Kim Geyer is this month's Featured Illustrator. London-based Kim has had a long career in the creative arts before focusing on children's picture books, since then her work has been published by a string of major publishers. See more of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

How Did I Get Here?

Work station - I tidied up especially.

I have always drawn. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. When I was five I had ‘kittens-playing-with-balls-of-wool’ wallpaper - it was the late '60’s! I recall wondering how the kittens got there. Someone must have drawn them on my wall. How utterly brilliant. You could draw on walls. So I did, (much to my parent’s amusement) draw all over the wallpaper and added my own animals and words. It was a room-sized story that I made up as I went along. I loved Dr Seuss as a kid, but my favourite book for illustrations was The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by the inimitable Judith Kerr. And look at all that white space. A very modern approach for 1968. And then there was E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. I’ve read it countless times.

Loved books from my childhood, still very much alive and relevant today.

Of course, being a child of the ‘70’s I grew up with The Beano, Twinkle (for goodness sake), and Disney, (earliest works which I admire to this day) all of which will have most certainly influenced me. And as I was doing my exams I was told I could have a career as an artist. Who knew? I wanted to do it all – painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, and ended up doing a printed textiles degree at Loughborough University. It seemed like a jolly good idea at the time.

The Witch, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937 Walt Disney.

I then worked as a designer, agent and lecturer for several years. I also painted (oils) and was keeper of many sketchbooks. It was the 80’s, when Designers Guild, English Eccentrics, David Hockney, Boy George, and shoulder pads were huge. I worked from a small studio in Crouch End and shared (for a short time) the space with an illustrator bloke called John Shelley. My textile work was very ‘illustrative’ in style and it wasn’t too long before both textiles and illustration began to merge.

Textile design - student work, and sketchbooks and paintings from then to present.

After having a family, I started reading a LOT of kids literature, and I was getting just as big a kick out of the books as my kids were. Now was the time to be adventurous. With a few illustration classes under my belt (part-time at Chelsea and Putney art colleges), some life drawing classes, and eventually working out how to use that thing called Photoshop, I started to make a portfolio.

I was beginning to think like an illustrator.

I bought a copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and wrote a couple of emails to agents, and was taken on, to my surprise. My picture book, ‘Go to Sleep, Monty!’ was published in 2015 with Andersen Press. I was still, what I would consider, a very inexperienced illustrator, and I soon found myself making work I wasn’t happy with. I had a crisis of confidence, and after a lot of thought decided to fly solo and try to make work that I loved. It was the best thing I did. Sometimes you just need to stand back and have a good look at it all and be honest with yourself.

Go to Sleep, Monty! 2015

Earlier this year I signed with a new agent. I am now happily working from a studio in my London home on middle grade fiction with some wonderful writers. It’s a challenge because I’ve had to learn (on the job) how to work in black and white, and how to draw werewolves and ghouls, horses (ugh!) and Cyclopes, the Yorkshire Moors and Rudolph Nureyev. I find that if I become Nureyev, I can draw Nureyev. I mean, if I pull the expression my protagonist is meant to be pulling, then I can draw it better. It does look crazy, but it seems to work.

Madam Margot’s School of Dance. Trying out the black and white.

My influences are all and everything. I recently saw an exhibition of Phillida Barlow’s sculptures and have been trying to capture her sense of scale and texture, and colour ever since (as I’m drawing monsters for a new project ). I am fascinated by colour and pattern and space. Look at the works of Benji Davies (The Grotlyn), Rebecca Green (How to Make Friends with a Ghost), Isabelle Arsenault (Colette’s Lost Pet), and Jon Klassen (The Dark) you can see how powerful colour can be in story telling. I try to work with a minimal/reduced palette, whatever the brief.

Detail from Jelly, reduced palette.

A typical project goes like this - I am sent a text; a beautiful, yet unpublished piece of writing and I read it undisturbed. I write character observations; twitches, eye colour, freckles, age, etc and I note when, and where things happen. Recently I’ve been working on a book for Faber by new writer Judith Eagle. It’s set in the winter of 1974 on the Yorkshire Moors, and our protagonist is 11. That’s my time - think flares, perms, and what about the colours! What a gift. So, now I have read the book, and made all the notes, I begin by sketching out each illustration scamp, 30 in this case, plus cover. I’m sketching in pencil, and making textures with pastel, ink, coloured pencils, and scanning these to render digitally. All the finals are sent digitally, and then I await further comments. This is where it is so important to have a good dialogue with your art editor. Emails are great because then you have a record of who said what, and when, and phone calls are great for actually talking – it can be an isolating business and being creative everyday can be exhausting. When I feel the tank is running on empty, or I think, “I can’t draw!” I take myself off for a walk, dog by my side. Happy days.

The Secret Starling, by Judith Eagle will be published in May 2019.


See More of Kim's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery!

Clients include Walker Books, Faber and Faber, Andersen Press, Scholastic US, Clarks, and Hachette Children’s Books. She's represented by Claire Cartey at Holroyde Cartey.

Her personal website is here, also follow her on Twitter @kim_geyer and Instagram @kimgeyer63

1 comment:

  1. Go Kim! I'm so pleased that you're getting fun stuff to illustrate.


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