After taking a week’s break at Easter, Meet An Illustrator is back with Kate Milner, our 13th guest in the weekend feature. Do visit the backpages to read the responses from the first dozen guests.
Kate Milner was winner of the 2016 V&A student illustration award for her book My Name Is Not Refugee, which went on to win the Klaus Flugge Prize in 2018. She had previously studied illustration at St Martin’s College and illustrated magazines on Commercial and Housing Law for a while but spent most of her working life as a librarian, developing a passion for children’s books in the process. When cuts to the library service resulted in her losing her job, she applied to do an MA in children’s book illustration at Anglia Ruskin University, which turned out to be life-changing.
She has a new picture book out in June with Tiny Owl — Sorry Mrs Cake
— and is currently working on a new book for Barrington Stoke.
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember being pleased with?
When I was about eleven I saw a competition on an ice cream wrapper. It asked for a word to be drawn in a way that illustrated its meaning. I drew “US” with the U as a portly chap down on his knees proposing to a curvy S. I won a couple of albums which surprised me, as I had nothing to play them on.
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
Dr. Suess made a huge impression on me when I was a small child. His images frightened and delighted me—they wormed their way so deep into my brain that I find myself unconsciously reproducing them even fifty years later.
Who inspires you today?
Did you study art/illustration?
I studied art many many years ago but it was the Masters in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin that really changed my life.
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
I use a mechanical pencil with B leads for nearly everything.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
For me this is an issue. Over the last ten years we have lost so many good art shops as everything goes online but its not the same. You can’t browse and discover new products online, you can’t test a brush or a pencil against your finger tip. For me making images is a very sensual business combining colour, texture and surface. I want to look and feel and touch and smell what I’m buying.
What software/apps do you use?
I am a great fan of Photoshop Elements. It’s a cut down version of professional Photoshop designed originally for amateur photographers. It is an excellent piece of software.
What was your first commission?
I can not honestly remember. I am extremely old.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on another book for Barrington Stoke about a child’s experience of homelessness.
Twitter or Instagram? Twitter
Coffee or tea? Tea
Cat or dog? Both—can’t possibly manage without either
Grape or grain? Grape please—red—preferably a Merlot
Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise—now that I’m old definitely sunrise
What do you listen to when you are working? I expect I’m not the only illustrator who consumes a huge variety of podcasts and audio books while they are working. Current favourites include Lincoln in the Bardo from Audible which is beautifully read, the Pre-History podcast and The Bunker daily podcast. To be able to draw while listening to an amazing new book or a riveting discussion is just about as good as it gets, especially if you throw in a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of red wine. .
Where can we follow you on social media?
@ABagForKatie on Twitter.
This is a regular weekend feature, publishing every Saturday.