The sixth guest in ACHUKA’s new Meet An Illustrator feature is Emily Gravett.
If you missed the earlier ones, don’t worry, they are being archived week by week on this page:
Emily Gravett was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal for her debut picture book, Wolves, and ACHUKA has been a fan ever since. She left school at the age of 16 and spent several years on the road travelling in a big green bus. In her mid-twenties she returned to her home town, Brighton, and began to study for an art degree. Some of the many books that have followed Wolves include such picture book classics as Orange Pear Apple Bear, Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears, Again!, Tidy and Too Much Stuff!
The paperback edition of Too Much Stuff! is out this April.
Emily has also illustrated A Song Of Gladness by Michael Morpurgo, also coming this April, and available for pre-order.
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember being pleased with?
I was about five, drawing my mum sitting on the sofa in the kitchen. She was reading the paper and smoking a cigarette. I remember having the feeling that something had clicked and it was right even though it wasn’t perfect.
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
I loved John Vernon Lord’s illustrations in The Giant Jam Sandwich, and Raymond Briggs. Both my parents drew as well. They were both inspirational and encouraging. Art was never a second rate subject in our house.
Who inspires you today?
At the moment not a lot. I’m stuck in an ‘in between’ books hard place, which is quite normal for me. I’m not one of those authors with a big list of ideas. Each idea is hard won. Lockdown (three) isn’t helping either.
Did you study art or illustration? If so, where?
I did an art foundation year in Pembrokeshire (Wales) in my late twenties, then moved to Brighton to do an illustration BA. My daughter started primary school when I started my degree.
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
My most used tool is a pencil, but I also have a thin paint brush that I bought in China. It’s just right, and I worry about ruining it. I ran over it with my office chair last year and it snapped in half, but I’ve managed to mend it with a bit of bamboo, and alot of tape.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
I don’t have one place I go to, apart from for sketchbooks, which I buy in Seawhite at their factory shop in Sussex.
What software/apps do you use?
Photoshop. Although most of my work is hand-drawn on paper, I scan all of my work into Photoshop, where I treat it like a collage and colouring tool. I’m self taught, so I’m sure I’m not doing things in the most efficient way, and often have to google how to do something. In recent years I’ve started illustrating black and white fiction for other authors alongside my picture books, and I’m doing some of this work entirely digitally. I think digital brushes have improved massively in the last few years, although I mostly still prefer the chaos and mess of paper, paint etc.
What was your first commission?
When I lived in a bus, one of my fellow travellers paid me to draw their truck and caravan. A4 paper, with a black biro I think.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a black and white fiction title. Locked Out Lily by Nick Lake. It’s a fantastic book [due to be published Autumn 20121].
Twitter or Instagram? Instagram. I’m okay with posting a few pictures now and then, but Twitter terrifies me.
Coffee or tea? Tea. I love the smell of coffee, but it reduces me to a jabbering shaking insomniac.
Cat or dog? Dog EVERY time. I am deeply, ridiculously in love with my dog.
Grape or grain? If you’d asked me this ten years ago I’d have said grape, but migraines have put paid to that, so I now have to be content with the occasional Gin and Tonic, and try to be grateful that I no longer have to suffer hangovers.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise. My happiest moments are walking Dilys on a winter morning in deep frost early enough to see the sun rise.
What do you listen to when you are working? If I’m writing or thinking, then I need silence. Otherwise I alternate between Radio Four, Radio Cymru (I’m learning Welsh) Chinese radio (I’m failing at learning Mandarin) or something folksy and gentle on afternoons when it gets too much (or Round Britain quiz is on).
Where can we follow you on social media?
I’m on Instagram and Facebook.