Contact with Emma Block

Not long ago I wrote a little feature on the illustrations of soon to be Illustration graduate, Emma Block. She's very kindly replied to a few questions I sent her, in order to learn a little bit more about her as an Illustrator.

- What do you plan to do after leaving university?

My plan is simply to stay in London and to work as a freelance illustrator, which probably isn’t going to be nearly as simple as it sounds.

- Do you prefer to work in an entirely analogue way, or do you employ a mix of analogue and digital processes?

I prefer a mix; my last project has been entirely analogue and it’s been a real challenge to get my head around the fact things can’t be changed in photoshop. If make something too big or make a mistake I’m stuck with it. The advantage is that I’ll be able to show my actually artwork at my degree show.

- You evidently produce a huge amount of work, have you at any point struggled to balance uni work, commissions and your personal work?

All the time, I am hugely grateful for the professional projects I’ve had but sometimes they come at the most inconvenient times. I work on my uni project for a few days then feel guilty about my professional work so work on that for a few days and the cycle continues. It’s hard work but I love what I do.

- How do you go about motivating yourself?

To be honest I have a bigger problem getting myself to stop working. Starting to work in the mornings is difficult though, and I like to take it easy and potter about in my jammies eating yoghurt and reading twitter before the serious work begins. I think it’s important to know how you work. I’m not a morning person so I never really expect myself to do anything before 11am. :)

- Within your work you use rather dusky, pastel colours; do you choose the coloured papers you work with depending on the brief, or are your colour choices intrinsically part of your style?

I think it’s a little of both really. I have a huge horde of coloured, patterned and found papers in my room, and once I have a sketch I’ll sort though my papers looking for a few that feel right. I suppose I’m looking for something that fits my style and makes sense for the brief.

- As an Illustration student (soon to be graduate!), what is your perception of Illustration as an industry? Do you feel it's flourishing as a result of Illustration becoming such a popular degree, or will this simply mean there are fewer jobs to go around and greater competition?

It’s difficult to say really, I’m certainly hoping their jobs out there! I’ve been very lucky so far in that respect. I think there is really, and if you’re good at what you do, hard working, professional and know how to self promote a little bit, I don’t see why you can’t make it.

- And finally, what's your favourite book, and have you / do you plan to produce illustrations for it?

I’ve been lucky enough to illustrate a few of my favourite books as uni projects, including Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories and The Secret Garden. I would love to have a go at Three Men in a Boat.

Emma's recently posted some images of her illustrations for The Secret Garden, visit her blog to see more, they're absolutely gorgeous and perfectly recreate the mood of The Secret Garden, for me!

Emma's Blog
Emma's Website / Portfolio

The Fox & The Bee

Once again it's lovely rainy Summer-time, and I finished uni a week ago. Since then my friend Megan and I have taken the first few itsy bitsy steps to set up our joint craft and illustration extravaGANZA! We've called our little venture 'The Fox & The Bee'; Megan's the fox, I'm the bee! Buzz buzz.

We've wrangled a table at Stockport's Vintage Village fair in June, set up a facebook page (which is the most important part, obviously..), a twitter account and are working on our individual etsy shops! So hopefully we might get some attention and possibly even sell some of our creations!

Little peak at one of my pieces...

I'm extremely pleased to have a project to immerse myself in already, and it's fab to be working on things that have been swimming about at the back of my head for months!

The Fox & The Bee Facebook page

Lindsay Grime

Lindsay Grime is a Glasgow based Illustrator, having graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2009, and was kind enough to spare some time to answer a few questions!

 Do you have a particular artist / illustrator / style of working which you draw inspiration from for your own work?

I've never been too directly inspired by one single artist or illustrator – I think that's a slightly dangerous place to make work from as it could end up being rather derivative, and that wouldn't be a nice feeling! However, of course no man (or woman) is an island, so little inspirations in terms of style will feed into my work from the general millieu of what's going on in illustration - some contemporary favourites of mine are Jonny Hannah, Michael Kirkham, Laura Carlin (who's recently started making beautiful ceramics) and Valerio Vidali. I'm also fond of the work of textile designer Ellie Curtis, and the work of artist John Byrne, who recently brought out a fantastic picture book. But in terms of inspiration I'm much more interested in looking at visual sources that don't come from illustrators, like old scraps, 19th-century engravings and books of photographs (or my own photographs from foreign holidays)- I think this is a much richer source of ideas, and helps you avoid the uncomfortable feeling of making work that's too close to something you've seen recently elsewhere.

