Meet Sam!

April 24th, 2019

In case you haven't heard the news, Sam's first book Carmichael's Journey has been nominated for the CBCA new illustrators award! This is an incredibly prestigious award for any first time illustrators. We are incredibly proud of Sam, and are very excited to watch the beginnings of a wonderful career! Before she gets too big and busy for us we thought it would be a good time to get together with her and pick her brains! 

Hi Sam, congratulations again! Let's start at the beginning. How did you get into illustration? 
Ever since I could pick up a pencil I’ve always loved to draw. When I finished school and decided to go to University I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I chose a degree in something I’ve always enjoyed - Natural History Illustration. 

Awesome! I didn't know they did courses in Natural History Illustration specifically. I can really see that technical training come through your illustrations though. 
So from there, when did you decide you wanted to illustrate a picture book? 
It was probably when I was about 8 years old, actually. I remember staying up until 3am (on a school night) copying out all the illustrations in a picture book I had borrowed from the school library. However, it wasn't until my second year of University when I saw an exhibition of Graeme Base's The Waterhole at the Australian Museum that I really thought 'yep, I'd love to do this'.    

We're really glad you followed through with your 8 year olds dream! (I'm sure 8 year old you is too!) Next up, when you've been contracted on to illustrate a book, what is the first thing you do? 
I never start anything without a cup of tea! I will then read the story, making quick sketches and notes as I go. Then, after another cup of tea, I'll start sourcing reference material though field trips, photographs, internet and book searches that will help me shape my quick scribbles into something more tangible. 

I can imagine the magic happening already! So, once you've started to get a better grasp of how the book will look in your head I  imagine it's pretty important to figure out the main character! How do you go about doing this?
I come from a natural history illustration background so my characters tend to be more on the realistic side. To give them a bit more of a storybook character look, especially the main character, I'll make subtle adjustments to their expression.  

Down to the nitty gritty side of things for a moment. Surprisingly, illustrating a picture book is not actually all wonderful. It's a lot of (very rewarding) hard work. What do you personally find to be the hardest part?
Knowing when to stop. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so even when I think I've finished I will always find things to fix up. I'm constantly making little adjustments.

I feel ya! I think knowing when to stop with any creative project is an art in itself. From my perspective your illustrations are incredibly detailed and perfect though, I can't possibly image what you could add to any of them! 

Anyway, on the other side of the spectrum. What's your favourite part?
Being able to lose yourself in an environment that you’re creating with your pencil. With the text as the guidepost, you can bring the words to life in so many beautiful and wonderful ways. 

I can imagine you sailing away through your imagination with the guiding light post of the manuscript so easily. My gosh, you can tell you're a visual story teller!

For those of us who really want a sneak peak into your brain. What do you do or listen to while you're illustrating?
I love audiobooks, especially the epic fantasy novels. Right now it’s The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I also enjoy having TV shows or movies playing in the background. I think there was one illustration in Carmichael’s Journey that took a whole season of Downton Abbey to complete. I find that listening to books or shows helps me stay focussed.  

Oh I totally agree! When I draw I love listening to a podcast, it's like it helps you from overthinking what you're creating. Letting it flow naturally.

So, I've just got two final questions which I like to ask all Illustrators I meet. Both for work and out and about!

Firstly, what's your favourite picture book of all time?
Everything by Graeme Base and Shaun Tan; their illustrations are so incredibly beautiful and rich that I could look for hours. But my favourite book of all time would have to be Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Suess.

Green Eggs and Ham, what a classic! Well, Shaun Tan, Graeme Base and Dr Seuss are all pretty classics. Great choices. 

And lastly, for all those aspiring illustrators out there. What’s one piece of advice you would give to anyone illustrating a picture book for the first time?
Trust in your own style and design process!

Great advice. The only way to be original is to be true to yourself and your style! It's important not to follow trends, because trends come and trends go, quickly. 

Thanks Sam. We wish you all the luck with the CBCA awards, and your wonderful career ahead!

Sam is a wildlife illustrator living in the beautiful Mid North Coast of New South Wales. Growing up amidst a family of bushwalkers, bird photographers and artists, it’s no surprise that her love of art and the Australian bush began at an early age. Since graduating from the University of Newcastle with a degree in Natural History Illustration, Sam has continued to develop her skills as a wildlife illustrator. She has collaborated on projects with museums, art galleries and businesses in both Australia and Canada. Sam was approached by Shelly to illustrate Carmichael’s Journey as her detailed and realistic style was the perfect match to give visual impact to the story. When not at the drawing desk you’ll often find Sam out in the bush doing what she enjoys most: climbing, camping and outdoor adventuring. 

You can find Sam's artwork on Instagram at @samanthakate_illustration

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Tags: children, art, CBCA, indie author, publishing

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