Monday, March 3, 2014

Fiona Sansom

How did you become an artist?

I have always enjoyed doing art or creative projects from a young age, whether a craft thing or painting, drawing or sculpture.  I think that when you have a little natural aptitude for something, be it art/crafts, maths, or athletics, you are drawn to doing them (at least at first) because you simply can’t help enjoying something when you seem to be good at it.  It’s much easier to enjoy something when it initially clicks for you at the start (the battle to become better starts later) than an immediate struggle.  Art definitely ‘clicked’ for me… whereas maths did not!  

Did you go to art school?

I did go to art school, but was a late starter.  I looked at further art education straight after high school, but did not like the direction the only school in my area would send me.  I liked realism and that was not in vogue.  Over ten years later I got a degree in Illustration at Kingston University (UK).  However in between that time I did various art related part time courses covering painting, drawing and sculpture.

Was there anyone that influenced you in becoming an artist?

My mother has always painted and encouraged me to do what I wanted in that direction.  Her work is not at all similar to mine, but growing up I could always use all her art supplies and she has always been very supportive.  I think without her influence I would not have considered that a career in art would have been feasible, or at least highly unlikely.

Is there one or more artists whose work is an influence?

I’m a traditionalist / figurative artist at heart, so the artists work I admire are in that vein are the likes of Rembrandt, Sargent and Ingres etc.  I have a big soft spot for the classic American illustrators like JC Leyendecker, NC Wyeth and Howard Pyle, as well as some of the English romantics like Edmund Blair Leighton and John William Waterhouse.  Growing up we didn’t actually have many picture books, but we did have a few Lady Bird books and I remember being extremely fond of the images in Cinderella by Eric Winter.  Also my mother had a large collection of the ‘How to Draw’ books by the Walter T. Foster publishers, which I’m sure influenced my desire for realism.  I also amassed a vast amount of Archie comics growing up, which surely has had some affect on me.

What inspires you?

Stories inspire me, which is probably why I’m an illustrator.  My imagination flows more readily from a good story.  I’m also drawn to faces and people and also to colour.

Would you like to share your work process?

Usually my process starts with getting a brief outline from the client of what they require, or if it’s personal work I have to make up a brief of my own.  I find it easier when I have a clear direction of where I like to go from the outset, or I muddle around and get nowhere.  Then I scribble down some rough ideas, that no-one but myself ever sees.  Very scribbly… so it can be really bad, but it doesn’t matter.  The first hurdle of getting anything down is usually the worst, because I procrastinate staring at a blank page.

I drawing everything digitally these days, so just create a new layer over the scribble and refine.  However, in the past I’d use a light box and just put a new piece of paper over the old to do the same thing.  Like looking at an ink blot, you can see all sorts of things in a scribble, that you may not if you try to get a ‘perfect’ drawing the first time.  If it was really complex and I had time, depending on the deadline, I’d try and work out rough tonal range of the image, then go to colour, blocking in all the colour roughly at first then refining. 

Are there links where more of your art can be seen?

My work can be seen at my website:

 What types of markets do you create art for?
I mainly work in children’s book publishing.  I have a great taste for fantasy art and I would like to do more of the teenage and adult market for that genre.

Do you do other things regarding art like teaching?

I don’t do any teaching.  I’m not sure I’d be very good at it.  Currently I feel like there’s so much more I want to learn that I’d rather study than teach.  I like to do other art related things purely for the pleasure of doing them, like life drawing and photography.  It all adds back in to the knowledge I use for my commercial work, but the main reason I do them is purely for the pleasure of it. 

Do you pursue other creative interests like writing or music?

I like to sing, but again only do it for my own pleasure and haven’t joined any groups etc.  I’d very much like to write children’s books, but having tried to do it on a small scale in University am very sure I’d have to dedicate a large portion of my time to improving.  It’s in my ‘love to do… but may never get around to it’ list.

Where can your art be seen? Is it on products, books, etc…?

You can find some of my books on Amazon:

What do you love best about what you do? 

I enjoy very much being a freelance illustrator and working for all kinds of clients.  There is enormous freedom, as well as a touch of trepidation, in that.  I also love that I can see my work start from a scribble to finish product and end up seeing it on a book or product. 

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