1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became an illustrator.
I studied fashion at college, specializing in childrenswear and worked in fashion for a long time afterwards. When my daughter was born I went freelance so that I could work around her. She’s 15 now and I’ve moved from fashion into many other areas, including illustration for nursery interiors, stationery, and greetings as well as publishing.
I love the fact that it’s fun and doesn’t have to be really serious and sensible. My favorite part is the ideas bit. Doodling in my sketchbook for no particular reason is the best bit.
3. What’s the most difficult part of your job?
(Answering questions like this! haha) Sorting out paperwork and keeping on top of emails. It’s not really difficult, just dull!
4. What is your artistic process step by step?
I get the brief then sketch ideas before creating finished work in Adobe Illustrator on the computer. For some briefs I hand-draw the various bits and scan them in, for others I work directly on the computer.
5. Where do you do your illustrations and what are your perfect working conditions (mug of hot tea, early morning/late night, etc.)?
I had my home studio knocked down and rebuilt last year. It’s at the back of the house overlooking the garden. I love it and often lock myself away in there when I’m not even meant to be working. I work best late at night but have to get up really early with the kids these days so I can’t work as late as I used to. Just give me a bottle of water, some Green & Black’s chocolate with ginger and my radio and I’m happy.
6. Do you remember the first thing you drew?
No (?! ) But I’ve loved to draw for as long as I can remember. My favorite thing as a child was a new sketchbook and a big pack of felt tips!
7. How did you find your style?
Just by drawing and drawing and drawing. A lot.
8. What’s your favorite work that you’ve done?
I used to freelance for Mamas and Papas and one of my favorite ranges was a group called Scrapbook. I loved working on it and the products looked great when they produced them.
9. How do you handle creative slumps?
Take a break and get out of the house. I go for a trip to the shops or a gallery and get some inspiration going again.
10. What is your all-time favorite children’s book…that you didn’t illustrate?
I love the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child. I used to read them to my daughter and wish I’d done them! I love the stories and I love the illustrations.
11. Who is your illustration idol?
At the moment it’s Ingela P Arrhenius. Her illustrations are so simple yet totally distinctive. And the range of different products her designs appear on is amazing. She must work non-stop!
12. Pick one new project you’re excited about and tell us a little bit about it.
I’m illustrating a new range of books for Make Believe Ideas called Playdate Pals. It’s a little series showing kids how to handle everyday “traumas”—like being sad at losing your teddy or being angry at all your friends. I’m working with Jane Horne and we always have a great time working together.
13. Is there any type of project you haven’t done, but dream of doing someday?
I’d like to have a range in Paperchase and one in Land of Nod. And I’d like to work on my own picture books one day…which will then be made into a television series. 😉
14. Any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Draw every day. Carry a sketchbook and draw what you love. Just have fun.
Find Dawn Machell online: