I’m not a very good writer. I feel much more comfortable drawing pictures than trying to string together sentences about myself that would be interesting to read.
I found it difficult to know what to write for the previous volume of White Cloud Worlds, so in trying to do this for the second time I find myself spending a lot of time staring blankly at the screen. I’m still freelancing, but now I’m back in Wellington and I just got my Master’s degree. That piece of paper means nothing in terms of getting illustration work, but it means I can teach illustration at uni on top of my freelance work—something that I’ve discovered I really enjoy.
I’ve also noticed that teaching forces me to improve the way I go about doing my own work, since I’d feel hypocritical not practicing what I preach. Seeing some of the amazing work the students do also makes me more motivated to lift my game.
During the last year or so, I’ve been doing a lot of scratchboard illustration. It’s been really nice to have a change from doing digital paintings and to get back to a traditional medium. I’ve always loved the look of old wood engraving illustrations, especially those by Gustave Doré, but I was hesitant to try it myself because I didn’t like the idea of not being able to erase any mistakes (I make a lot of them!).
I realized that scratchboard was a great alternative; you can get a similar aesthetic to wood engraving but still have a little bit of leeway in terms of corrections. Scratchboard is basically a bit of cardboard that is covered with a thin layer of white china clay, which is then coated with ink, so you scratch through the ink to reveal the white clay underneath. If you make a mistake, you can just re-ink and scratch through again (although you can only get away with doing this a couple of times before you end up going through the clay and hitting the board underneath).
The scratchboard illustrations included here are from an adaptation of The Pied Piper of Hamelin that I did for my Master’s degree, looking at children’s horror. The digital piece I just did for fun and I have some ideas to turn it into a series of illustrations. Previously, I always stuck with digital for clients and kept any traditional pieces for my personal work, but now I’ve started doing scratchboard for my freelance work as well. It’s nice to get a break from sitting in front of the computer.