As part of the inaugural Wombat Books Illustration Challenge, we will be running a series of blogs featuring successful illustrators - to offer advice and inspiration and help budding illustrators learn from the best in the 'biz'.
First up - Shannon Melville, she has previously illustrated a number of books by Aleesah Darlison (who is the author of the Illustration Challenge book - Zoo Ball) including the new Little Meerkat and Little Good Wolf. She has also illustrated a number of author picture books.
Shannon Melville - I live near the Canning River in Perth. I have illustrated eight books. I love animals and enjoy illustrating them. I love all the colours of the rainbow. I enjoy walking my caramel and chocolate coloured kelpie Hugo down at the park, he loves chasing balls but doesn't always bring them back, a bit annoying when he drops them in the river or ocean! I have a new baby daughter who is keeping me busy and a kind, supportive husband. When I am not illustrating I also work as a graphic designer and Disability Arts Worker.
Question 1: When did you start illustrating and what was the first book you ever illustrated?
I received my first illustration job in 2006, in the final year of my TAFE course but the first book I illustrated in 2009 was called ‘My Arms Your Legs’ written by Kim Rackham, I only had 5 weeks to illustrate 70+ illustrations!
Question 2: What is the most challenging part of being an illustrator?
Promoting my books and encouraging people to buy them. Drawing things out of my head that do not exist in real life can also be a bit tricky such as a meerkat swimming; you can’t just ask a meerkat at the local zoo to jump in a pool for you and start swimming!
Question 3: What is your favourite part about being an illustrator?
Researching new subject matter on the internet, at the zoo, a park, around the neighbourhood and learning interesting facts that assist with my illustrations. I also really enjoy getting to work with various types of media, in particular pastels and coloured pencils.
Question 4: When given a story to illustrate, what is the first thing you do to get your ideas flowing?
I draw a few small thumbnail sketches on the author’s manuscript. I also write a list of all the references I am going to need to illustrate my story. I usually find most of my photo references on the internet but will also use books too if I need to. I visited a zoo to try and draw platypuses once but they swam too fast to draw them!
Question 5: If you could give one piece of advice to a budding illustrator, what would it be?
Draw as much as you can, sketch objects from life (right in front of you) as well as from photos. Try to work on your unique style and don’t compare yourself to others too much, we all have different ways of seeing and different ways of expressing ourselves which makes it interesting. Publishers don’t want to see everyone illustrating the same way, they like variety. Be prepared to change your work, none of us draw a masterpiece every time we draw. You need to realize a children’s book is created by numerous people: an author, illustrator, publisher, art director, editor, graphic designer, printer and so on, so there will be other people’s opinions to consider.