She has illustrated 30 children’s books spanning over 17 years with characters filled with emotion that jump off the page letting the reader totally feel the story.
Lynne Chapman – Expressive Picture Book Characters Course
I am currently working on my own first children’s picture book and have found Lynne’s video tutorial course ‘Expressive Picture Book Characters’ absolutely invaluable.
She walks you through the process using her own brilliant examples and taught me bucket loads of tricks and tips. It is so valuable to see someone who has been hugely successful explain the technique and thinking behind it.
This is one of the best art courses I have ever done and of the highest standard both in Lynne’s content and presentation and the video production.
I would recommend this to any artist – novice or expert as there is a lot to be learned from this talented illustrator. The course is available on Craftys.com and I highly recommend it!
She has had a wonderful artistic career which has magically evolved into something tailor made for her.
Artistic life can be a very lonely experience for some but Lynne has managed to combine her artistic, teaching and social skills to perfection.
When you love drawing, love interacting with other artists and the general public and earn a living it must be the perfect job.
Lynne Chapman and Urban Sketching
Lynne Chapman is well known for her childrens book illustrations but she is involved in much more. For those of you who are not familiar with Urban Sketching and reportage Art this is a fascinating interview in which she discusses unique situations during some unusual collaborations.
She has a busy month in September 2017 with a Residency at Orchard Square, Sheffield and is running a number of courses. There are a few places left but they are going fast. If you are interested please contact lynne on her e-mail address (see below). She explains the events and available courses in the podcast.
I was delighted when Lynne agreed to record the podcast on 24th August 2017 and it was an absolute pleasure to listen to her lifelong experiences as an artist.
You can listen to the full podcast of the Lynne Chapman interview here…
If you would like to read the Lynne Chapman interview scroll down to the Podcast transcription below…
Or join Lynnes mailing list: https://eepurl.com/cYVDGb
www.lynnechapman.net – urban sketching / reportage website
www.lynnechapman.co.uk – book illustration website
https://lynnechapman.blogspot.co.uk – blog (mix of both, and more)
You can also find Lynne on the following Social networks:
@lynnepencil – Twitter
lynnepencil – Instagram
lynne.chapman.illustrator – Facebook
Rob: Hello, I’m Rob Nesbitt and this is the ProCartoon.com podcast. In this episode of the podcast, I talked to the British artist Lynne Chapman. I’ve long admired Lynne Chapman’s beautiful children’s book illustrations, ever since my children were first encouraged to read.
She’s illustrated 30 children’s books spanning over 17 years, with characters filled with emotion that jump off the page, letting the reader totally feel the story.
She’s had a wonderful artistic career which has magically evolved into what I believe is now something tailor made for her. Artistic life can be a very lonely experience for some, but Lynne has managed to combine her artistic teaching and social skills to perfection. When you love drawing, love interacting with other artists and the general public, and can earn a living, it must be the perfect job. I was delighted when Lynne agreed to record the podcast on the 24th of August, 2017 and it was an absolute pleasure to listen to her lifelong experiences as a professional artist.
Rob: Where did your artistic career begin and have you other artists in the family?
Lynne: Yes, I do. My granddad was a completely self taught artist many, many, many years ago. He started off as a decorator, actually, but he was just an imaginative decorator that used to paint murals on the [inaudible 00:01:52] walls, you know. And he worked his way up from that to somehow being a restoration artist, and to the extent that he actually did the ceiling of Blenheim Palace and met the Queen. So I think it’s one of those things you could do in those days, because he’d got no education whatsoever. That, of course, wouldn’t work now without a degree. So he definitely was an artist and my mother, as a consequence, was also very artistic and wanted to go to art college, and never got there. So when I declared that I wanted to be an artist and go to art college, instead of doing what a lot of parents do, which is recoiling in horror, my mom and dad were very supportive and were well up for it. So I was very fortunate.
And when I began, I thought I wanted to be a fine artist. I think, for some reason, illustration never occurred to me and was never suggested to me. [inaudible 00:03:00] my foundation course. But, anyway, I applied to be a fine artist, didn’t get in, realized why and that it wasn’t for me, and ended up doing a degree in printed textile design at what was then Middlesex Polytechnic and is now Middlesex University in London. And I did that because they allowed me to paint and draw from life in a very, kind of, imaginative and colorful way, and then just as a side thing, of course, I learned how to put it all into repeat and make crazy fabrics, which was really good fun. And I had a wonderful three years, but at the end of it, when I graduated, I realized that I didn’t really want to be in textiles, anymore.
