I asked Lucy for an interview because her publisher sent me her latest book Crocodali to review for this Friday’s Perfect Picture Book. I loved the story and art so much I sought her ought on FB. Plus, she’s a fellow Brit!
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[LV] I am an author and illustrator. Each new idea is very different from the next and so some start with a character design or little sketch, and some start with a cheeky rhyme or even just a funny word.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
[LV] I originate from East Grinstead in Sussex but moved down to Devon when I was 6 years old. I don’t really feel that my location has influenced my work in a particular way but I do get a lot of my inspiration from the people around me, be it family, friends and random strangers. Devon has such a lovely, slow pace of life and such a luscious greenness to it. Perhaps this has influenced the bright colours I love to use?
[JM] I lived in Exeter from 96-99! Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[LV] Ive always loved to draw but my journey to becoming an illustrator started at primary school. 20 years ago dyslexia was a term that was reasonably unheard of. Instead of receiving some of the fantastic extra help that children receive today, I was considered as ‘slow’ and ‘unintelligent’ and was asked to sit in the corner and draw while the other children were taught to read and write. At the time I thought this was fantastic! I loved to draw! Little did I understand that learning to read and write would be quite important in life…
My wonderful mum transferred me from school to school just looking for one that acknowledged my difficulties and was willing to try different approaches to my learning. We finally found a fantastic school which resulted in me learning to read at the age of 12, but my love for the pencil continued and grew and from then on I knew I wanted to be an artist. …Or a palaeontologist.
After struggling through the rest of school, which actually I really enjoyed, I made my way to University College Falmouth where I gained a BA(Hons) in illustration specialising in children’s books in 2011. Since then I have spent most of my days in my studio, experimenting, building a portfolio, creating books and making mess!
[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?
[LV] I mostly use a mixture of watercolours, acrylic inks and coloured pencils. I can not explain how much I love a good coloured pencil! I feel that I can get some much control from them and the colours are endless. Ocha yellow seems to be my favourite at the moment.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two for us, maybe from a work in progress, or CROCODALI, and the process of creating them?
[LV] ‘Crocodali’ was published in August this year by Templar Publishing in the UK and Little Bee in the USA. After my first book, ‘We Love Dinosaurs’, I felt a bit stuck in a rut and was developing work and ideas very slowly, so I gave myself a 1 week project to produce a book. Only 1 week. It was for my development only and it was just to try and get my creativity and speed going again.
It was a really shock for me to discover that at the end of that 1 week I had produced something a bit different, funny, and possibly good enough to send to publishers. I sent it off as a rough text and layout and Templar snapped it up!
Maybe this shows that trying too hard doesn’t work, and perhaps relaxing allows ideas to form naturally?
As you can see, Crocodali as a character has developed quite a bit, but other things such as layout haven’t changed that much from initial idea sketch to final artwork, especially the front cover, which was one of the first images I created .
[JM] What was the first book you remember buying with your own money?
[LV] That’s a tricky questions. I hated books as a child. School had convinced me that books weren’t for me, so I think I was well into my 20’s when I brought my first book and it was most likely a children’s picture book! I was, however, read to a lot by my mum, which ignited my love for Dr Seuss. ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ was my favourite, which I could recite back to my mum off by heart. I liked that because it made me look like I could read, but in fact it was all from memory.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[LV] I work from a shed in my garden. It is usually a bit of a mess but that’s how I like it. I am very lucky to have a space of my own that is away from the house. At the end of a long day of painting it allows me to be able to shut the door and distance myself from my work, which I find very helpful. I have a spider that lives in my window. He has lived along side me for over a year now.
[JM] Have you named your spider? What artwork do you have hanging in your new home?
[LV] I am a real fan of vintage advertising and old maps so I have a mixture of things on my walls. The classic car illustrations are actually vintage postcards and were from my husband’s grandfather. I love them.
[JM] At what moment in your process do you start working on endpapers?
[LV] Right from the beginning! I feel endpapers are just as important as the rest of the book. They set the tone and can influence the readers first impressions. I also like to include the endpapers, where I can, in the story. For example, in ‘Crocodile’ I use the endpapers to show the character getting ready in his studio. You only get 32 pages…use them all wisely!
[JM] If I could offer you a tour from an expert around any art museum in the world, which would you choose?
[LV] Oh, tricky. I haven’t really visited many art museums. To be honest I’m not a huge art fan…shhh…don’t tell anyone! I do, of course, love Salvador Dali! A tour with an expert around his home in Figueres, Spain would be fab.
Now..had you just said ‘museum’ I would have a huge list! I have a big interest in war, medical and natural history, so a guided tour around all of the museums in London would be brilliant!
Five Fun Ones to Finish?
[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?
[LV] I have recently returned to roller skating and so any park with a smooth, flat surface is lots of fun! I am still a bit wobbly though! Exeter has some wonderful parks and a beautiful quay to skate around.
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[LV] Dogs. Cats make me sneeze.
During the week I spend my time with this cheeky chap, Remy the Beagle. Remy is my mum’s dog, but as I work from home, I look after Rem while Mum’s away during the day. This means I get lots of lovely fresh air on doggy walks at lunch time. A lot of my ideas and problem solving is done while walking Rem.
He loves nothing better than a long walk and then snoozing in the sun.
[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?
[LV] I can recite the entire words to Les Miserables on demand. I have a memory for lyrics. Once I have listened to a song or poem only a couple of times, I will have learnt the lyrics of by heart and there they will stay in my brain forever. Sadly it doesn’t work for everything. I can only remember three phone numbers…
[JM] What as your first paid job after high school?
[LV] I worked as a Saturday girl in Debenhams for a year during college. I was allocated the soft furnishings and towel section. Incredibly boring but if you ever need advise on thread count or tog ratings of duvets..I’m your girl!
After that I started work as a nanny and have continued to do so part-time ever since. It is such a fantastic job and a great role to do along side children’s books. I feel so privileged to be part of a family and watch them grow and develop from baby to little adult. I have so far nannied 8 children.
[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
[LV] Popcorn is always a winner. Tasty and easy to eat while drawing.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Lucy.