 - You have a very distinctive style, is there anything that has had an influence upon your style or the content of your work? i.e. Day of the Dead skulls seem to appear here and there within your illustrations...

Yes, I'm quite fond of all that ritualistic/religious imagery - in the latest project I've done, illustrating short stories - one of the tales was set in Haiti and involved some Vodou shapeshifting - so this set me off down a trail investigating Vodou art and religious altars. I was excited to discover photographs of amazing sequined Vodou banners with symbolic animals and patterns and home altars bedecked with dolls, skulls, painted bottles, scarves, crosses, and images of a black Virgin Mary. I'm not too sure why all of this fascinates me so much, I think it's the mix of Catholicism and natural religion that seems so intriguing and mysterious to me, since I have no religious beliefs of my own. Also, it's just visually rich, and ambiguous too.

 - When did you first begin working with ceramics, and what led you to experiment in this way?

It all started in my final year at college when I was struck by a vision of an illustrated blue and white china plate. Years before I can remember seeing hand made cups and saucers in a Dundee gallery (I forget the artist, sadly), decorated with quirky figures in a charmingly naïve style. Then in 2008 I came across lovely pieces in a similar vein when I was on holiday in Berlin. My flat in fourth year also housed some very pleasing white Alessi mugs, simply decorated with amusing blue images. So I suppose all these things were probably simmering away in my subconscious and suddenly came together when I was back at home in the Scottish Borders, in my mum’s studio. She’s a ceramic artist and has a kiln, as well as glazes and extensive know how, which I decided to take advantage of. So I made a set of six blue and white china plates for my degree show (related to a children's pop-up book I'd created) and then went wild making ceramic brooches and earrings to sell in our degree shop illustration shop. It was so exciting getting the first plate out of the kiln. It all snowballed from there and now I show jewellery and plates in galleries and shops in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle and Margate. I've also had a solo ceramics show in Made in the Shade's Tiny gallery in Glasgow and have another showcase of my ceramic work coming up in Concrete Wardrobe in Edinburgh, where I'll be Maker of the Month this July.

- In one of your recent blog posts you mentioned being unaccustomed to working with Photoshop. Is there a particular reason that you work in more of an analogue way than digital?

Well, I'm not sure, I think it's probably come from the start point of preferring hand-drawn work - I used to occasionally look through those 'Illustration Now' books and just think most of the work was hideous, its soul Photoshopped out of existence! However, I've since come to see that in the right hands, Photoshop is just a tool like any other, and some people achieve brilliant results with it. It certainly speeds up the process, and having different colour options and the ability to edit easily is a bonus... however, I'd never use it exclusively; I think the hand-drawn still needs to feature within it. And for non-commercial artwork, working with coloured pencil and gouache is what suits me best. I think it's important not to lose the ability to make visual decisions without the option to 'apple z' them if you change your mind!
Logo Design, Scottish Borders Council

Do you keep a regular sketchbook?

Yes, I rely heavily on the sketchbook when planning out ideas for all my work - I'm getting through them pretty fast these days! My thought processes are really clear to follow within my sketchbooks - they're a combination of words and pictures recording my approach to creating images.

What are your thoughts on Illustration as an industry at the moment, with Illustration degrees becoming more popular, despite claims that there is less work to be found?

Well, I kind of feel like there's maybe too many people trying to make it nowadays - it's overwhelming the thought of how many illustrators there are in the world, and all the new ones who come along every year hoping to make a career - but it's probably best not to think about that too much, and just concentrate on developing your own work and niche. It is kind of scary thinking about everyone competing for a ever-dwindling number of jobs - but I don't think I've been around long enough to be aware of a decline in commissions... anyway, hopefully these things go in cycles if that is the case.