But I was very lucky. I had a lucky break, one of those chance things that sometimes happens. At my degree show, I had a lot of sketch books with boys drawn. Somebody saw them and commissioned me to design some greetings cards. So I never, ever worked as a textile designer. From day one I became an illustrator and I did the greetings cards for as long as I could bear it, and then I decided I would move into editorial illustrations. So I worked fine arts across loads of different magazines and newspapers, because there’s so many [inaudible 00:04:28] And I did that for about eight years, which was fantastic because it really taught me my craft. It taught me how to communicate through my drawings. But it was very high stress, very short deadlines, and you had to constantly be reminding people that you exist because you would design a magazine, do an illustration for a magazine, for maybe half a dozen issues if you were lucky and then they wanted a new face. So it was hard work.
So I decided I didn’t really want to do that forever, and then I moved north and moved to Shefford, and it dwindled anyway as things used to do in those days when you didn’t live in London. So I taught in the university in Shefford for a while and got my head together, and then decided that I wanted to be a picture book illustrator.
So that was kind of a turning point. I stopped teaching, put together a new portfolio of work, which didn’t matter in the end, and then went around all the publishers of children’s books and managed, fortunately, to get back to work. And I did that for about the last 17 years, I think, that I’ve been a picture book illustrator. I’ve got something just over 30 books published.
But all the time I was doing that, I was still drawing in sketch books. Not as much as I do now, but, you know, I would never go a whole year without going on holiday and taking a sketch book with me. And what changed things was when the internet became, kind of, universal and artists started to post their drawings. And instead of having all these sketch books on my shelves that nobody ever saw them except me, I started to post the drawings I was doing and I got noticed by somebody called Gabi Campanario and he just started the previous year this new organization called Urban Sketchers. And he was somebody who loves drawing out on location, and he had met up with a few other people and they’d realized probably there’s a lot of us around the place.
So he went out to try and find people, and his idea was to choose different people from different cultures all around the world and bring them all together on this one website and get them all to start posting their work. To hopefully bring loads of other people out of the woodwork all over the world, and it worked so much better than he could even have dreamed and it’s just been a meteoric rise.
We had our 10 year anniversary this year and it’s just massive. There are…oh, I don’t even know how many people. Tens of thousands of people that are drawing obsessively all around the world, posting their work. Everybody is doing it differently. It’s just so, so exciting and inspiring, and I would really recommend anybody to have a look. UrbanSketchers.org.
It’s just so exciting to see the stuff people are posting. The .org website is the people, like myself, who were chosen. So I think there’s about 100 of us. But there’s also a Facebook page and that is one where anybody can post to. So you can start uploading your stuff right this minute to the Facebook page.
So it’s just a lovely…you get a feeling of belonging. Instead of being this lone artist who, kind of, scribbles away on their own, you know, room somewhere, suddenly I started to feel like I belonged to a family. And I set up a group where I live, Sketch Crawlers, and that’s sort of, like, kind of a sister thing to urban sketching. And what that is is where a group of you go out together and sometimes it’s just for a few hours. I always do it for a day trip, and anyone can come. Part of the rules of it are that it shall be free and it’s completely inclusive, and you don’t have to be any good and you just get the buzz from going out and sketching alongside a bunch of other people. So I run Urban Sketchers Yorkshire and people from all over Yorkshire, and a long way beyond that, come out for day trips with me and we just hang out together and draw.
So I’ve been doing that now since 2010 every month and that, again, has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. And it has rules. urban sketching, if you go to their website you can see that it has a manifesto. All very proper. But basically the main rule is that you draw from life, but you draw real life as it’s passing by you. You don’t do still lives, you don’t do portraits, life drawing. That’s something else is we’re going out there and witnessing the world and recording it in our own way. It doesn’t have to be photographic or anything, you can be very creative and you can have fun with it, but you’re true to what’s out there. And part of the experience of it is being out there in the moment, traffic whizzing past you or people playing in the park and hearing the birds and feeling the wind in your hair. It’s the whole package, which is why it’s so different from sitting at home in a studio. And which is why it so appealed to me, because my job all those years of being an illustrator was be on my own in a room every single day.
And so it was the perfect foil to being an illustrator, to go out and play with my chums or just go out and…I just love the fact that whenever I go out and draw, people come up to me and everybody’s terrified of this idea of people looking over your shoulder. But the big thing with it is to realize that when people do that, they’re not thinking like you think they are. Oh, blimey, that’s rubbish. What they’re actually thinking is, “Oh, God, I used to draw. God, yeah, I used to love drawing at school.” Or “I went to art college. God, I haven’t done it since.” Or “I wish I could do that.” Or “how brave is that person doing that where I can come and look over their shoulder?” It’s always positive, and so what you have to do is just turn around and smile at them and have a little conversation to diffuse the tension, and it adds to the experience.
