SVS Artist Interview with Judy Elizabeth Wilson
KathrynAdebayo last edited by KathrynAdebayo
A while back I started a personal project to interview artists on this forum. My hope was to learn from each person, to glean inspiration and to help record wisdom, personal experiences and expertise that might otherwise go unshared. So far I’ve learned a ton from the interviewees and it has propelled me onwards in my own art. Thank you to everyone who has participated so far!
I was surprised and excited when the SVS crew asked if I’d help with the interviews for their new “student spotlight” blog posts. If any of you take the seat of honor in the next few months, I’ll look forward to learning from you too! Thank you, SVS, for the awesome opportunity!
As for another forum member who I thought would probably share some exquisite gems, I asked a prolific creator of whimsical illustrations, Judy Elizabeth Wilson, if she would be up for an interview. I can imagine her enthusiasm and passion for her work after reading her responses. Here is a chance to learn from her and to enjoy samples of some of her latest creations!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Judy from the UK and a children's book author and illustrator.
Right now, I’m creating whimsical fairytale illustrations for the children’s picture book market.
I’m taking on drawing challenges to draw everyday. Last month I finished a 30 day challenge and now am in the process of turning the illustrations into patterns to sell to manufacturers.
Currently, I'm illustrating 3 children’s books. One is called, ‘If I Were King King’. This story is the reason I started drawing in 2011. The story is about King King, who will do anything to take over the only robot making machine left and keep all the robots, to create his army... Until he discovers something new and more dazzling. It’s a distopian comedy set in the future for 7-10 year olds.
'Nanny's Garden' is for younger children and is a touching story that practically everyone can relate to, which deals with the emotional subject of losing a grandparent.
'The North Pole Secret' is a lighthearted and fun Christmas story about young Rudolph whose unglowing nose sets him on an arctic adventure where he learns the North Pole's grandest secret.
Early in 2015, I took Will Terry’s Illustrating Children's Books course and had a live critique with Will and Jake. My work has got so much better studying with SVS. Will, Jake and Lee share the best information in all their classes and know how to deliver so you understand and can apply these new skills to your own art projects.
I have illustrated children’s books for publishers and had success with illustrating for self publishers.
One chihuahua, two yorkies and four mini chorkies dominate my studio. They are good fun and often end up in my art.
Could you also share a few examples of your artwork?
Artwork by Judy Elizabeth Wilson - An illustration from ‘If I Were King King’ reading, "I have travelled all over my resplendent kingdom. I am the big boss."
Artwork by Judy Elizabeth Wilson - A spread from ‘The North Pole Secret’
Artwork by Judy Elizabeth Wilson - A scene from ‘Nanny's Garden’
Artwork by Judy Elizabeth Wilson - A product of a recent 30 day drawing challenge
You definitely have a recognizable and personalized illustration style. How has your art evolved over time, and what helped you to come to the style you work with now?
When I started writing King King's story, I wanted to draw the motley machines, the four legged characters and King's castle full of robots. Learning to draw what you see in your mind's eye was the hardest challenge. I took things day by day.
I would describe my style as busy yet simple, I think kids relate to that.
Now, I’m working digitally with a Cintiq since Sept 2018. I switched to digital gradually using an Intous pen tablet for five years. I would ink linework and paint gouche and watercolour, scan and work in Photoshop.
I'm enjoying being where I am artistically, the journey is fantastic and I'm always thinking about experimenting and developing a unique visual language. This is a life-long exploration, and I plan to be storytelling and illustrating for a lifetime.
On the forum, you've been sharing some personal projects that evolve from goals to draw every day, such as your 365 Little Tiger illustrations last year. Could you talk about how that project evolved and what it resulted in?
In April 2017, I started a 30 day sketch book drawing project based on Henri Rouseau's jungle paintings. On day 30, I drew a cute tiger character in a tree full of birds. There was something interesting there and so I continued, first to 100 days then to do 365 drawings. I wasn't sure if I would get it done in a year and gave it a go. It took a year and 3 months to get 365 doodles. I shared the drawings on the forum and received so much feedback and encouragment, it was a fun time. I chose my favourites from the collection and inked the linework digitally. The 'Little Tiger and Friends' colouring book is now available on Amazon and I'm currently working on the second colouring book which is for even younger children. It will be a 'first colouring book' coming this summer. I'm working on some patterns for Little Tiger which would be perfect for children's bedroom decor, so step by step, I will get that done. Also I'm working on a collection of needle point kits with the Little Tiger characters.
You have seven beautiful finished books featured on your website. Is being an illustrator your full time work, or do you balance that with other professional endeavors? Also, do you have an agent or find illustration jobs for yourself?
Yes, I'm a full time illustrator. I create illustrations for museums and recently had a brilliant project creating illustrations for a children's museum.
I joined with my agent Allied Artists in October 2018. We are working to sell 'Nanny's Garden' and 'The North Pole Secret' children's books.
There are two more stories waiting to be finished by my desk. I'm focusing on finishing more stories into 2020. It's an exciting time.
What is your best advice for other artists?
Play never gets old. Keeping a sketchbook is the best playground for developing your ideas and visual language.
Momentum creates ideas which creates momentum. To move forward it's good to have a project of your own to work on.
Finally, what has been the biggest thing you've learned or realized recently through your work as an illustrator? Is there any way the other forum members can support you as you continue to learn and progress in your journey?
Finish what you start even if it takes longer than you think it will. When I was on the home stretch of the 365 day project I got behind and I remembered the quote,
'Accountabitilty not ability, determine your success'.
Having fun with your art and having a story to tell are the keys to creating great energetic and charismatic art for children. As visual storytellers in publishing, our job is to engage children to read so they can grow in confidence to be what they want to be. We are in a position to be able to support and nurture children through our work and share positivity through art and I appreciate the opportunity.
Thanks to all the forum members, we have a hive of exceptional artists working very hard to contribute to their particular field of illustration as they share their work and they develop their craft. It's an awesome group to be a part of. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy of The Little Tiger Colouring book. That was above and beyond! Thank you to our great SVS teachers and everyone behind the scenes.
Thank you so much, Judy, for taking the time for these questions! You're an inspiration to me when it comes to consistently and systematically creating.
Judy’s work can be found at her website: http://www.judyelizabethwilson.com
And her SCBWI profile: https://www.scbwi.org/members-public/judy-wilson
Her ‘Little Tiger and Friends’ coloring book can be found on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Tiger-Friends-Adventure-Colorists/dp/0997872993