In Conversation With Richard Watson
last updated 09 August 2023
Interview by Rachel Moffat
Richard Watson is an illustrator based in North Lincolnshire, surrounded by woodland and countryside.
As a child Richard could always be found either with his nose in a book or with a pencil in hand doodling dragons and knights in battle. Inspired by reading comics and funny stories he would also draw and write his own comic books, igniting a love of humour and storytelling. He went on to study at the Lincoln University School of Art & Design graduating with a First Class Honours, BA in illustration.
Richard has illustrated many children’s books including the hilarious James Patterson Dog Diaries series, written by Junior, the first dog author to top the New York Times Bestseller list.
Richard’s agent Lucie Luddington said “Richard is an incredible artist and a beautiful soul. He goes above and beyond for all those that work with him. Bright are so proud to represent such a talent!”
How did you begin illustration?
I studied illustration at Lincoln University and in the final year, as part of our degree, we were able to take some of our work to London to exhibit in a student show. Because of this, I was contacted by Bright who were looking for new illustrators to take on and develop. Luckily they liked my work and saw some potential in me, and I got my first paid job as an illustrator a few months after graduating.
Talk us through your creative process. How do you approach a brief?
When I first receive a new brief I will have a good read through the story and accompanying notes, picking out any key points and writing them down. I will usually start by working on the characters – what do they look like, are there any specific personality traits described in the story/brief which need to be incorporated into the artwork? Is there any research I can do that will help or inspire me? Even when I am not sat at my desk directly thinking about how to approach the brief, somewhere in my head I will be thinking about what the art might look like.
Your work is aesthetically unique to you. How do you approach translating your ideas to the page?
I start by working up lots of very rough character sketches, trying out different ideas until I come up with something I am happy with, then I email it over to the client. I will either do this with pencil and paper or straight onto the computer. If there is any feedback I will change things around or redraw then resend until they are happy for me to move forward and work on the sketches for the interior pages, again starting with very rough sketches and refining as I go along. Once all the sketches have been approved I will color the artwork using Photoshop.
What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
My favourite part of the illustration process has to be trying to come up with the characters at the beginning of a project. It can be fun to imagine what they might look like and satisfying when those first rough sketches become fully realised and brought to life.
Who/What have been your key influences as an illustrator?
I was a big fan of comics like The Beano and Asterix when I was younger and loved to read as many books as I could, especially by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake – The BFG and The Witches were my favourites. Also, I was really into fantasy stories like The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, and I had an interest in myths and legends so would try and draw those things from my imagination.
What was it like seeing your work out in the world for the first time?
I remember being sent a copy of the first book I illustrated and it was great to see my artwork printed and bound in a proper book that I could hold in my hands. It was the start of a long road of learning and developing as an artist, and when I look back at that first book I can see how far I have now come.
Where are you from and how does that effect your work?
I am originally from North Lincolnshire, and after moving away to live in a few different cities over the years I much prefer life in the countryside. It’s fairly quiet so allows plenty of time to reflect or sketch while out for a walk in the woods. It’s also close enough to the coast, which can be inspiring and help to clear your head. I always feel more creative after being out in nature amongst trees or near the sea.
What is an average day in the studio like for you at the moment?
Right now a typical day in the studio starts with me being woken up early by our four-month-old son Jonah, having breakfast then heading to my desk which is located in a cosy little nook under the stairs at home. First thing in the morning I will check through my emails and catch up with what’s going on in the world, then maybe do a bit of sketching to warm up before continuing with the artwork I have to do that day. I often have to juggle quite a few different projects at once so making lists and notes of where I am at with each one and keeping on top of this is very important. Working from home I am lucky to have a nice garden to take a coffee break in and from my desk I can hear plenty of birds singing outside. I also love to listen to music all day while I am working. I try to keep to a regular working day as much as possible, though sometimes I will work later into the night if deadlines are tight or I have a bigger workload to get through.
How do you develop your art skills?
If there is time in between projects I will try and work on my own ideas but, generally, with each new project there tends to be some learning and developing involved. There are always new situations or types of character to work out how to draw – things that I have never drawn before.
To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?
I would say it’s important to be fairly organised and practise good time management. It can be easy to become overwhelmed or lose track of deadlines if projects start stacking up.
What would be your dream brief?
I love scary stories and films so illustrating all different kinds of ghouls and monsters for a horror-themed joke book, or a story book involving a family of vampires, would be great fun!
To work with Richard, get in contact here.