So I’ve had really brilliant experiences all over the world. Even if you don’t share language, sometimes it’s even better because you have these amazing moments of bonding with complete strangers in places where you had nothing else in common. And they become quite magical experiences. I’ve been invited into people’s homes in India, you know. It’s just really interesting how things happen to you that would never happen otherwise.
So that is really the joy of urban sketching, and the only other thing that I should probably share with you is that every year Urban Sketchers, because it’s a global thing, they hold this symposium and it’s sort of three full days. But because it’s a global thing, it rotates around different countries. So it’s in a different place each year, and so you can travel to wherever and meet all the sketchers from around the world that are traveling to the same place and drawing together. So we’ve just come back from Chicago, which was where it was this year, and there were 600 people there drawing on the streets in the center of Chicago from all over the place. And just brilliant. And there’s workshops and talks and demonstrations and just hanging out and doing sketch drawing together. So that, also, is quite a lovely aspect of Urban Sketchers.
Rob: Craftsy is a valuable teaching and learning resource for crafters. I recently completed your course on expressive picture book characters which, I have to say, was excellent. Not just for people who are starting out but for people like meself who are experienced. And I learned an awful lot about it, particularly about, you know, where to position heads and eyes. And I learned a lot that I’d never really thought of before, so thanks for that.
Lynne: No, that’s excellent. Great.
Rob: How did this come about and how did you find the experience working with Craftsy and Sketchbook School?
Lynne: Well, it came out of the blue, to be honest. I had no idea that Crafsty existed and they do mainly cooking and sewing and knitting and more traditional crafts, and they were branching out into painting and drawing and illustration. And they were looking for illustrators, and so somebody contacted me. I think it was, like, an [inaudible 00:14:26] through somebody and they said did I want to do it? And they left it up to me, really, what I wanted to share. And so I thought about, really, what was most important thing that I thought I could share, and I said, well, you know I can teach people how to do artwork but that, you know, a lot of different people could do that. But the thing that’s kind of unique to illustration, and particularly to the sort of illustration I was doing for the picture books, was this ability to create a character that communicates certain things, that lives, that has real emotions, and basically seems to jump off the page.
So I decided that’s what I wanted to teach, and I didn’t go any further than just drawing with a pencil. So I didn’t bother with artwork. It’s just, purely, about drawing. It was really interesting because the preparation of it was a doddle because it was all stuff that I just had been in so long I knew it inside out. It just rolled out of me. And then they flew me to Denver, where they had a proper recording studio. So it was just exciting. It was just so much fun. It was something that I’d never done before and they were absolutely brilliant, I have to say.
I had a team of three guys that I worked with and we had our own little room for, I think, it was three days to record it. And they, all of them, knew what they were doing. They were all brilliant and they knew how to get the best out of me. And I, kind of, you know, I’m a show off. I like talking about stuff. So I had no problem, I wasn’t shy in front of the cameras, and it was just a real laugh. So I loved it. So then when Sketchbook School came along a little bit later and they said, oh, would you like to do a film? I jumped at it.
And it was a bit different. It was still good, but they came to me. So they’ve got two people who kind of run it. One’s based in Amsterdam and one’s based in America, and so the person in Amsterdam directed the film but she came to my studio and she hired a local film crew. And we filmed the whole thing in my house and on the street just around the corner from my house, where I had to do a painting, sort of, with a camera on my shoulder on demand. Which was a little bit more stressful, but no pressure. I was particularly given that they wanted me to draw people because I’d recently had a book come out about drawing people, so they thought, yeah, they’d get a lot of interest in that. So, yeah, it wasn’t an easy thing to do but it worked out fine. And, again, they were delightful and it was fantastic. And they edited it all together and I got to see it, and I was just really, really pleased with what they did with it. It was a really professional job.
Rob: The Craftsy course, I thought the standard of production was excellent on that and I can see that, as you said, the people you worked with they must have been very good at their job because not only is the content excellent, which is down to you, but I thought the quality of the video and the presentation was absolutely first class. And it’s one of the few teaching resources that I’ve bought. I thought, yeah, this lives up to the mark and it didn’t cost the Earth, either. Through discussions I’ve had with you before, although public speaking is only a small part of your work at the moment, I believe you would like to do more?
Lynne: Yes. As I said, I love telling people about what I do. I’m very, very, very fortunate that I don’t get nervous. I don’t quite know why, but you can put me in front of a thousand people and I’m fine. So I can actually enjoy public speaking without having that problem. And over the years when I’ve been a children’s book illustrator, I’ve been into schools and I’ve done lectures for kids talking about what I do. And, occasionally, I would get to do them for adults because the lovely thing about picture books, actually, is whether you’re 4 or whether you’re, you know, 100 people are interested in it in different ways. So talking about it worked for any age group.
