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This is me, Claire Hughes. A 27 year old artist living in Berkshire, UK with my husband Dylan.

I have wanted to be an illustrator since I was very young and used to copy cartoon characters from comic books and cereal boxes. I love the way a whole new character can appear, just from making a few marks on a piece of paper.

My career started at 16, when I sold my first portrait painting. It began when I drew our lovely Labrador dog. The pastel drawing was placed proudly on the wall by my parents. As family and friends came round to visit, they saw the work and asked me to do commissions for them. Very quickly interest grew and the work snowballed at a rate I found difficult to keep up with.

Although I always find it a huge privilege to be asked to paint/draw portraits for people, I find it far too restricting. I usually get asked because of the sensitivity towards the work and being able to achieve a good likeness from the subject matter. With these objectives already set my artistic license was hugely limited.

This is why I want to put my portraiture work behind me and carry on a different route as an illustrator. I don’t want to stop drawing characters; I just want to draw those extreme characters that don’t appear in the ‘real world’!!

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

It has been something I’ve wanted to do for as early as I can remember.

Not so long ago I lost someone very close to me. A short time after that I passed my driving test and got married (both of which were a long time coming!). Becoming an illustrator is just the next logical step for me. It’s that old cliché, ‘life is short. You have to make the most of it!’

I’m finding it very hard to say no to people who want a portrait, but I have to. There are plenty of good portrait artists and photographers out there. It’s time for me to concentrate on what I want to do!

Who or what inspires you?

I can be inspired by anything, the characters that surround me, the irregularities of nature. Inspiration comes in different degrees, depending on where it comes from and how you are feeling at the time. Many times I have been inspired to a degree that will keep me up throughout the night. Watching a great action film; spending time with my two year old niece; visiting new cities. The challenge is focusing all that inspiration onto a piece of paper in an original way.

However, there is one particular person who stands out in my mind. A tutor and fine artist that I met at college, Ian Humphreys. He had an amazing drive and enthusiasm for art and his teaching.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

Both….I have been drawing since I could hold a pen, so a great deal is self taught. I was drawing and selling portraits before having any training. Now a great deal of my creative time is spent using computer packages, which I also taught myself to do.

The only training I’ve had was when I spent a year in Berkshire College of Art & Design, on a foundation course. There we touched upon Photography, Fine Art, Graphic Design and the History of Art. A year seems a very short time, but within that time I learnt things that I have found invaluable. A new way to look at the world!

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?


Subscribing to relevant magazines/websites; picking up tips from books and other artists.

What are some of your current projects?

I have just finished a project for a company called Audio Trails. Creating characters to promote their product on their website. My next project is for The Piano and Keyboard Studio, illustrating a book that teaches kids how to play the instruments.

It is still early days for me as an illustrator so any spare time I have goes towards creating a new portfolio and website.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of?

I think the work I am most proud of has been for charity or commemorative events.

One piece of work that comes to mind was a presentation piece sent out to Bosnia, for trainers and their sniffer dogs that searched for bombs.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

I would love to have a go at using Maya and other computer packages designed specifically to create 3D characters and worlds. Also, I had a go at air brushing (the non digital type!) years ago and think I will have to purchase one very soon.

Any advice to the novice designer / illustrator?

I feel like it should be me asking that question!

However, there are some practises that I have continued through the transition of portrait artist to illustrator.

It’s always good to walk away from your art and come back with fresh eyes. I do this by working on more than one piece at a time. Another way to get a new perspective of your work is to look at it in a mirror. It’s surprising how different your work can look in its reflection.

A tip which many creative people would recommend is to carry a notebook/sketchbook around with you. You never know when you are going to come up with a new idea!

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

Really depends on what it is for. If the work is for advertising, then it has to grab the attention of the viewer. For illustrating magazines it has to fit in with the style and entice people to read the article it relates to. Children’s illustrations work well if they’re colourful and imaginative. I don’t think there is one thing that makes a piece successful in general, but being original will help you stand out from the crowd.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

I think it is always good to take time out even with a tight deadline. You have to try and make the time. Get a good nights rest. Do some exercise, eat well!

It’s so easy to be sat at your drawing board or computer for long hours at a time, eating anything at hand. For me if I don’t feel fresh and exhilarated I know my work is going to suffer. It just means I’m going to have to touch it up at a later date. I have learnt that I work best at night, so I will go to bed late and get up late. My spare time is usually the hours before I start work. I think that this is also what keeps me motivated, because I have already spent a few hours walking around shops, speaking to people, watching films….something has already inspired me for my next appointment with the drawing board!

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

TV really irritates me at the moment. These reality shows have taken over. I loved them when they first started but the novelty for me wore off a long time ago. I think the only thing that I make sure I wouldn’t miss is Prison Break.

Saying that…I love watching films. Even when I’m working I’ll stick a film on in the background. I’m one of these people that can’t stand working in silence!

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ToGmO said...

hi, well i'm learning illustrator and is unbelived .... great jobs.

i can integreat at your page with my jobs, how can do it?

Choper Nawers! said...

nice your style really fun!

Eli said...

You have done a fabulous job making pencils look interesting!

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