This is the latest instalment in an occasional series of blogposts, in which some of our authors and illustrators share their favourite working spots. Today, Leigh Hodgkinson, author and illustrator of Goldilocks and Just the One Bear, Troll Swap, and the soon-to-be-published The Big Monster Snorebook, takes us inside her shed…
My commute to work is approximately 31 steps (or a few more if I have to circumnavigate the odd space hopper or rogue icky slug). I work in the shed at the bottom of the garden. It is bliss, but terribly messy. I keep meaning to tidy it and make it all wonderfully aspirational – but as I am the mother of two children that is just not possible. As every moment I have to work is incredibly precious and I need to make the most of every slice of time.
I have two desks in my shed. The one in the photo is where I do all my real life actual artwork – where I get to pretend I am a proper artist with inky paintily hands and find lovely jars to put brushes and pencils in.
There are two things I can never throw away, Bonne Maman jam jars, and Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup jars. They are things of great beauty and should be cherished. So on my desk are a gaggle of them. I am quite embarrassed about the state of the water in my paint jar. My little girl has taken to coming in to the shed to paint and draw while I work, and even she commented on it saying she couldn’t possibly clean brushes in that.
The jar of old Christmas nuts on the left of the photo, are waiting to have little faces painted onto them when I have time. The penny whistle in a jar is tooted loudly when I get frustrated about not being able to draw something the way I want it to look.
I love using things that have had a previous life, like every object has its own history and story. I got my 1950s formica table from a junk shop in London when I lived there. Its bright yellow top is such a happy colour, that even in the grey glooms of winter, the shed is warm and welcoming (assisted of course by the hard working little heater!) The chair I found on a street in London when I lived there. I painted it red and reupholstered it with a loud flowery 1970s polyester shirt that I got from a charity shop and wore as a student before I turned all sensible.
The other desk is where I do all my digital work… where I scan artwork in to tweak and polish and make it look like I want it to look. This is also where I write new stories and try and not to get distracted and overwhelmed by the internet. Around this desk is series of little string washing lines where I peg up things that inspire me. From a family portrait by my daughter and postcards of stuff to picture book dust jackets that I love and don’t want to get crinkled by my enthusiastic little boy.
I like to work quickly and only really draw things once. I hope that this is not due to laziness, but to do with the fact that I like the line and colour to feel alive and not all stale and overworked. I use a smorgasboard of techniques and materials that are around me (pen and ink/collage from homemade textures/crayon scribbles/ paint/ pencil). I find the combination of working freely at my messy desk and then digitally hopefully allows the work to maintain its energetic spirit. As the work I do digitally is to finalise colour and composition and of course erase the odd ink smudge where I wasn’t patient enough to wait for it to dry before scanning it in.
Thank you, Leigh! The Big Monster Snoreybook will be out in May – you can take a look inside the book below, or pre-order it online here.