So over the years I’ve talked about the illustration, you know, quite a lot, but I started to think about other things that I can talk about. And occasionally I get asked to talk about urban sketching. I’ve talked for various art groups, and I did a lecture at one of the symposiums. And I just really enjoy it. I love the idea that, A, I can talk about something that I love, but the spin off of that is that, hopefully, you inspire a whole load of other people to sort of run away buzzing to go and get on with it. And so it’s kind of a win-win situation.
I got to do the lecture at the symposium last year, which was, as it happened, in Manchester, because I just finished doing an art residency and so I really wanted to share that. And basically that was where I was actually, for the very first time, getting paid to do the urban sketching. So up until very recently, urban sketching was being a fun thing that I do as a foil to the illustration, which is how I make my living, but about 18 months ago something happened that just changed everything again and it’s all flipped. And it’s another new start because I got a bit bored with doing the children’s books. Although it’s a great way to make a living and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself, 17 years is a long time.
Rob: It is.
Lynne: Doing the same thing. And particularly if you’re a creative, because you’re doing something which looks really creative but, actually, people want you to do what you’ve done before. And so it’s the trap of being a success is that you don’t get to try new stuff because everybody wants what’s successful. So after 17 years of being a children’s book illustrator, I was ready for a change. And so when this opportunity came up, I basically bit their arm off.
Rob: Going back on what you said earlier, you must be so lucky because there are people running courses about how not to be nervous in front of people. So that is one hell of an asset to have. I mean, I do a fair bit with my art work and I do fire safety stuff, as well, and standing up in front of an audience…and, like, I don’t even know why people get nervous, but we do. And if you don’t you can just focus on what you do really well. That’s great.
Lynne: Absolutely. Yeah, I do know it is absolutely brilliant. I’m just so lucky. Yeah, I get butterflies but only in a positive way, you know. It’s anticipation that I feel. I never feel sick, and it seems to me, whether there’s six people listening or a thousand people, what is the difference? I mean, in reality, there isn’t really, is there? It’s just some kind of weird reaction that we have that is quite illogical. So if you don’t get it you’re just very fortunate, and I imagine it’s quite rare.
Rob: You currently have a series of residencies as a reportage artist. Could you describe the work you’re involved with and what has attracted you to it?
Lynne: Well, it’s this idea of doing something that’s much more about being out there and amongst people, rather than something that’s me on my own. Because I’m a people person, you know, I like being out amongst people. And I think because it came at a time, the opportunity came along at a time when I was ready to move on, it just seemed right. And basically what happened was that, again, out of the blue I got an email from a professor who works at the Morgan Centre for Research Into Everyday Lives. And that’s a research center attached to Manchester University. And she had realized the correlation between the research they do and the things they’re interested in, and what I do when I’m urban sketching. Basically, we’re interested in the same stuff, the everyday stuff, and she’d spotted an opportunity for some funding.
Leverhulme Trust run these residencies every year. It’s a brilliant idea. It’s just such a simple, clever idea. They just want an organization that has nothing to do with the arts to find an artist of any kind, be it poet, dancer, whatever, and think up a way in which they can work together. It’s quite loose, and all they’re interested in is the cross fertilization that happens over the course of 10 months. So we decided that it would be really fun for me to try and document the work that was done at the Morgan Centre over one academic year. So I went two days a week and I hung about the students and I was a fly on the wall in the [inaudible 00:24:59] of the research.
I went out on research projects. That was the best bit because they’re, you know, they’re sociologists, basically, and I know nothing about sociology. So I learned all this stuff, but it was really fun and the stuff they were interested in was really interesting. So, for instance, my favorite project of the ones I did was a project called Dormant Things, and it’s researcher was interested in the fact that, as human beings, we all have stuff. Stuff that we don’t really want, stuff we don’t really need, stuff that we wish we could throw away but we don’t. Somehow, we can’t quite let go of a lot of stuff. So we shove it in drawers and attics and cellars, and basically hide it away and don’t have to look at it, but we can’t put it in the bin. So what on Earth is that about? So that’s what she was interested in.
So we would go into peoples homes, that she’d obviously prewarned, and rummage through their understairs cupboards or wherever they had stuff, and they would talk about what these objects meant to them and why they had this particular resonance that wouldn’t let them quite get rid of them and let go. And while they were doing this, I would be frantically scribbling trying to draw them and also trying to record some of the stories that went with the drawings. So I weave text around my drawings when I’m doing the reportage stuff, and it was just really challenging but part of what gives me the buzz, actually, is the crazy challenge of being sat in somebody’s hole on the floor, in the semi-darkness because I’ve only got a [inaudible 00:26:52] in the light, and then you can only half see what they’re doing and they’re talking too fast and they’re going through the objects quicker than I can draw them. I mean it’s crazy, but the challenge of it is what’s fun for me.