Do you have a particular process when working? Certain stages of development which you go through?

I always begin by going to my sketchbook and writing down, often in the form of a question, what it is I hope to do, what the brief is, or what my idea is. Then I move to small, rapid sketching of ideas and hone to a certain point until I'm ready to start on the final piece, whether that be illustration or ceramic. In both cases I'd usually map out the drawing in pencil before moving in with paint...

What would be your dream commission?

I've thought about this before and I think it would probably be to decorate the entire interior and exterior of a bohemian café, with a combination of mural and painted ceramics tiled in to the wall. That would be so much fun - and I like the thought of it being permanent and also housing life and conversation. The other thing I'd like someone to commission would be a solo exhibition of handmade paper and cardboard painted objects, like little houses, boats, masks and the like. 


So much about Lindsay's work interests me, and I found it particularly interesting reading her responses and discovering more about her inspirations. I love that her illustrations have expanded beyond the 'orthodox', and that she has gone on to create her own canvases for her illustrations with her beautiful ceramic pieces. I'm very interested in 'illustrated jewellery' and seeing illustrations becoming something else entirely, which is something I'm attempting to experiment with at the moment, in my own way. 

What's wonderful about Lindsay's work is that her style of drawing remains just as unique when it's applied to ceramics, as on paper; though there are similarities between her work and others which makes her one of my favourite illustrators. She has, like Jane ray, a way of incorporating decorative elements within her images, and deals with imagery and content which similarly inspires me. 

Like her ceramics, Lindsay's editorial work keeps her style, and yet becomes evidently more refined, showing a great ability to create diverse work. It's also nice to see that Lindsay doesn't rely heavily on what other illustrators produce to inspire her work, having her own interests, rather than relying upon illustration trends to feed her ideas.

I look forward to seeing Lindsay Grime's future work and more of her amazing ceramics!
All images have been used with permission, courtesy of Lindsay Grime.


Lindsay Grime's Website
Lindsay's Blog
And Shop!

An article from Illustrator's Partnership of America

A Man of Unlimited Income

by Gerald Rogers
May 2001

I love my job. To me, this is the beautiful thing about being a freelance illustrator. I am a man of unlimited income! It's true. For better or for worse, I have absolutely no idea how much money I will make next month. To some, that is an unnerving concept, but for me — that's the point of the game.

There are reasons why we chose to be illustrators. We are a breed of creators, problem-solvers, and in general, visually-obsessed people. We enjoy being able to recreate the world we see in our own way, with our own hands. As kids we loved the smell of crayons, the taste of pastels, and the feel of finger-paints as we oozed them across the paper. As adults, we still do. We love the process of watching a canvas be filled with the strokes of our brushes. To us this is power.

We also love being able to explore for ourselves the roads that lead to our future and the opportunity to define our own success. As an illustrator, there are no artificial boundaries to what I can create or how much I can earn. I truly am a man of unlimited income.

These are the things that lead me to leap into the world of freelance illustration when I graduated from BYU two years ago. I knew that with illustration, anything was possible. I thrive on the idea of a career that gives me endless opportunities to develop as my art and the world around me change. For me, it's the idea of not knowing what lies around the turn that makes me keep walking. In front of me is nothing but a beautiful blank horizon, like a fresh, gleaming white canvas waiting to be filled. Life runs on change, it is our only constant. As freelancers we must always be capable of responding to that change.

Among some, there is a deeply imbedded skepticism regarding the present and future health of our industry. I understand that there are dangers, and enemies, and endless uncertainties that face us as illustrators. Illustration is a much different world than it was even five or ten years ago. But despite those differences, I am among those who believe that there are more opportunities for illustrators than ever before. More money is available, and more outlets for our talents are emerging. But to find them, we first must understand the limitless potential of the work that we create.

We need to seek and be open to new opportunities. There is a need for illustration in places beyond just magazines, books and advertising. The entire world is filled with the creations of illustrators, artists and designers. There are no limits to where our work can be sold. In illustration, one road will often lead to another that we had never expected. New doors are always there if we keep our minds open enough to find them.

