright asking if they could represent me. I was over the moon and said yes straight away and that was the beginning of my illustration career.


Where are you from and how does that effect your work?

I’ve just moved to North Cornwall but I was born in Scotland and have lived in Hampshire, Germany and Devon. The Southwest is definitely my favourite place to live. It’s utterly beautiful and very wild in places. I love the sea and don’t think I could ever live too far from it. It gives me a feeling of freedom and blows away the cobwebs. Having grown up with a Scottish and German family I feel this has definitely added a quirky sense of humour to my work!

Talk us through your creative process. How do you approach a brief?

I start thinking about the characters first. I feel, for me, these are the hardest parts to get right. I want them to be quirky but likeable at the same time – if they make people laugh, that is the best outcome for me. Once I’m happy with the characters I start thinking about the scene. If I have space before I start a project, I’ll often spend a lot of time thinking about it whilst I’m driving or in the bath or walking. There’s a lot of pondering that goes on before any drawing happens!


Your work is aesthetically unique to you. How do you approach translating your ideas to the page?

Sketching starts on a tablet. I do prefer sketching on paper – it’s more dynamic and unpredictable but is more time consuming. The undo button on Photoshop is very helpful! Once everyone is happy with the sketch I whip out the pencils, paint, charcoal, lino and anything else I think will suit the illustration. It all gets a bit messy and I have a nice big pile of paper with lines, textures and shapes to scan into Photoshop. Everything then gets layered up, coloured, re-coloured, usually coloured again until either I can colour no more or I’m completely satisfied with it. Sometimes there are hundreds of layers so I try to stay pretty organised with those.

What is an average day in the studio like for you at the moment?

An average day in the studio usually consists of first, replying to emails. Then, I try to remember to post some illustrations on social media. After that I’ll usually tackle a colour illustration and then sketches in the evening.


What is your favourite part of the illustration process?

My favourite part is probably right at the beginning when I explore the story and the scenes and begin to come up with funny characters, expressions, poses and little Easter eggs for the reader to find.

How do you develop your art skills?

My diary is usually pretty full so to develop new skills I will try out something new on each project. It’s then often only a very small aspect that I like and will continue using in my work. So, evolving and growing my work is a very gradual process.


Who/What have been your key influences as an illustrator?

As a child I loved Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake, Michael Bond and EH Shepard. I adored Roald Dahl’s sense of humour, how Quentin Blake made it okay not to be able to draw hands, the absolute silliness and adorable nature of Paddington and the messy lines of E H Shepard, which I copied endlessly as a child. As an adult I watch all the children’s films. I think my favourite by far is Fantastic Mr Fox because of the style of the scenes and characters. Frankenweenie is another favourite because it’s in black and white, which I think works wonderfully. I’m also a big fan of Wes Anderson’s films – I love the symmetry and use of colour.

What was it like seeing your work out in the world for the first time?

I think I first saw my work out in the real world in Waterstones at Waterloo station. I was pretty excited and wanted to jump about, but I restrained myself in public and saved it for when I got home.


To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?

I would say embrace the challenges that present themselves to you because you will grow from them.

What would be your dream brief?

My dream brief would be a roaringly funny series of picture books where I have complete freedom over the illustration ideas and characters.

To work with Pauline, get in cintact with her agent Lucie here.

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