So I did loads of these different research projects over the 10 months, and I recorded the various sketches on these great big long strips of watercolor paper, because one of the problems with sketchbooks…I love sketchbooks but they’re really hard to share. A book…you cannot exhibit a book, you know? It’s difficult. So I thought, well, I’m going to have all these sketch books at the end of this and I’m not going to do anything with them. So I decided I would use this concertina system. So I made strips that were two meters long, concertinaed them up so that what I ended up with was an A5 sketchbook, and I could then just work my way through, kind of unfolding it as I went, and just weave the things together.
And one of the things that happened when I did that was I realized how exciting that was, because time isn’t a series of definitive images like we get in a sketchbook. No, when you’re drawing over the course of a day, it all blurs together. And so I was able to do these blurred together paintings that sometimes were one, two meter piece of artwork for a day’s meeting. And then when you finished, you could open it up and you’ve somehow got this thing that sums up a day, and you can share it.
And what was really good was at the end of a really stuffy meeting where I’d been painting away in the corner, I could throw this thing down on a table and it has this real ta-dah moment. Dramatic and big and crazy, and people would come and they’d look and they’d go, “Oh, my God. Have you just been doing that?” You know, “My God, there’s me.” You know? And it was a really good way in drawing other people in. And so one of the things that the researchers found was not only was it useful as a way of recording, and I recorded different things to the things that they recorded in text, but it also quickly became apparent that it was a brilliant tool for actual engagement.
So I’ve got new residencies coming up, particularly there’s one with York University that we’re doing next year, and that’s going to be an [inaudible 00:29:37] completely different. That’s going to be about cross-infection in cystic fibrosis sufferers. And I’ve been talking to people in hospitals that are suffering with cystic fibrosis and we’re going to be recording some of the issues that they have to deal with. But the point of it, in that situation, is this idea of engagement because what we’re going to do is use the drawings as a communication tool. So we’re going to take the views of the individuals and then show them to people who design hospitals. Architects, managers, various people who are involved in this whole, kind of, world and it’s a very quick communicator of a, kind of, summing up of the main points, but it’s also, you know, it pulls people in, engages them, gets them talking. And so it has this other role that’s involved, naturally, and sort of bubbled to the top.
And I’m doing another residency with a researcher who’s interested in people who care for people with dementia, and we’re using it to actually get people who are the carers to talk about some of the issues by me painting with them and drawing them and then using the drawings I’ve done of them to get them to talk more. And that, also, has proved to be quite interesting. So that’s, like, another, sort of, swipe right. So this thing that started with me just drawing a few people on the train and bamming them on the internet has sort of evolved into this whole new world, and I don’t really know where it’s going but it’s really exciting. And I want more of it. And it is interesting, the things that [inaudible 00:31:31] surface all over the place. So I find hopeful that it’s not a flash in the pan and that I may be able to do this work, you know, as my living.
Rob: This sounds really interesting. You’ve had me fascinated just listening to these different projects. Just out of curiosity, when you were going through people’s houses and through their cupboards and drawers, was anybody filming this? Is it out there, anywhere, because I’d love to watch that?
Lynne: Well, it’s interesting you should say that. We couldn’t use film while I was doing the research interviews with the researchers because there’s confidentiality involved.
Lynne: So one of the problems I had was I love drawing people but I couldn’t draw faces, because, you know, people didn’t want to be recognized. So we couldn’t take photographs and have film, but Manchester University did stump up for a film maker to do a film about the residency, and there is film of me painting in other, less contentious situations. And that is on my website. And, again, that’s really interesting because that has me talking about my take on the work in the way I have been sharing with you, but, of course, the researchers have a slightly different take on it. And they talk, as well, about, kind of, their feelings about how it went.
So, yes, because one of the other things in Manchester, one of the other things I had to do, they decided that they wanted to learn to do sketching for themselves. And so we designed into the project the challenge for me to teach a bunch of academics who weren’t artists in any way, shape, or form to be able to be able to, A, be confident enough and, B, to have basic skills to be able to record. And what they wanted to do was be able to use some of the things that were appealing to them about what I was doing when I’d gone. And it went really well. They were such a nice bunch of people, I have to say. The Morgan Centre has this reputation, apparently, in the world of sociology around the world for being a really nice bunch of people who are really creative and art fluent, and they were.
And so they all just threw themselves into it, to the extent that, actually, the researcher who was doing the project on dementia, he got so excited that he said to me one day, “I was learning to play the piano and I’ve given it up.” You know, “I’ve got to learn to draw.” But it was fantastic. So, yeah, it was a really, really lovely experience.