In my brief career, I've been amazed at the variety of opportunities I've had. In addition to the standard editorial and advertising work, I've found myself designing a hot air balloon, creating murals for a restaurant, and developing artwork for neckties. I've created posters for the home decor market, published several children's books, and done character design for an e-learning website. Perhaps it is because it's still early in my career that the portfolio of work that I've done is so eclectic, but to me that is indicative of the opportunities which lie waiting for all of us.

As illustrators our greatest success will come as we develop a unique style and create our own niche in the market. Having a niche, however, does not prevent us from seeking new outlets for our talents. For example, I know of an illustrator whose work led him to also explore photography and then film, and soon he found himself art directing music videos. Another illustrator found his work was suitable to a niche in the apparel industry and was able to form a lucrative business in that market. Yet another illustrator who was doing editorial work for years found an opportunity to develop characters and do layouts for a film studio on a freelance basis. There are thousands of similar examples. To grasp more of our unlimited income we must learn to reach beyond the box of conventional illustration. We need to view ourselves as more than just illustrators, but as visual creatives. We must never be too timid to explore.

Beyond this, we can also consider the potentials of having residual income from our work. It is a beautiful concept that I can create something today and be paid for it for months or years to come. This includes, of course, both working on a royalties basis and capitalizing on the re-use of images as stock. In both instances, if we are careful in our protection of the rights and uses of our images, they will continue to work for us long after we create them.

One example of this lies in the gift and novelty market. I know of a woman who created an illustration for a magazine then sold it for use as a greeting card. In turn she sold the image to make paper plates and napkins, and then with a slight modification also sold rights to another company who created a balloon, and so on. Each time, on a royalty basis with an advance, limiting the usage rights for the companies producing her work, and thus maximizing the ability to earn more by selling other rights in other markets. In the end, she made over $10,000 on an assignment that originally only paid $800.

Continuing revenue from our work is also possible as we sell our old images as stock. I have no interest in delving into the issues of stock and stock houses, nor do I think I need to because of the debate that it has undergone for years. If nothing else this debate has brought to our awareness that even our old work has a residual value and potential for us. Hopefully, the IPA will succeed in it's efforts to create an artist friendly resource for marketing our previously created work.

There are so many possibilities that it would overwhelm both you and me to list them all. Contrary to the perception of some, illustration is not a dying industry. In my opinion, it's not even sick. It's just changing. Perhaps it's a lot different than we would want it to be, but the opportunities to succeed are more prevalent than ever. The world will always need creative people. And hopefully, we will always be there to fill that need. In doing so, why not claim our unlimited income.

An extremely positive outlook on the Illustration industry, by Gerald Rogers.

Paper Magic

The Move, Paper Animation from Mandy Smith on Vimeo.

How lovely is this?! By Mandy Smith

Olaf Hajek

Olaf Hajek was born in Rendsburg, Germany, and studied Graphic Design in the early 90's at the Fachhochschule in Düsseldorf, though he came to realise Graphic Design wasn't for him and so lept into the world of Freelance Illustration, where he is now an illustrious and massively sought-after artistic illustrator (as he referred to himself in Gestalten's interview with him).

Not only does Hajek produce exquisite pieces of art, he applies his entirely analogue painting technique to a range of commissions, from editorial to advertising and fashion, all over the world.

Coca Cola Plant Hopenhagen


Revolutionary Hair, WE LOVE HAIR, Schwarzkopf


Cover for the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association

Apple Educational Ad

Corner 2 Frei

As you can see, Hajek's work can be incredibly diverse, while maintaining his unmistakable style. It's amazing, and very comforting, to see work such as some of the above being used in advertising, it's not often you see such consciously memorable adverts, let alone want them as pieces of art in their own right!

There are countless reasons why I love Hajek's paintings, but mostly because of the array of influences which his work displays: shapes and stylistic influences from Indian art, Frida Kahlo, Botanical Illustration, Mexican Folk Art, Dutch 17th Century still life paintings, African tribal art and so many more.

