Illustrator Katherine Appleby

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Katherine’s illustrations tell a story … glorious, imaginative, and creative characters come to life under her skilled hand. Having recently illustrated her first children’s book, Katherine has plenty of other exciting projects planned for the next few months …

Hi Katherine. When/how did you come to call the Greater Port Macquarie area home?

I was lucky enough to land in this beautiful part of the world a little over nine months ago. My parents had moved here to retire a few years before that and every time I had the opportunity to visit them, I found myself wishing I could be so lucky as to live here. Then an opportunity came up that would enable me to move here, and I’ve felt so blessed ever since.

Tell us a little about yourself …

My interests and hobbies are almost all related to the creative arts. In my spare time I can be found drawing, painting, designing, printing, photographing, bookbinding, writing, and … well … you get the idea. I also love recharging in nature and find morning walks along the coast to be a small taste of heaven, and I follow it with a half-hour session at Port Macquarie Personal Training during the week (I can’t recommend this enough!)

I work full-time in marketing and design, and I have a passion for business, so I am often reading and studying in those fields. But all that I do is under the watchful eye of Indy the black and white studio cat, who enjoys nothing more than seeing how often he can distract me from my work and gain some attention, pats and food.

How did you discover you had a talent for drawing?

I loved drawing and painting and generally creating as a child. I’ve never known a time that I wasn’t drawing or painting something.

I also grew up with a wonderful family who encouraged these skills. When I turned twelve, my brother (also an artist) bought me my first set of watercolour paints and paintbrushes. In fact, I still have and use a beautiful, soft, goat’s hair brush that is wonderful for painting watercolour washes on paper.

My grandparents were also very supportive and believed I should be a cartoonist. My grandmother bought me my first set of Derwent watercolour pencils in a beautiful two-tiered wooden box; and again, I still use these today. However, I am one of those people who were lucky enough to grow up with plenty of people who believed in me, while I failed to have belief in myself. It took quite some time until I felt confident enough to call myself an artist, and I know this is an experience echoed by many creative souls. If I could reach out to those people, I would say, “Just do it!”

What studies (if any) have you done in the art field?

I started my working life as a secondary teacher and while I did love teaching, I felt a constant desire to try something more creative, so I decided to be brave and pursue that passion. In 2013 I was awarded a Bachelor of Creative Arts with Distinction from the University of Southern Queensland with a double major in Marketing and Visual Arts.

The following year I was awarded the Golden Key International Honour Society National Visual and Performing Arts Award for Painting. I have also completed studies in Graphic Design.

Many creative people wonder whether studying in the art field will actually benefit them, but I can assure them that it will. Taking the time to study creative arts enabled me to further develop my skills, to think about my arts practice in new ways that I hadn’t considered before, to analyse my art and learn to further develop it, and to learn more about professional practice. I also loved art history and philosophy and found that these subjects informed my own arts practice in ways I hadn’t imagined. So go for it!

Describe your creative process … When you have the inspiration to create, do you draw freehand, for example, from memory/imagination? What tools do you like to use to create your illustrations?

A famous quote from Pablo Picasso is, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”. In my spare time, I am always creating, whether working on a project for a client or whether working on my own artistic experiments and projects. It’s in working that inspiration comes. I love to draw and paint freehand. I love the feeling of a graphite pencil dragging along textured paper, or the feeling of paint gliding onto canvas. I love “getting messy” with paint. And I love generally creating – well, anything!

I am a multi-disciplinary artist, primarily working in watercolour, acrylic and digital mediums and I have a passion for printmaking too. I usually start an artwork with a sketch either from reference images or equally from imagination.

My work is usually quite intricate, as I am addicted to detail. I do love creating creatures and scenes from my imagination and exploring my own invented worlds through art. Most importantly, I love the value that creative arts can bring to the lives of others; whether it’s through children’s book illustration that encourages learning and the use of imagination (which develops empathy) in kids, or whether it’s through allowing adults to experience beauty or an aspect of nature which they would not have been otherwise able to do.

You recently illustrated the beautiful children’s book, Little Sower Samuel, by Robert Costa. How did this collaboration come about?

At the time, I was working with Montsalvat, a beautiful arts community in Melbourne (put it on your must-visit list!) I remember chatting with the Arts Manager about how I wish I could be an illustrator. She looked back at me and said simply, “So, why don’t you?” Sometimes we just need to hear it, and that evening I found myself thinking and planning how I would pursue that direction. The very next day I almost fell off my chair when Little Steps Publishing contacted me to ask if I might consider illustrating a children’s book. Some things are just meant to be!

Robert Costa is an emerging author and had written this beautiful story, and his words inspired me. On my first reading I had pictures and ideas flooding my head. I knew then that the little boy, Samuel, would need a pet dog to keep him company on his journey. I also felt that “dog” would need to have his own little adventure of learning to share with “rabbit”. And if you look closely enough, you might also discover that Indy the studio cat makes a cameo appearance!

What are some of the things you learned through illustrating a book of this kind?

Little Sower Samuel is the first children’s book I have illustrated, so it was a steep learning curve. I learnt about planning a book, about creating character sketches, about storyboarding, and I also had to learn about digital illustration. Up until that time, I had mostly used traditional art mediums such as acrylic and watercolour, but the publisher had requested digital illustrations, so I very quickly had to improve my digital painting skills. My training in graphic design certainly helped throughout this process.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learnt is how much joy illustrating brings me – especially when I see the joy the finished product brings to others. I know I made the right decision to pursue illustration.

What other projects are you involved with at the moment?

I am currently working on my second book through the same publisher for a different author. Although I can’t say too much about it (spoilers!) I can tell you it will feature a very cute little dog as the main character (Indy the studio cat is a little jealous, I think). I have also been creating worksheets for a talented Nutritionist in Melbourne who has established a fantastic programme for kids. She is also hoping to release a book in the future, and I have another couple of possible book projects lined up. I do hope to be able to get involved with editorial illustration in the future, as well as art licensing.

In addition, I am currently completing some paintings for a joint exhibition I am having with my Mum, Linda Appleby, over December and January.

Where can we see more samples of your work, or contact you for further info?

From December to January, you can find my paintings hanging in the gallery at Long Point Vineyard.

Otherwise, connect with me through social media (www.facebook.com/KatherineApplebyArt) or visit my website (www.katherine-appleby.com)

Thanks Katherine.

Interview by Jo Robinson.

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