Kate Hindley is a children’s book illustrator living and working in Worcestershire, UK (home of the sauce.) Her latest book ‘How to Wash a Woolley Mammoth’ has just been published by Simon and Schuster.
What appeals to you, or attracts you to, working in pencil?
Pencil is very forgiving; you can very easily correct any mistakes or any bad choices you make as you’re doodling. I find it the least intimidating tool to draw with.
What’s your favourite pencil?
I’m very fond of mechanical pencils purely because they never need sharpening. I have a fancy rotring one which is my favourite, but I’m always worried I might lose it so I tend to use cheap ones from the market. As long as I have some decent HB leads I’m quite happy.
How did you get involved with illustration?
When I was young I really wanted a job that involved drawing pictures for books. So after years of being told this job didn’t exist at school, I went off to study Illustration in Cornwall and now I work drawing pictures for books.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process, from the initial image or idea to the finished piece?
When a brief is very open I sometimes look through some of my old personal sketchbooks to see if I have any bits of ideas or characters that I could develop. Sometimes the final work might be completely unrelated. For my tiny pencil spread I had started drawing lots of Gorillas trying to escape from a zoo, but it really wasn’t working and somehow through lots of drawing evolved into cats at a circus. It might sound like a bit of a waste of time, but open briefs often frighten me a bit, so its good to have something to start from and you can make more critical decisions as you go along.
I started to cut up all the circus characters I had come up with, and moved them about on layout paper to work out a composition and a very vague narrative. Then some careful erasing and tidying up and then is was pretty much finished.
How do you conceptualize/construct a piece? Do you think of it as a story, snapshot, or abstraction?
I usually start with a character and work from there. I’ll think about where they are and what they might be doing there, and then maybe more daft things like what’s their favourite coloured sweater? There is a lot of head scratching but sometimes you suddenly think of something that could develop into a more interesting artwork.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale? Why this preference?
I usually keep A4 sketch pads as they’re really easy to carry about with you, and straight forward to scan in to the computer.
Do you have a favourite subject matter? What’s the particular attraction?
There are an awful lot of woodland creatures! My commercial work is usually quite diverse (thanks to a couple of clients I am now over my fear of drawing cars) but animal characters in wellies tend to be my default doodle.
Did you do any woolly mammoth research for your latest book venture? Do you have any interesting wolly mammoth facts?
Funnily enough just as I started the project I happened by chance to see a documentary about a baby mammoth they found trapped in some ice (it was on National Geograhpic http://natgeotv.com/uk/baby-mammoth-frozen-in-time ) I can recommend any mammoth enthusiasts look it up.
Your mythical creature postcards for Girls Who Draw were inspired by Norse mythology. Could you tell us a bit about these myths? Is Norse mythology a typical source of inspiration for you?
I love Norwegian folklore. Like most folklore its completely mad, but it happens to be set in front of a stunning Norwegian backdrop. There are lots of animal characters and funny looking beasts. And its cold there so everything has to wear fabulous knitwear.
Favourite city in the world?
New York. Because it is brilliant.
Favourite city to draw/sketch/illustrate/create in?
I like working in Birmingham. A lot of people complain because there isn’t a lot of arty stuff going on and dead intelligent obscure trendy things happening. But we used to build Spitfire planes and Acme whistles, and there’s a nice nature centre in Edgbaston where you can pet pygmy goats. I am pretty happy here.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I usually have a few A4 sketchbooks on the go for the different projects I’m working on, and then some smaller note books which I doodle in when I’m out or on the train (unfortunately my hand isn’t steady enough to draw on the bus.) All of these are really for my own eyes only- they’re so messy. A client once left me mid-meeting after asking to see my sketchbook saying that it gave her a headache.
Do you have any early memories of drawing or, what’s your first memory of an image?
I have a very old picture of our pet Basset Hound William and myself which I think is my oldest surviving drawing. I’m not sure how old I was. I hope it was a long time ago…
Are you right or left-handed?
I wasn’t sure when I was a kid, but I have matured in to a fully operating rightie.
Coffee, nicotine, or booze?
Hendricks and a slice of pink grapefruit, please.
What records or pieces of music are floating around in your head these days? Do you listen to anything while you’re working?
The best thing about working at home on your own is that you can listen and sing loudly along to anything you like and no one will ever know about it. Never ever.
What are the books on your bedside table?
I have a very sorry copy of the Gormenghast trilogy which is taking me eons to read. Very big apologies to Mr Peake.
What are you working on now? What can we look forward to from you next?
I’ve just started a new picture book with Simon and Schuster with Claire Freedman, which is very exciting. I really like starting projects when everything can be all messy and doodly. My latest picture book How To Wash A Woolly Mammoth, written by Michelle Robinson came out on the first of August.
What directions are you interested in exploring in the future?
I’d really like to start making more things, but I’ve yet to work out a way of making it lucrative enough to justify me doing it. In the past I’ve enjoyed making simple bits and pieces out of wood, but a couple of years ago I picked up a lovely old book about making mechanisms for moving toys from a charity shop and been itching to have a go ever since. One day!
Where can people get a hold of your work, or find out more about your previous projects?
I have a website and a blog which I try to get updated with new work whenever I can. I also have an etsy shop where I sell some prints and cards:
Kate’s work appears in Issue 2.0 of Tiny Pencil, the summerzine Monsters, Mammals & Mars! Available to buy here.
This interview was brought to you by The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts and mishmosh artist Heather McCalden.
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