Interview with Illustrator Katy Halford

Illustrator Katy Halford Adventure
What a cool job I’ve got interviewing amazing people like Katy Halford. Katy is a children’s book illustrator and also works in art licensing and commercial markets. Her love of drawing started when she was small and she continued to study ‘the arts’ at school, and then went on to graduate at Loughborough University with a degree in Illustration. She is currently working with various publishers on children’s books. When she isn’t glued to her seat impressing clients, she likes to go for long walks in the countryside. She also enjoys a good cup of tea and a nice slice of cake. Who doesn’t?! The best way to keep up to date with her work is through Instagram, Twitter, or her website.

1. It’s easy to tell you’re already a very successful illustrator with a strong portfolio of previous clients. How did you begin transitioning your passion for drawing personally into commercial projects and how difficult was it to gain exposure as an artist in the professional realm?
I used to draw pen doodles everyday and started up an account on Instagram and a page on Facebook. I would post photographs of my drawings when I did them and gradually my following got bigger and bigger. It did take time and persistence but I love to draw so it was totally worth it. As an illustrator, it’s so important to draw as much as you can. You are always developing as an artist and now, with social media exposure, you never know who may see your work. It might just be your dream client. Eventually, I attracted a variety of commercial clients, such as Feel Unique and Cafe Nero. I have worked closely with 2 local theme parks over the past few years illustrating their park maps and updating the latest rides etc.
2. You website describes you as a freelance illustrator, yet you’re partnered with Plum Pudding Illustration Agency. How does this business relationship work and what does it mean for authors who would like to work with you on their projects?
I worked as a freelance illustrator for a few years previously, and I then signed up with my lovely agent Plum Pudding Illustration spring last year. They represent me as an illustrator and work requests regarding children’s books and licensing go directly through them. I tend to work on a variety projects with different agents from Plum Pudding and work closely with the publishers. I’m always happy for people to get in touch with me if it’s just to say hi or have any questions about my work. You can get in touch via my contact form on my website.
3. Your professional illustration experience ranges from characters to worlds, maps to magazines and many things in between. If you had to pick one (maybe two) areas illustration products that excite you the most, what would it be? What is one area you hope to grow experience in?
My favorite areas in illustration to work are children’s book illustration and art licensing for the gift market. I chose children’s book illustration because it’s so fun to come up with characters, what they will look like, what clothes will they wear and then to illustrate the world they are put in. Every project is new and exciting! There’s nothing like seeing your work printed as the finished product. I get great satisfaction from seeing people enjoying my work too. As a second choice, I’d choose licensing for the gift market, I love creating decorative designs and the use of simple color palettes to design many patterns or motifs for cards or gift wrap. I only started in the children’s book world last year so this is an area I hope to grow much more experience in, I’m always learning and can’t wait to learn more about it as I progress.


4. There is often a disconnect between less experienced authors (clients) and more experienced illustrators in terms of how projects develop from concept to final design. How would you describe the illustration process from your perspective?
As an illustrator, I work closely with the publisher, not directly with the author. So, when starting a children’s book I will first be given the story to read through. I tend to read through it a few times to really get to know the characters and concept. A series of thumbnails (very small rough drawing) are typically drawn up for the spreads; this may be full page illustrations, vignettes or half page illustrations. This allows the illustrator and publisher to discuss any art direction on which compositions and ideas work best to suit the story. Roughs are then drawn up at a larger scale and the work goes on to coloring. After the rough stage the publisher may show them to the author also.
5. How would you describe the perfect illustrator/client relationship? What are some aspects that have worked really well to deliver a great product? What are some negative aspects you hope not to experience (again)?
I think it’s always good to make sure you communicate, I find speaking on the phone or better as you can have a real conversation and bounce ideas off each other. The same goes for commercial projects too. I haven’t had any negative experiences yet, so hopefully it will stay that way.
6. As a children’s book author, I often have a specific illustration style in mind when I begin placing words on pages. Often times, a publishing house or agent also have illustrators in mind when they examine a manuscript. Does the same exist from the illustrator’s perspective? Is there a style of writing, intended target audience, or specific authors/clients, that you would love to receive an art request for? What is one of your dream projects?
I guess not so much for an illustrator as the story is typically presented to the illustrator. There’s lots I would love to be requested for, anything with great character and adventure! I have a love for history, mostly king and queens, so maybe a book about great kings and queens. I just love all their over the top fancy clothing, hairstyles and there’s some great characters! I think they would be great fun to draw and also to inject some humor. My dream project would be to write and illustrate my own stories. I have so many ideas and know it’s only the beginning for author-illustrator projects.
7. Illustrating is a very subjective endeavor. It’s easy to find fresh talent crushed by rejection. How do you cope when someone in the industry doesn’t appreciate what you’ve created to the same magnitude you do?
Yes ,sometimes this can be crushing, but I always try to think in life it wasn’t meant to be so it didn’t go ahead. I understand that the illustration didn’t turn out right for the job, unfortunately that’s how it works, but you can always learn from it as feedback is given. I also always think of things as another piece for the portfolio and something else will come up!
8. If you could speak to all the up and coming artists out there, what would you say to them? What do you wish someone said to you when you first set out on your professional illustration journey?

Try to draw as much as you can! Your work is always developing and you are always learning. Don’t worry about thinking that you don’t have a ‘style’. You do, even if you can’t see it yourself, other people will. Be yourself with a vengeance! Don’t try to be anyone else – it won’t make you stand out because that person is already out there! Enjoy it! The design process has its ups and downs like lots of other processes. It’s all about learning on the way. New ideas are always exciting but once you get through to other side, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing something beautiful and unexpected. I know every new piece I do for my portfolio or a client I learn something new about myself.

9. Most illustrators have a list of artists (or pieces of art) they admire. Who are your artistic role models?
There’s so many illustrators I admire. I don’t really have a favorite as I’m always finding new illustrators or inspiration. To name a few, Lauren Child – I just love her characters and the childlike quality to her drawings. Quentin Blake – he’s just awesome! Him and Roald Dahl made my childhood. Janet and Allan Alhberg – perfect duo. I also love collecting postcards and random stuff for my office. Oh, and many people I have connected with through online courses and social media.
10. Tell us about some active projects you’re working on. What can we expect to see from you in the next 1-2 years and how can readers stay most informed about your activities?
All my current projects are top secret! So sorry, but that’s the industry for you! But you can expect to see some more picture books coming your way in the next 1- 2 years. I do try to draw in my sketchbook as much as I can in my free time, although it’s very little at the moment. My current theme is characters and I’m trying to draw more people. You can keep up to date with my work and informed on my social media feeds and website.

Thanks so much, Katy! It’s so great seeing industries through the eyes of people so genuine in their craft. I have no doubt you’ll continue to be a successful illustrator. The moment you free up some time to do author-illustrator projects, the sky will be the limit!

If you’re an aspiring illustrator, I know this was insightful for you. Reach out to someone like Katy if you’re unsure of the path you should take. There are so many wonderful people in the industry who would love to help you grow and develop. What are you waiting for?


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