I also love the fact that the only point Hajek works digitally is when scanning his work to be sent to a client, working in an entirely analogue way, using acrylic paints to paint onto cardboard or wood, tending to prime his choice of canvas with a dark colour, rather than white.

Flowerhead is Olaf Hajeks's first monograph and is full of personal work produced exclusively for the book, as well as being a collection of his commercial work.

Here are a few links to some interviews with Olaf Hajek and some great sources of his paintings:

Below is a great video interview with the man himself, courtesy of Gestalten TV.











Interview with Olaf Hajek.

Last week I was inconveniently wiped out by the flu, and not capable of doing a whole lot, which couldn't have come at a worse time! So here come some updates!

Last weekend I emailed Olaf Hajek with some questions which I desperately hoped he'd answer, though I honestly didn't expect to get a response as I imagined it'd be entirely likely he'd just be too busy.

Lo and behold though! I received a speedy reply from Mr. Hajek, answering all my questions! This absolutely made my month...

- You have mentioned in one or two previous interviews that you like to include folkloric elements within your paintings; do you have a favourite piece of folklore or a culture with whose folklore you identify / use repeatedly in your work?

I am very much intrigued by folkloric art, but its more the soul of it then a certain culture. I love the idea of primitive art as well as defined art like indian miniatures. I think it’s more the fact to combine the meticulous style with something more rough and loose. I love these antagonisms in the work and I am fascinated by the imperfection of beauty. I try to infuse my work with folkloristic naivety and freshness. I put all these experiences and inspirations like a collage together to create my work.

- When painting 'full' pieces such as your 'Flowerheads', do you plan out each element within the painting? Is each flower, bird, etc, planned before you start painting? Or do you decide on its exact placement and appearance as you're working?

I guess this depends all about the painting...if its a personal piece or for an assignment....but when I do a painting for myself, i have an idea about the direction, but believe in the art in progress and its surprises.

- Have you always worked in a completely analogue way? Was it a conscious decision to shun digital methods, or is it simply to preserve the integrity of the painting?

The painting process itself is the most important feel the material , to create a painting which is not easy to change..the colour will be the colour, the position will be the position...I think this is very important. I fell no need to work digitally.

- When painting do you listen to music / audio-books?

I love to listen to music. Like jazz and very eclectic music, a mix from folk to folklore, spanish, french and fado or brazilian tunes.

- In your interview with Gestalten you mentioned that flowers can be made your own, re-created. Do you often / ever collect second-hand imagery of flowers or real flowers to work from?

I do of course have a lot of source books with art, flowers and photos...they all very important sources of inspiration.

- Do you think you'd be as well known as you are, if you produced the same work, but using different materials and methods, i.e. collage, digital painting?

I don't know, but I am sure my work would have been different and will lost its soul.

- You were asked how much of your work you'd be willing to change, if a client asked you to, in your interview with Spraygraphic at You said "I would never let the client change my style." Would you advise 'new' illustrators to stay true to their style too if asked to change it for a client?

It always depends on your style and your career.If you already found your own world and style, you should stay true to it...but it also depends on your standard and fame. In the beginning you must of course be able to make some compromises. But its always very important to develop a unique style to survive this business.

- Have you ever considered illustrating a children's book?

I was starting with a book for yoga for children, but the editor got away from the project..and till now I was to busy with doing exhibitions, which was more important for me.

- And finally, what is your opinion on illustration as an industry at the moment? Are there too many illustrators out there? Has it become too easy to call oneself an 'illustrator'? Or is it good that so many people are choosing Illustration as a career?

I think there a lot of illustrators out there indeed. Some very talented people and a lot of people who just call them self an illustrator and just copy other styles and use too much the digital tools. I sometimes miss a unique style or something which is really touching me...
But its always an up and down and there is of course a crisis in print, which will make it hard for a lot of young illustrators to start a successful career. But then again with all the new media, there will be a big change coming up in the business..I guess that animation will be more and more important.


What fab answers! I'm so thrilled to have received such an awesome response to questions which I specifically wanted to ask of Olaf Hajek. Big thanks to him!
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