Artist Spotlight Interview with the talented Corrina Holyoake, a children’s illustrator and author.
Fairy Tales Imagery welcomes the wonderful UK based illustration artist and author Corrina Holyoake! She has been illustrating children’s picture books for other authors for the past five years and has recently self published her own book Animania – An alphabet book with a twist. Corrina’s illustration work is created by her skillful use in several working mediums, beginning with pastels and watercolours to block in colour for the background. She next moves to Derwent intense and watercolour pencils for the characters. Lastly, Corrina swaps mediums to prismacolour pencils for finer detailing and finalizes the art digitally. Corrina’s gorgeous work in color highlight her whimsical characters and enchanting art. Let’s jump right in and take a peek into Corrina’s magical art and storybook world!
Tell us how you have developed your style and where you hope to see this style evolve as you continue to work and grow as an artist.
My style seems to be constantly evolving and I am honestly not sure what is in store. I would love to incorporate my decorative art pieces into an illustrative style somehow or my impressionistic landscapes. I really want to try and merge my fine art and illustrations somehow but I haven’t had the time to experiment. For now I do know that my heart lies with traditionally painted pieces so one thing that will always remain the same is that there will be a lot of hand painting, leaving the digital stuff as an enhancement tool. I am not knocking digital work, there is some amazing work out there, it’s just my own personal taste.
Did you have a point in your art career or personal life that had a significant defining and affecting moment on your work and style?
I have always painted throughout my life but when my children came along it all stopped. I didn’t pick up a brush for a good 5/6 years and I probably wouldn’t have done so if it wasn’t for a big change in my life. My Dad passed away in 2009 and it really gave me a big wake up call. I turned to art as therapy to start with and then it released something in me that I had never experienced before. I have always been passionate about art but this time I had a bunch of determination behind me that wasn’t there before. I have literally not stopped painting and sketching since then. I am constantly evolving with my artwork and still trying to perfect my style.
What part of your art process captivates you when developing and creating the art for your children’s illustrations?
That’s quite a tricky. I love sitting down and reading the manuscript for the first time, jotting down ideas of all the images I get in my head. You have to think of illustrations that tells a story so when I see ideas in my head I know that is what I should go with. So far all the authors have agreed with my initial thoughts, however occasionally I have to go with completely different ideas and a fun challenge.
I love creating the characters and building a relationship with the client. It is such a lovely feeling bringing someones writing to life and it is so nice when you can see how excited they are seeing the illustrations. It really does give me a warm and fuzzy feeling, it is like I am giving them a little present with each email. So it is hard to just pin point one part of the process, I enjoy the whole journey, the only bit I don’t like is doing the last illustration. That is always sad because those characters become a big part of your life and then all of a sudden you have to stop drawing them.
What would your ideal studio look like?
Oh wow…. Drifting away into dream land here. It would be a log cabin at the back of a huge garden overlooking the countryside. Lots of space at one end to paint large paintings and then the other end with a desk and study for my illustration work and a really comfy armchair in front of a log fire for my writing. That reminds me, I must get a lotto ticket this weekend, lol.
How did you get started on Animal Stories for the Young and connect with the author? What has been the process like for working on three books in a series and how has your art changed/ evolved? from book to book?
I was introduced to Mr Burrow through the publishers Melrose Books who I have worked previously on several books. It is great to have a series of books out there and it is very interesting to go back and look at the first book to the latest as there is a big difference! Shall we say, I have improved quite a bit since the first book! When I worked on the first book I was hand painting everything, it was in book two that I started playing digitally. It was the introduction of a Wacom tablet in book 3 that really changed things. I still try to keep my pieces mainly traditionally based but you can see where I am experimenting with digital hokery pokery throughout the series. I am really keen to see what book 4 looks like. I have yet to invest in photoshop but that will be the next step. It is quite fascinating to see how my style evolved through that series. I am now working on another book for My Burrow based on his dog Zoe, this time going back to my traditional roots, so more experimenting.
The great thing with those books is that they have taught me so much in the terms of drawing different subjects and characters. Some scenes really did test my skills and I still get stumped with some concepts but I manage to get through it. Did you know Mr Burrow will be 101 this December? He is a remarkable man and it has been a unique working relationship.
I have had some lovely comments from clients over the years. I get a lot of people saying that looking at my work makes them happy and I love that, because that is exactly what I try to achieve.
This is one of my favourite testimonials to date:
“Working with Corrina is an absolute pleasure. She is fully committed to the ideas set before her and is clearly passionate about her art. I particularly enjoy the working relationship which often includes an exchange of ideas to produce the best illustrations. She brings characters to life in a unique, quirky and appealing style which is very endearing.”
Sharon A. Latibeaudiere – Author of Cedric The Giraffe and Tammy’s Tummy
What draws you in and inspires you in other artists work?