Rob: Yeah. You said I hope this develops, and I think it will. I mean, I use things like Mind Lapse to record events, individual events, but what you’re talking about is, like, an art map of each event that you go to. And it’s much easier, you’re quite right, for anything visual gets the point over straight away, smacks you straight in the face, rather than a series of words, like a report. So I think you’ve got a lot of mileage to come out of this, myself.
Lynne: Yeah, let’s hope so. I mean…actually, one of the things I forgot to mention, stupidly, is I’m actually going to Australia with it in January. I’ve managed to bag two months with an occupational psychologist in Perth, in the University of Western Australia. And she’s just won this massive award, this professor, and that came with a great chunk of money to set up a research center. A little bit like the Morgan Centre, I think, but in her field, and so she just thought what a great way to celebrate the start of this new research center. Let’s have a go at this, and so I’m going to be going out to Perth drawing people at work. So that’s going to be interesting, because that’s going to be completely again. So, yeah, it’s brilliant stuff.
Rob: Through September you have a residency in Sheffield turning Urban Sketches into experimental textile designs. This sounds fascinating.
Lynne: One of the funding bids for a residency that I put in with York University that didn’t actually get the money involved them wanting me to produce not just the sketchbooks, but they wanted a finished piece of art that was smaller, it’s something I would create in studio, as a summing up, if you like, of the stuff that I’d been drawing in the sketch books. And so I was trying to think of what I could do, and I don’t know, because I didn’t want to go back to illustration. Somehow, like, that would have been something I could have done but it just felt, somehow, as I was going back to the past. And then I just, I don’t know, I got one of those light bulb moments. The whole textile thing that I’d left behind, you know, in I don’t 1980 something. I just thought, you know what? I could try illustration but in textiles, and that would make it different. It would make it new. Instead of then going back, it would be taking it somewhere moving on and somewhere exciting.
And the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me and I got this, kind of, idea that I’d experiment with not print making but embroidery. Because I started to look at what some modern embroiderers were doing, and you can draw in stitching. And I like, quite, like, aggressive drawing. I like [inaudible 00:37:33] making, and I thought do you know what? I can do that with stitching. And then I got this idea that the whole watercolor thing that I love to do, I love the, kind of, loose edged thing combined with hard lines, and I thought, well you could use sheer fabrics. You could use things like organza and you could get that very soft finish that you get with water colors, and you could, kind of, probably layer them up and that would be quite interesting.
And so I got all excited and we put in for the money and we didn’t get it, and I was quite, you know, crestfallen. I thought, oh, I fancied that. And then I thought, oh, there’s no reason I can’t do it anyway. So I started to experiment and in between, so when I had a moment here and there, I started these various bits of textile art, want for a better word, and each one was very different because I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I had no idea what I was doing, but I wasn’t really sure where I wanted it to go, exactly. So it was very experimental, which was really creative and I’d forgotten just how creative it is when you’re doing something that you have no idea about, because it’s absolutely every mark you make is new.
Lynne: And so I got even more excited. And I kind of played around and I’ve, kind of, got to a place now where I think I know roughly how I want it to to be, and the organza thing is working really well. Because you can stitch into fabric but then it gets a bit overloaded in the way a drawing gets overloaded. But then if you put a layer of sheer fabric over it, it damps it down like tracing paper would. And then you can stitch back over the top and you’ve got a layer that doesn’t need to fear the layer underneath, if that makes sense.
Rob: Yes. Yes, it does.
Lynne: So you build things up and it can become more complex without being fussy. So I’ve got quite into it. And then, like, this email came to me from a friend who’d noticed something, an opportunity, and thought, oh, this is not me but it might be Lynne. And it was a very last minute thing, so I’d only got a few days to actually put in for it, and it was some money that had come to Sheffield from the Arts Council. And so New Zealand’s Sheffield were looking for people to take up…it’s actually quite a small studio space in a shopping center, and they wanted to get somebody to work for a month in the studio. But they would pay you to do it, so not only don’t you pay for the studio but they’ll pay you for the privilege, and all you had to do to pay them back, apart from, you know, doing your own thing as best as you can, was to engage the public.
So I thought, yeah, actually, do you know what? urban sketching is about as engaging as you’re going to get, really, in a shopping center. So I pitched this idea that I would go and draw amongst the shoppers and, you know, and draw the shopping center generally and just build up some urban sketching. And chat to people and stuff. And then take them back into the studio and then see what I could do with those sketches, turning them into textile pieces. And I had a, kind of, I don’t really know quite what I’m going to do, but that doesn’t matter because they are not interested in that, necessarily. They’re interested in it being, kind of, me exploring new things and so they’re interested in funding me.
