Quickfire Illustrators

Sally Kindberg
What's the one thing that illustrators have in common? With all the variety of techniques and approaches we have, what's the single thing that connects the disparate creative sensibilities of freelance artists? Read on to find out!

Words and Pictures is in celebratory mood, for next month is our first anniversary in a web based format, a year that's seen the cyber-journal develop with an ever-expanding readership. This past year has been a great success with some tremendous features, hats off to the contributors and editors, and a special cheer for our chief editor Jan Carr.

Bridget Strevens-Marzo

Next month also marks the anniversary of the new Featured Illustrator Gallery, which every month over the past year has shone a spotlight on artists ranging from some of the brightest, most established names in SCBWI to up and coming new talent, namely....

(Click on each name to go to their Featured Illustrator Gallery page)

 Every month, alongside the gallery of each illustrator and showcase in Words and Pictures, we posed the same seven quick-fire questions to each artist, requesting short responses. The replies were often unusual, and always eye-opening. But it's when we bring them all together for comparison that they become the most revealing, the broad range of answers to the same set of questions shows what a completely varied bunch illustrators can be!
Layn Marlow

Question 1.    What  fuels your day?

Bridget My bicycle, tea, coffee, new rock-folk on Austin Independent Radio (AIR), and talk radio.
Layn Mugs of tea.
Amber These days it seems to be worrying fear or anxiety over upcoming deadlines.
Julia Tea of course!
Jane  A cup of tea, 15 minutes of meditation and my imagination; I have to sprint to keep up with it!
Nicola Robinson Coffee, peppermint tea and music.
Mike If I’m illustrating, coffee, tea and an unhealthy relationship with Radios 4 and 4 Extra. If I’m writing, coffee, tea and Spotify.
Rachel Earl grey tea and chocolate.
Nicola Patten It used to be Jeremy Kyle and Chinese tea, but now I'm doing the 9-5 I don't have time for such luxuries. I've discovered the magic of the office tea run though.
Amanda One GIANT LATTE and Radios 4 & 4 Extra.
Shana That moment of golden silence after the hustle and bustle of the school run, coupled with the first cup of tea.
Sally Rooibos tea.

Amber Hsu


Question 2.    Favourite Colour?

Bridget  Orangey-red.
Layn If I’m feeling quiet it’s a light greyish aquamarine;  if I’m feeling more gregarious it’s a deep earthy red.
Amber BLACK to wear, BLUE to think.
Julia Duck egg blue
Jane Impossible to answer.  I love colour, and I love finding new and exciting combinations.
Nicola Robinson Black and also green, always the first colours/crayons/paint to run out on me since I was a small child.
Mike Mizzle 266/ Farrow and Ball.
Rachel Peacock blue and gold.
Nicola Patten Dark muted colours,  deep tealy blues and earthy coppers. They're not terribly commercial though so the Illustration world is turning me slowly onto Carribbean blues and fuchsia pink.
Amanda  I don’t think of colours in the singular, it’s amazing colour combinations that do it for me and the possibilities are endless.
Shana It's a tie between Liquitex Quinacridone Red and Teal.
Sally Sea.

Julia Groves

Question 3.    Inspiration or Muse?  

Bridget Matisse and the Golden Books.
Layn Nature.
Amber Secret voices. Random thoughts.  Found objects. Overheard conversations. Scientific discovery.
Julia  I find creative inspiration in museums and galleries and can get really emotional over children’s picture books.
Jane The colours and gestures of Michelangelo's frescos. The world around me. What I see inspires me, all the time.
Nicola Robinson  I find my inspirations come from a range of places including cities I've visited, the natural world, history, mythology and things I find funny.
Mike  I do believe in the muse reaching down and tapping you on the shoulder. It’s happened to me on several occasions. Unfortunately I can’t make it happen when I want it to. More usually I keep a notebook and hammer out any promising ideas in the old, boring way, discarding what doesn’t work and building on what does.
Rachel Gustav Klimt.
Nicola Patten Artists like David Downton and Quentin Blake. There'll always be a special place in my heart for Aubrey Beardsley and his decadent Victorian buddies.
Amanda Images that echo in my dreams.
Shana Family Life, both the chaos and the humour, as well as constantly observing and recording life around me.
Sally Looking/reading/chatting.

Jane Heinrichs

Question 4.    How old is your inner child?

