ACHUKA’s 9th guest in our weekly (every Saturday) Meet An Illustrator slot is Mini Grey.
All previous features in this series are being archived week by week on this page:
Mini is a nickname given to her because of her having been born in a Mini. She is a keen environmentalist with clear ideas for policy change—see this post from summer 2020, on her Sketching Weakly blog. I recommend browsing the richly and wittily illustrated content in the blog’s archives.
Her most recent work as an illustrator has been for The World of Astrid Lindgren titles, such as Emil And The Sneaky Rat, an ACHUKA Book Of The Day for 11 Aug 2020:
She was also the illustrator for Roger McGough’s 2020 picture book Money-Go-Round:
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember being pleased with?
When I was about 5 I went to visit the local primary school. Prospective young students were asked to draw a house. I remember being a bit proud of how my house’s roof was a trapezium not a triangle, and my windows were in the walls not in the corners, and my chimney went straight up.
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
When I was young I spent an enormous amount of time watching TV. I loved the world of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin – especially the Clangers and Bagpuss.
Who inspires you today?
It’s a place – the Oxford Museum of Natural History. The book I’m making at the moment was inspired by it, and I really miss its magical atmosphere. I am desperate to get back there with my sketchbook when it opens again.
Did you study art or illustration?
I did a degree in English, and tried out theatre design and primary teaching. Then I did an MA at Brighton University in sequential illustration and that’s where making picture books began. But I’ve always felt the lack of doing an art degree—some sort of imposter syndrome and I’d like to go back to school and properly learn to draw.
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
I have a Dr PH Martin’s radiant watercolour habit I can’t shift – they’re just so zingy, but they fade really badly. For sketching out and about I just love Tombow pens – water-based felt tips that come in loads of colours – brilliant for layering transparent colours. But they don’t last for ever and are really expensive.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
What software/apps do you use?
Er…Photoshop is my virtual scissors and glue. That’s about as clever as it gets.
What was your first commission?
For money? Just after university I used to do illustrations for my friend Sharon who was writing articles for a health and fitness magazine, I think I used to get £200 for a big one.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am making a book where a troupe of insects act out the 4.6 billion year story of Life on Earth in a Shoebox Theatre. I think it’s the first time I’ve made something non-fictional. If you can call it non-fictional….
Twitter or Instagram? Twitter. One day, Instagram, when I have conquered my fear of the Square.
Coffee or tea? Coffee first thing, tea thereafter. (But it has to be M&S Empress Grey Tea.)
Cat or dog? Cat, forever cat. Here is Pepper, who likes to stare at things, as if she’s just dropped in out of another universe.
Grape or grain? The answer is usually a gin and tonic.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset, so the gin can go with it.
What do you listen to when you are working? Usually too much Radio 4. But THANK YOU Radio 4 for all your wonders—especially your science programmes. If I am making pictures and they’re all planned out, I have a big mental hole that has to be filled with something interesting to keep me on task—but luckily talks about everything in the universe are to be found online.
Where can we follow you on social media? On Twitter at @Bonzetta1