So I’m one of four artists that they’ve selected, and we have a month each. So somebody’s in there at the moment who’s doing completely different, they’re all very different. He’s fresh out of university and he’s a programmer, and he’s creating virtual pets for shoppers to come and pet, and he wants the pets to, sort of, evolve, to become more like the people that he’s interacted with. Not sure how that’s going to work, but he’s been doing that now throughout August. And so when he finishes, I go in for September. And then when I finish, there’s someone else who makes perfumes and he’s going to make individual perfumes to match individual people that come into the studio. I could think of them coming and chatting. And then the final person is going to spend a month creating sculptures of junk food out of the junk that they find in the shopping center, and then selling them to people in the way that you…I think he’s going to set up a kind of a pretend burger bar, I think, or something of that nature and actually sell people these sculptures that he’s going to create.
So very, very different kinds of art. So it’s just getting such an exciting idea. So I’m really thrilled to have been selected, particularly given that it was such a random, last minute thing to put in for. So I’m at this moment, mounting up on my textile’s work, which, you know, up to now has been stuff in the drawer that I’ve been playing with because I’ve got a little bit of wool that I can get stuff on to show people what I’m trying to achieve. And, yes, I mean on September the 2nd.
Rob: Very good. I know you’ve got some other events in September, as well. I believe it’s in the same place?
Lynne: Yeah, another part of the rules of doing this was that they want to, because of the interaction thing, they wanted us doing workshops. And because I’ve been running workshops for years that wasn’t really a problem for me. So I’m going to do a couple of urban sketching workshops. One for beginners, who I think it’s quite interesting to be able to say to people when I talk to them, you know, okay, well you don’t really know how to do this but, hey, it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna show you the basics. So on September the 16th, in the morning, I’m going to have a two hour beginners workshop and I’ll get people started, and hopefully that will then inspire them to have a go. And then in the afternoon I’m going to run a slightly more advanced workshop for people who at least have done a little bit of sketching before. They don’t have to be brilliant, they just have to have had some experience of drawing outside, drawing from life.
And at some point, I think probably the last Saturday in the month, I haven’t finalized the date yet, I think I’ll do some sort of space because there’s another, bigger space available. So I thought it might be fun to just have a look at what I’ve done and talk to people about not just urban sketching but this idea of how I’ve taken it into this other thing and show them what I’ve done, really. So that’s all going to happen over the course of September, though, so it’s all, kind of, really soon.
Rob: So all the details of that, that will be on your website, I’m sure. I’ll make sure that in the program notes I’ll leave details so that listeners, if they’re interested…and are there places left on some of the courses that you’ve got?
Lynne: Yes, they are filling up. So it’s, kind of, getting quick time but there are still a few spaces left on both of them. I’m going to cap the numbers so that it’s a manageable group, because otherwise you don’t get enough time to actually interact with people if they’ve got problems. But there are still a few places.
Rob: Okay. So details will be in the show notes on the website. You’ve been extremely successful with your children’s book illustrations for well over 17 years. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of a career in illustration?
Lynne: Well, two things that jump to mind immediately. I think you need to draw. You need to draw a lot. You need to draw from life, not just from your imagination. I used to do quite a lot of work with people, portfolio work, with people who wanted to be illustrators, and one of the most common problems was that people have got all these lovely ideas about characters they want to invent but they don’t necessarily have the draftsmanship skills to back it up. And so I think it’s really important that you draw from life, as well as from your imagination. Because it means that when you want to draw a dog looking in the mirror or riding a motorcycle or whatever crazy thing it is, because you’ve actually drawn people doing those things you can sketch things much more quickly and much more easily. And they look real. So, yeah, draw, draw, draw. Just keep drawing and draw everything.
I think the other thing is that, again, noticing from peoples’ portfolios and people who are, sort of, in those very early stages trying to interest publishers, people get characters that work but what they don’t do is get characters that express all the things that they’re going to need to express. So it’s no good having a really cute little boy or bunny character that is truly lovable if all you can draw is them being happy. You need to draw your characters being angry and being miserable and being frightened and being envious. You know, the whole myriad of different experiences that they might come up against in a picture book story. And the same with the editorial illustration. You know, I was having to interpret articles on all manner of things. You never know what it is you’re going to have to draw so you have to spread yourself quite wide and you have to be able to express a lot of different things and communicate a lot of different things. So it’s not just about being able to draw. Being able to communicate is absolutely key to being an illustrator.
The only other thing I would say is tenacity. You know, you just can’t afford to give up when somebody doesn’t like what you do because you’re going to come up against a load of people who don’t like what we do. Your mom always loves what you do, your boyfriend always loves what you do, but in the real world people are going to be mean to you. And even if they’re not mean to you, they’re not going to like what you’re doing. You just have to keep at it. You have to take on board what people say. You don’t have to follow everybody’s advice, but you have to listen and think, do you know what, maybe they have got a point. And improve what you do and just keep getting it out there and keep showing it to different people until eventually you hit the right person.