Hmm, well I am a bit of a Jekyl and Hyde with my work, much as I am in person. There are many different sides to me which is reflected in my art taste. I love humorous cartoon styles for illustration work and the classical old fashioned illustrations, there is something really magical about them. I also have a big passion for landscapes, dark and quite macabre pieces, surreal art, tasteful erotica and pieces that tell a story. I am drawn to pieces that literally smack you in the face, whether that is with the use of colour or something that is so strange and compelling that you can’t help but stare at it. A painting to me has to tell a story in some way, I am not your bowl of fruit or vase of flowers kinda girl.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given that continues to motivate you and inspire you to keep going even during the creative slumps or when you feel you just hit a road block in advancing your skills as an artist?
It sounds so obvious but… don’t give up! We all have those horrible moments where we question why we do what we do and get so frustrated with things but it helps me knowing that we all go through it. Even the great artists went through the same battles and were rejected over and over again. The difference between the people that are successful and those that aren’t is that they kept going. It takes a long long time to hone your skills and you might never be 100% happy with some pieces but you will get better, that is guaranteed. So if you are having an I can’t do this moment, take a little breather. Step away for a bit or what I tend to do, I paint something purely for me. Once I have had my therapy session with a paintbrush then I try again. It works every time. As much a I threaten, I honestly don’t think I ever could give this up. It is too big a part of my life now to give it all up.
I like that you have a “darker” art section in your portfolio online. Is it hard to go back and forth between children’s artistry and the darker illustrations? Is it hard to get the darker art noticed if more people are drawn to your children’s artistry because of the books your illustrations have been featured?
Oh I love this question. I would soooo love to experiment more with my paintings. The last time I painted a canvas was around 3 years ago and I really really miss it. I am really hoping to go back in to it one day and put a hold on the illustrating work for a little bit to experiment more. It was suppose to happen this year but 2016 I am hoping is the year to do that.
Yes, I love dark art and it is an area I have only dabbled in a little bit. My fallen angels were a big hit when I did them and I keep getting asked when I will do them again. I also enjoy my aboriginal decorative pieces and my landscapes. To be honest all 3 styles seem to of had a lot of love and yes I did sell quite a bit but nothing in comparison to what I get with illustrating. Do you know what is really odd, I have more feedback and love for my fine art than I do with my illustrations yet the illustrations bring the jobs in… how does that work then, lol. Do I find it hard swapping from style to style? No, I absolutely love it and one of my main frustrations is not having the time to do that, but it will happen one day. I really want to paint my landscapes up and to paint my angels up into a series. Hopefully 2016 will be the year to get the canvases out.
Tell us about your book Animania! The idea, process from start to finish, and your favorite illustration from it.
Animania is my baby, it is the first book that I have written and illustrated and I self published it earlier this year. The original idea is something my son came up with a few years back. We were having one of our nonsense chats on the way to school discussing what animals we could make up by mixing them together and what we could call them etc. We came up with characters such as the Prickly Python, Antosaurus and Kissies. A little light bulb switched on flashing ‘picture book.’ So I was going to write a story based on that concept but after doing some research I noticed that there was already a book out on the market like that…typical! So I changed the idea and thought I would turn it into an alphabet book with a twist. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because now not only have I got a fun and silly little book it is also an educational tool.
It took me around a year to complete, about a month for putting the manuscript together then about another ten for the illustrations. During this time the manuscript got edited several times as the characters evolved. Then it took another couple of months to lay the book out and get it ready for uploading to Createspace.
Hmmm favourite illustration… gosh… I would have to go with K for Kissies.
When have you been the most satisfied with your work and what illustration or art piece in your gallery feels connected the most to “you”
The most satisfied is the publication of Animania. The book has “me” stamped all over it. It was so much fun to create as I feel that it shows everyone exactly what I am all about and what I am trying to do with my work which is to inject a bit of fun and silliness into life. I am not the most serious person you will come across, I am just a big kid at heart who likes to have a giggle, so yes, Animania sums me up perfectly.
On the other end of the scale, the fallen angels are very personal to me too and although I want to paint them better, I am really pleased with a couple of them.
What other things in life inspire you creatively when you are creating a new illustration?
My travels and upbringing play a huge part in my love for colour. I was bought up in Africa until 11 and have travelled extensively throughout my life. All of these experiences have been a huge inspiration to me. Other than travelling, my children inspire me daily, I love the way children see things and they are the constant source of my inspiration when it comes to my illustration and writing.
I also really like your decorative art section of your portfolio, can you tell us about some of your favorite pieces and what inspired you?
The decorative art is something I learned on my travels around Australia. Me and my hubby went backpacking around Australia before children and one of the jobs I took was as an aboriginal artist. I was taught the techniques behind aboriginal art and what the symbols meant. It is a style that is still very dear to my heart and I would love to experiment more with the style to try and incorporate it into my illustrations somehow. When we came back from Australia, I went through a phase of painting everything in this style, pots, vases, frames, canvases, you name it and it was probably painted, lol. It’s hard to pick a favourite from that style.
Where do you show your work and where can fans view your portfolio?
I am also active on facebook https://www.facebook.com/corrinascreations and twitter (@corrinaholyoake or ais4animania Corrina Holyoake (@corrinaholyoake) | Twitter ) and have accounts on PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM and LINKEDIN all under Corrina Holyoake.