Let's start this year with Featured Illustrator Briony Dixon. Briony is a self published illustrator  who has been a primary teacher for a long time in her life. She creates art using found and painted papers which she cuts, snips and sticks.

A lot of my childhood was spent in imaginative play and drawing and writing was a big part of that. I particularly remember writing a play and illustrating a programme for it. It was called Burglar Bill and was probably influenced by the book by Janet and Allan Alberg. I used to be quite bossy and made my sister and our neighbour perform the play with me to our parents. They were thrilled of course!

Although I always had my head in a book as a child, my fascination for stories and picture books really gained momentum when I became a mum, then was further indulged during my time as a primary school teacher. My favourite part of the day in both these roles was story time, and over the years I’ve built myself a huge picture book collection.   

I also ran an online children’s bookshop for a while called Pages of Joy. It was quite an exciting time and we were even featured in the Bookseller magazine. I loved being immersed in my creativity to compose beautiful books for children, what a heaven!

Over the years I had jotted down ideas for stories and my first step towards my dream of creating books was writing and illustrating a book called Sleuths, Snoops and Surprises which I self published five years ago. It actually did quite well and I did lots of school visits, but the marketing is hard when you’re solo and it ends up fizzling out. 

Producing this book had really ignited my passion for illustrating, though. So I took a degree module called Key Steps in Illustration with the Open College of the Arts where I learnt a lot of the basics. Then I’ve continued to take various courses along the way, I love to learn and grow. I have made a lot of art since then, and a lot of it has been bad! But each piece has helped me grow and I think we learn more from a bad piece of art than those that work out well. 

I have changed the way I make art many times, trying to find media and techniques that made me happy and that I feel confident with. It has taken me a long time to feel confident enough in what I’m creating. I finally feel like I'm in the right place to send my work out to agents and am working on a book dummy.

The list of illustrators I’m inspired by is endless so I’ll try and keep it short! I’m in love with the work of Carmen Queralt at the moment. She’s a Spanish collage artist and invents such wonderfully quirky characters. 

Mid-century artist Abner Graboff is one of my favourites, he really played around with the proportions of his characters and the exaggerations created such personality and humour in them. I also love his use of bold colour and shape, so visually arresting. 

I’m a huge fan of mid-century illustration generally, people like Miroslav Sasek, Bill Charmatz, Alice and Martin Provensen. There was so much charm, so much life in the art, and it was so progressive! How amazing it would be to have a time machine to go back and visit this golden age. 

I also take influence from a wide range of things, such as art galleries, nature, books and film. My love for film noir can be seen in my work for example. 

When creating an illustration or a series of illustrations, I start with a mind map of ideas for character and setting. Then I make character sketches, drawing them in different poses, usually ones that make sense to the character and story. 

Once I’m happy with the character, I thumbnail ideas for composition. This is such a useful part of the process although it is probably my least favourite part. I find it hard to draw small when I’m at the ideas stage, so I usually keep using undefiled shapes that give enough of a sense of how the composition may look. 

The number of thumbnails I draw depends on how quickly I achieve the ‘that’s it!’ moment. Sometimes I explore lots of options, while others I manage to capture what is in my head more quickly. I love to design simple but dynamic compositions. Making the full sketch is usually a mixture of sketchbook drawn elements scanned in to complete the sketch digitally.  

I make my work using collage. Because my style is shape rather than line driven, it is a perfect medium for me. I mainly use acrylic to paint the papers I use but love experimenting with other mediums to create different textures. Usually I assemble the elements in photoshop to create the final piece.

As happens to many other artists, I’ve suffered from a lot of comparison and despair. I’ve found myself sinking into a spiral of self-doubt because I thought my work wasn’t as good as others, or because it doesn’t look like other people’s, and because my ideas might not be as good as theirs. I could go on with the list!  

Whenever this happened, I'd do the exact opposite and decide not to look at anything. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be that black and white. Looking at other people’s work isn’t a bad thing, it’s about the way we look at art. Looking for inspiration, and to learn, not as a stick to beat ourselves with.

I’m always telling myself to enjoy the journey. To enjoy the moment I’m in now. In the past I’ve been in such a hurry to get to a creative destination that I haven’t enjoyed the process. This just results in bad art. 

Enjoying where we are now means the joy and love in creating shines through and makes our art better.  I often have to remind myself about this when I start getting a little impatient, though!

* All images courtesy of Briony Dixon
See more of Briony's work here. Follow her on Instagram.


Tita Berredo is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. If you'd like to be featured contact her at illustrators@britishscbwi.org. Follow her on InstagramTwitter and find her work at www.titaberredo.com

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.