Rob: What are your long term ambitions for your artistic career?
Lynne: Do you know what? Because I’m in a place of change, I don’t really know where things are going. I think it’s important to me that I continue to make my living and so, as an artist, I don’t want to be thinking, oh, well I’m going to be retiring at some point soon. I don’t intend to retire, and I think for me, as a self-esteem thing, it feels important to me that I can earn from what I do, as well as just continue to do it. So that’s an ambition, that that continues to be the case. And just that I continue to be able to do things that I enjoy and I don’t get…I was getting a bit stuck in the rut, I think, with the children’s book work. I probably should have moved on a couple of years before I did, and so I want to make sure I don’t do that again. So I suppose my ambition is to be constantly evolving, constantly be doing exciting, challenging, creative things and having fun, and hopefully having people give me money for it, too.
Rob: I’m sure they will. Okay, if you could jump in a time machine and go back to when Lynne Chapman was at the start of her artistic career, what advice would you give her?
Lynne: It’s an interesting question, this, because it made me stop and think. And, you know, I did things early on that weren’t successful and I, you know, spent probably longer than I should have done desperately trying to find new ways to draw Santa Claus on Christmas cards. But, actually, I’m not sure whether I would change any of that. I think, you know, the idea of going back and giving somebody advice in hind sight suggests that I would do something differently, and I think, probably, I wouldn’t want to do something differently because I like how it’s gone. It’s been hard work and it’s not always been successful, but ultimately it has been successful and it’s been fun and it’s been varied. And I find it a little bit worrying that if you were to go back and tweak something, you never know. It might have taken me off in a completely different direction which wasn’t as much fun as where I am now. So I don’t think I’d change anything.
I think the only thing I might do is tell myself to, kind of, chill a bit and enjoy the ride. I think when you’re young, you alternate, or certainly I alternated, between being blindly unaware of how much failure I could have. So aiming ridiculously high and having these crazy ideas that, you know, well I could do that. Sort of going from that to being angst ridden and, you know, oh, my God it’s not working yet. What am I going to do? And just worrying when I was doing my degree, worrying too hard about, you know, am I getting the best grades? Is it all going to work? And actually, instead of just thinking, do you know what? This is an amazing opportunity. I’ve got three years here at university where I haven’t gotten to earn a living from what I’m doing, to be completely creative, just lets go with it and have fun with it. And I think, perhaps early on, I’d [inaudible 00:53:03] and have fun with it.
Rob: Thank you, Lynne. That was a fascinating interview and I’ve really enjoyed listening about your artistic career. I’m sure that the future is very bright for you. I’m sure it will be very diverse with some new and really interesting developments in your artwork. There is a common thread that I’ve noticed throughout your career, and you’ve been quite fortunate. One that you’ve said earlier, you don’t get nervous in front of people, but it seems to be that you’ve had a lot of opportunities that presented themselves to you. A lot of artists have to go looking a lot of the time, and maybe I’ve got this completely wrong but it seems that people have come looking for you. Would I be right in saying that?
Lynne Chapman: Well I think one of the things that I took a chance on early on was embracing social media, and it, you know, having a blog, for instance, that I’m constantly, every two or three days, I’m constantly putting stuff out there. Remorselessly chucking stuff on Facebook. So every day there’s something new on Facebook. And using social media to make sure that it spreads out, it radiates out from me. And it took a long time. It took years before that built up enough of a head of steam to actually start coming back. But the wonderful thing is you do have that potential. You have no idea who’s listening, and so anything can happen, you know, and so a lot of my opportunities, I think, have come as a result of all that stuff just being out there and eventually the right person or the friend of the right person sees something.
So I would highly recommend that people, you know, start that process, really. It’s a bit of a monster and one of the problems I have is that if I’m not careful, I can spend more of the day actually fiddling around on the [inaudible 00:55:13] than doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But it is true to say that I think the people that have come to me have not come because I’m a celebrity. I’ve never been on the telly. It’s because it’s out there. Having a good website is worth investing time, I think, as well. Makes you look professional.
Rob: Exactly. Thank you very much, Lynne. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I’ll be watching your future career with great interest.
Lynne: Thank you. It’s been smashing chatting with you.
Rob: I thoroughly enjoyed making this podcast, and I think you’ll agree it was a fascinating insight into the world of Lynne Chapman. There are plenty of ways to see more of Lynne’s work and to contact her. Her email is email@example.com. She also has several websites, a Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook account. All details can be found on the show notes at ProCartoon.com. Thank you for joining me today and I hope you can join in to listen to the next Pro Cartoon podcast.
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