Gareth Llewhellin, illustrator of From A to Z with Energy!, lives in Somerset, England, with his wife and two boys. He works from his home studio alongside his assistant, Herbie the Jack Russell. After studying illustration at Bournemouth College of Art and Design, and working as an in-house illustrator, Gareth took the plunge to freelance seven years ago and hasn’t looked back. (From Gareth’s bio in From A to Z with Energy!)
Describe your illustration style in ten words or less!
My style follows my love of pencil sketch and pastels.
What drew you to illustrating for kids? Can you tell us about your artistic journey?
I started copying pictures of Snoopy when I was 5 years old. I was obsessed with him! This moved quickly onto Mickey and his friends, me creating my own characters and then many years later onto University where I studied Scientific and Natural History Illustration. My imagination always got the better of me, though, and I pulled away from the tightness and restraints of illustrating exactly what was in front of me and I reverted back to the world of make believe and to where I am today, illustrating children’s books!
What is your favorite part of the illustration process?
My favourite part of the process is probably the longest part - adding the colour! Watching the artwork come to life as I put down the colour and transforming the pencil visual into a bundle of energy and emotion.
There are many action scenes in the picture book From A to Z with Energy! You shared with me that your two sons modeled some of those actions. Can you tell us more about that process?
My boys are a constant source of reference and ideas. From watching them play together and run around to seeing their emotions of joy, stress of school or sadness, it is all there for me to take ideas from. They also give me their opinions on colour. Whether a character looks too young or too old for the script, their opinion is always to hand!!!
I had the boys running, jumping, cartwheeling around the garden and in the house to give me ideas to take into the book. Angles of hands, feet, perspective….I was constantly bugging them to pose for me— haha.
Which illustration in From A to Z with Energy!are you most proud of, and why?
My favourite spread in From A To Z with Energy! is the Letter R! My younger brother was in a wheelchair from birth and he was always racing around in his chair, even when he wasn’t supposed to be doing so. He was constantly in my thoughts when I created this artwork.
One of the many reasons the illustrations of From A to Z with Energy! stand out is your rich and vivid use of color. Do you have a favorite color you use in your work, and why?
I love ALL colours!!! I try to compliment the tones within an artwork whether it be a fun and vibrant design or a more subtle and emotional artwork. The colours are always led by the scripts, but I just love every colour going, so impossible to pin it down to 1!
What other illustration projects have you done in the last few years?
I have been super busy over the last 2 years with back-to-back books covering so many subjects. That’s the beauty of my job, the variety is huge and I am never quiet or twiddling my fingers.
When you are not drawing for writers, what do you like to draw for yourself in your free time? Do you have other hobbies too?
I am a huge cycling fan and if I’m not out riding my bike, I am running my cycling art business producing prints covering all aspects of cycling from then and now. If not either of these, I’m usually out and about on an adventure with my wife and boys.
Can you share a photograph of your creative work space with us, and tell us aboutyour typical work day?
My studio! I’m lucky enough to have a studio in the garden so I can see all the flowers and birdlife going about its business. I often find myself distracted by it, nature is certainly very busy!!!
I start the day with a pot of coffee and answer emails before I start the artwork of the day. I like to have the day’s work prepped the night before so I can comedown to the studio and get going straight away.
Our dog Herbie is my studio assistant and always loves a cuddle. He sleeps on my knee whilst I work, which is lovely in the winter when it's cold. He’s so warm!!
What is the most useful piece of advice you could give to a budding artist/aspiring illustrator out there?
Always keep drawing with a pad and pencil would be my number 1 tip. The Mac is a great addition to the creative world, but you can never reproduce that feeling you get from moving the pencil across the paper. It connects you to what you are creating.
Please tell us 3 fun facts about yourself!
Follow Gareth at garethllewhellin.com