I have seen so much of Laura’s work over the past few years. Often I saw it, loved it but did not know it was hers! Then when I realised that it was from one talented illustrator I knew we needed to interview Laura Wood for our blog.
Laura grew up in the north of Italy and now lives between Melbourne, Milan and Bristol. I always love seeing things through the eye of a traveller and Laura’s work reflects this.
Laura has worked with Usborne Books, Scholastic, Ladybird, Parragon, Penguin and many more. What a fantastic array in such a short time!
How long have you been an illustrator?
I did my first paid job as an illustrator in 2012, so I guess I can say it has been about 4 years now. However, I’ve been able to go full time about 2 years ago.
How did you get into it? Did you ever do any professional training?
In 2011 I enrolled in a 2 years illustration course at NMIT, in Melbourne. At the time I was into a job that I liked but I wasn’t very passionate about. I understood I needed to do something I was really into, rather than just having a job to pay the bills. So I left my day job and went back to school for a bit. I must say it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
Attending NMIT was definitely very useful in terms of getting sent in the right direction. Also school was a good support system both from teachers and peers.
However, I don’t think getting professional training is necessarily something people have to acquire in order to be a professional illustrator.
If you’re committed and you’re eager to learn, you can learn everything you need from other sources (internet is a great one, for example), especially since knowledge is so accessible nowadays.
Once you partner with a writer, how much do they brief you on the characters (this question is aimed at those starting out really, is the illustrator expected to create the characters from scratch? Do you prefer to work with little brief?)
It depends. Sometimes the editor and the author brief me very little, sometimes they give you very precise guidelines.
I usually like having some sort of direction, so I can understand better what the editor and the author are already envisioning and going for. I think it happened to me only once or twice where the editor was being extremely precise on what they wanted and I felt limited… I would say that’s usually the case where there’s more money involved. But usually, even when given directions, I feel I have the chance to play and give my own interpretation of the story.
How do you find inspiration for your illustrations?
Unfortunately I don’t have an exciting answer for this one.
I’m one of those people whose inspiration arrives by sitting at my desk everyday and just working on whatever project I need to work on.
That’s usually how I roll.
But if we’re talking about personal work (which I haven’t done in a long time but I’m determined to get back into that asap) then the story is different.
People, dancing, music, stuff I believe in and want to sustain … so basically anything worth living for.
How long does it take to illustrate a book?
This really depends on different factors. For example the length of the book, or how detailed the illustrations need to be.
Normally publishers give me about 4/6 months time to work on a book from start to finish. This works for me, but I must point out I’m always doing more than one project at once, so I’m usually jumping around between different projects.
How do you do your illustrations? Drawing/painting/software?
I like to do the lines by hand with pencils which gives the drawings a more natural and textured feeling.
Then I scan my drawings and colour everything digitally. I also use textures and textured brushes in order to give the final illustration a very organic feel to it.
Is there any advice you can offer someone looking to get work as an illustrator?
Contact all the people you want to work with. Be proactive, don’t sit around being afraid of what could or could not happen. Also, and most importantly, persist, don’t get discouraged when clients don’t get back to you, it’s normal. Follow up, pester them, do your best.
Does where you live inspire your work?
Not directly, in the sense that there’s not much of Bristol in my pictures. Nevertheless, Bristol is a very creative place and that inspires me in my own private life and general wellbeing… and that, I believe, has definitely a positive impact on my work. After all, we’re holistic beings.
What kind of space do you work in?
I feel incredibly lucky because I get to work from a really cool place. I have a desk space at Hamilton House, a creative hub in the heart of Stokes Croft (also renamed by visitors the Bristolian Camden Town).
I’m constantly surrounded by other illustrators and designers and generally creative people.
There’s also a very nice cafe/bar on the ground floor that has yummy cakes during the day and live music every night.
I really love it!
Do you have a favourite book? One of yours or another author?
I don’t think I can say I have a favourite book… However one of the very last picture book I’ve stumbled upon and thought it was incredible was “The Rabbit And The Shadow”, it’s a French picture book by Melanie Rutten.
Did your parents encourage your creativity?
Not really. They didn’t stop me to do anything but they never particularly pushed me towards anything in particular either. Art in my house was just a thing to do for leisure after school, such as sports or hang out with friends. I guess they wanted me to have a regular job, like all the regular people. That’s why they weren’t thrilled when I announced them that I wanted to make illustration my day job. However, now that they have realised I actually make a living out of this, they’re a lot more chilled about it.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished being extra busy, working on a bunch of new books (and my first ever collaboration with a French publisher, wooo) and the idea was to slow down and have a chilled time over Christmas. However, I don’t think it’s going to happen…! I’m about to start on a new picture book for Hachette Australia and in January another one for Scholastic Australia, my third with them. I can’t really say much at the moment, all I will say is that I’m quite excited about these new projects coming up!