Emmeline Pidgen is an award-winning illustrator with a fresh ‘n’ femme style. With a knack for illustration, graphic design, advertising and graphic narrative to name a few, she’s got a helluva lot of pencils up her sleeve. Now based in the North West of England, Emmeline graduated from University of College Falmouth with a BA in Illustration in 2010. With six illustrated children’s books to her name, she’s got a pretty impressive artsy CV. Whether it’s her A New Perspective Cushion or her Woodland Chase Notebook, she’s got some great products out there just waiting for you to click them into your living room.
We spoke to Emmeline about the trials and tribulations of freelancing, and asked her what comes to mind when she puts a pencil on the page.
What do you love most about illustration?
Illustration is such a great creative outlet; be it for a brief or for the sake of creating, it’s an expression of yourself, your feelings and imagination. I love the idea that illustration is a translation of your thoughts and imagination into the physical world.
What’s the hardest part of freelancing?
It can be really tough to go it alone in the creative industry for a number of reasons – it’s such a competitive industry, you’re reliant on yourself and there are never any guarantees that you will make a living from it. So I think the hardest part is not giving up on it when you do hit a rocky patch. You have to remember that it’s really what you love and you’re doing it for a reason.
What was the most important thing you learnt from your degree?
I wouldn’t say that there was any one lecture or project that clicked everything in to place. It was more a case of discovering what I really wanted to illustrate and how I work as a creative person that really stuck with me after the three years.
Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s illustrators?
Try to stay in touch with your memories of what you loved as a child. Just remember the things you found exciting as you turned a new page in your favourite books – what did you love about the characters? Was it the detailed backgrounds that always caught you? What made you want to read more?
What process did you go through to get your picture books published?
For the majority of my picture book commissions I’ve been contacted directly by the publisher or author as a result of my self-promotion, social media presence or recommendations of my work. Freelancing is all about building connections and relationships alongside the promotion of your work, rather than the hard-sell.
If you could only draw one thing for the rest of time what would it be?
Probably ladies faces, judging from my doodles, I draw a lot of them! I think people always find it a little easier to draw people that look like themselves in some way, especially when drawing for creative release. I can always tell what mood I’ve been in when I look at the emotions of the doodles I’ve drawn.
What process do you go through when you start working on an illustration?
I usually start with a few pencil roughs, just to wrap my head around a basic composition and character design. I then either take this into ink brush linework or straight into digital work for colouring. For commissions I tend to spend a lot longer on the roughs stage to make sure everything’s set with the client before final artwork, but with my self-initiated pieces I often jump straight into finals as I know what I want from it.
What kind of projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on a book cover as part of a heritage series for Egmont, and I’m just prepping up to start a new picture book commission. On the side I’m illustrating some fan art for Avatar: The Last Airbender (brilliant show!) and the Divergent book series by Veronica Roth (exciting books!), as well as a selections of heroines from 17th Century Britain.