Bridget 5.
Layn 5.
Amber About 6 years old. But I think I was a bit odd for a 6 year old.
Julia 10, the same age as my daughter, old enough to be a bit independent, but young enough to still be carefree.
Jane I have more than one inner child. The younger one is about 5 or 6, the older one is 12 or 13.
Nicola Robinson 7, although probably not a typical 7 year old...
Mike About 13. He’s a shy little chap.
Rachel 4 ¾.
Nicola Patten I think most people feel like they're about 6 inside and pretending to be a real person.
Amanda 6.
Shana I have two, one is a fun loving 5yr old and the other is a dark, brooding 15yr old.
Sally 9-ish.

Nicola L Robinson

Question 5.    Tell us one thing you love about your workspace.

Bridget Light!
Layn The walk-in (for small people) cupboard under the eaves, where I can hoard all the bits and pieces I might one day need for making things.
Amber I have the most beautiful books, zines, comics, vintage ephemera. They are everywhere. I am lost in them and it’s a total clutter, but I love them and could never live without them.
Julia The big window.
Jane My workspace travels with me. I love my sketchbooks and my box of watercolour tubes. They're always by my side.
Nicola Robinson Its convenient access to kitchen, garden and bookcases.
Mike It looks out over our garden to a beautiful 14th Century Somerset Church. I’ve just checked. It’s still there.
Rachel The view over the garden.
Nicola Patten My Grandad's typewriter. It was made around the 1930s and he still used it right up until he died.
Amanda It is near to, but separate from my house – perfect!
Shana My most favourite element of my workspace is my door: it shuts out the world whilst taking me into my own, personal universe.
Sally Robots (on a shelf above my desk).

Mike Brownlow

Question 6.    Favourite subject to draw?

Bridget  Movement & gesture.
Layn Animals with attitude.
Amber Rabbits and outer space. The night sky.
Julia Animals.
Jane Faces. Gestures. Action. Relationships. 
Nicola Robinson I love drawing things that are a little bit sinister and archaic, particularly architecture. I also love drawing animals and monsters, things with teeth and claws!
Mike Robots. Faces. Robots’ faces. Pirates. Parrots. Owls. Ogres. Cavemen. Cave women. Anything really. But not horses.
Rachel Cats and bumblebees.
Nicola Patten It will always be the human form - I go to life drawing classes every fortnight.
Amanda Probably characterful, older faces.
Shana I love painting dramatic skies and at present, I am loving creating animals, mainly penguins and raccoons.
Sally The undrawable (I like a challenge).

Rachel Quarry

Question 7.    Favourite Book?

Bridget The Philharmonic Gets Dressed  - illustrations by Mark Simont,  text by Ruth Krauss.
Layn The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne, illustrated by Ernest Shepard.
Amber The King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. 

Julia Moomin: The comic strip by Tove Janssen
Jane The Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem. I got lost in the tiny world as a child.
Nicola Robinson As a 7 year old, The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkein and a little later Watership Down by Richard Adams.
Mike I’m not good with favourite lists, because my favourites change all the time. I currently love I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, It’s a Book by Lane Smith, and The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics by Gideon DeFoe.
Rachel No Roses for Harry by Gene Zion.
Nicola Patten This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers. I really like Claude by Alex T Smith though - he's got such a brilliant natural sense of humour.
Amanda  In particular BB's Fairy Book: Meeting Hill, because of the wonderful illustrations by DJ Watkins Pitchford.
Shana Growing up I loved Beverly Nichols, the Woodland Fantasy trilogy, which included my absolute favourite book, The Stream that Stood Still.
Sally Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the looking Glass.

Nicola Patten

Twelve illustrators, twelve very different responses. Make of it what you will.

So, what's the one thing that illustrators have in common? 

Amanda Hall

Tea, it seems!

A new Featured illustrator and a new set of quickfire questions will be online very soon.

Shana Nieberg-Suschintsky

John Shelley is the Illustration Feature Editor of Words & Pictures and current Central East Network coordinator. 
He's illustrated over 40 books for children, many of them published in Japan where he lived for many years. His latest title The Stone Giant is out in Japan now, and will be released in English by Charlesbridge in the US in Spring 2014.   www.jshelley.com


  1. yes, that really is a fascinating way to re-present the interviews, good idea.

  2. I love this round up. Tea is certainly the key to creativity - I must drink more.

  3. Thank you John for herding us so well - and they say we are as hard to herd as cats!

  4. Excellent, John - puts me in the mood for a cuppa!


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