Until health issues affected my life, I was an outdoor, sporty kind of kid. On the dark days of illness, my wonderful mum would read to me and I would paint and make up characters. This started my attraction to textiles.
When my friend and I were about nine years old, we would lurk around local jumble sales and buy all sorts of odds and ends to recycle and make into toy creatures. The poor ladies of the WI must have been more than a bit confused when we would buy size 30 dresses and teddy bears with no legs. I do feel a little guilty about that.
The fun I had making those soft toy characters led to studying textiles at college. Then illness reared its horrid head again. Needing to spend much of my time indoors, I wrote and sketched. Then someone gave me a box of chalk pastels and I couldn't believe the brightness of the colours.
I started painting a lot in pastels and took part in local and national exhibitions where I was approached by a licensing company to do some work for them, which I did and enjoyed.
But, with stories still gnawing at my brain and no writing and illustrating courses in our area, I enrolled myself on my own DIY course becoming a lodger at our local library. Then I found SCBWI! Since becoming a member about six years ago, I've met great writers and illustrators, publishers and agents. All with a love of story telling. I've won some competitions and learnt a lot.
One of the hardest things for me is having three art styles. I’ve also been afraid of having a style similar to someone else. If I came across some else's work that was even the slightest bit like mine I would try to develop a different one until I realised I was trying hard to hide me. Now I generally keep to a realistic style for my artwork, have a naive acrylic one in my sketchbooks and am now embracing my colourful pastel illustrations for children’s illustration.
I did break that rule recently by self publishing a picture book in my sketchbook style and a poetry book in a realistic one!
When I am not creating artwork, I help my husband with our gardening and window cleaning service (yes, we are a bit like Wallace and Gromit!) which does help fuel my creativity. Above all though, just playing with our daughter Velvette, making,drawings and sticking and glueing things down, is where I find most inspiration. Velvette has autism and this has helped me to think about special needs when creating my own picture books.
Most of the illustrations I do sprout from the stories I write when I sit scribbling away every evening inventing characters. When happy with the story and the character studies, I do lots of thumbnail sketches and then a b/w dummy. Then I experiment with pattern and colour, using lots of lush pastels. Usually, doing this messy part means being banished to my studio, our shed at the bottom of the garden.
There are so many Illustrators I admire that I could fill this article with their names but if I'm going to be good and limit myself then; Adria Meserve, Rebecca Cobb, Rebecca Harry, Claire Alexander, Tina Macnaughton, Caroline Pedler, Alison Edgson, Kristyna Litten, Rosalind Beardshaw and Sara Ogilvie would be my favourites!
I'm still making characters with textiles, using them as models to get the poses right. I’ve found needle felting models can work well and borrowing my daughter's plasticine to make them is just as fun. Although I do get told off by her for hogging all the bright colours. Ah well, I think for me it has to be a colourful life!
And to end this article I leave you with a few character sketches.
See Jaimie's work in our Featured Illustrator Gallery. She also has work here,
and can be contacted at Jamiestevenson3@btinternet.com