Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Contact with Kate Slater

I recently contacted illustrator Kate Slater for some advice, and to gain an insight into her working method. Below are some examples of Kate's work, and the questions I asked with her responses.

1. I really like the hand crafted nature of your work. I can appreciate how much time, patience and effort goes into each piece. How long does it take to create a piece? Do you work quite quickly? 

Publishers used to ask me this when I went to see them after I graduated and I used to say something ridiculous like 1 day (they would look rather incredulous). It depends... I have come to appreciate the value of a good rough! I used to make things up a bit as I went along but now I find I work much more quickly if I plan. Perhaps a couple of days to make the image and a day to photograph/photoshop? Obviously completely depends on the work and also the deadline.

2. What do you do to prepare? Do you sketch out your designs? 

Probably some crossover on the last question! Yes, I do for the above reason and also because clients always want roughs. It's a bit strange sending them something that looks completely different from how the finished result will look, but I think they usually understand this! I draw in pencil, scan and colour in photoshop.

3.I find it hard when you have specific size requirements for an image and you work in this method, it's sometimes hard to get the right layout and can sometimes feel as if I am guessing a little. I know if I am working within a certain shape to stick within that shape but sometimes it doesn't always result in what I had hoped for! Do you have the same problem and if so how do you personally resolve it? 

Yes ALWAYS! I think it's basically because it's really difficult to square the camera up with the illustration so it's usually slightly wonky. I try to leave extra bleed and I almost always work larger than the finished image has to be (normally about x 1.5) so there's a bit more leeway. If all else fails I fill in missing gaps down the side on Photoshop. (I feel like I'm mentioning Photoshop a lot but I'm terrible at it and don't like using it much!)

4. Do you use a specific type of paper/card? Or just any scraps you can get your hands on?! ..maybe both? Also do you use any other medium with your cut outs such as paint? How much digital work is done on your pieces after they are photographed?

Any scraps I can get my hands on! Loads of magazines, especially Gardener's World and also home/country ones because they have lots of lovely colours and patterns. Also insides of envelopes, I have an enormous stash. If I need a really specific flat colour I'll buy any kind of paper which is that colour rather than a particular kind. I've also recently started painting some paper to collage with.

5. While I am at university I make good use of the photographic studio, however when I leave I worry my work will suffer without such facilities. How did you made the transition yourself after you graduated?

Ahh, these problems sound so familiar! This is exactly what happened to me. I have struggled a lot with photography and still do to be honest - I'm always asking for advice! For about my 4th ever commission I was asked to create posters for a chocolate shop, one of which had to be FIVE feet high. They dropped that size in the end because I just couldn't do it and I think they realised! I'd ask for all the advice you can get from your photography dept while you're still at uni - what kind of camera you need and lighting etc. Crucially, which I find most difficult, how to take a photo which will print at a big size at 300 dpi!

6. I can see from your website you have been commissioned for illustration jobs. How popular is your work with clients? Do they like the style? 

I think so, it obviously depends on what they're looking for. Sometimes I get commissions where they're particularly looking for a collage artist, but other times it's just because they like my work in general. I think it can be quite decorative which works well for book covers and some editorial work, children's books are more difficult because publishers generally think that collage can be too still and harsh, but hopefully when they see mine they realise that's not always the case! Andersen Press were really helpful - we spent a good 6 months reworking the sample illustrations I'd done for Magpie's Treasure at uni.

7. Lastly I would like to know who or what inspires you? 

Reading, writing, theatre, countryside, other illustrators - Nathalie Choux, Brecht Evans, Lizzy Stewart, Isabelle Arsenault...

I'm so glad Kate replied to me as I found her responses very helpful!

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