This month we caught up with multi-talented artist and illustrator Mandy Millie Flockton to find out what she’s been up to.
Please tell us about how you create your artwork. What is the process and what tools do you use?
I suppose I must be a bit of a Luddite at heart because I love the elemental interaction with ‘real’ media. Photoshop is an incredible tool but you just can’t replicate the ritual of cleaning palates, the smell of turpentine and linseed oil or the musical rattle of a brush being rinsed in a jar of water.
I work either purely traditionally or using a symbiosis of traditional and digital but always maintaining the traditional aesthetic. My digital work always begins life with traditional media and drawing; oil or acrylic on canvas, watercolour, dip pen, pencil. I scan and collage the elements digitally. I use filters and digital processing as little as possible to maintain the ‘hand’ in my work. Drawing underpins everything I do, whether it is observed or imagined.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
My inspiration comes from endless and diverse places in culture and history such as Medieval manuscripts, Victoriana, Louis Tiffany lamps, 50’s Atomic, Pre-Raphaelites, Disney, Islamic architecture… really, whatever I stumble upon that excites me. I adore the work of so many illustrators and artists but a couple on my love-list are Shaun Tan and Michael Sowa. I really enjoy character design and so much of that source comes from the many animals I’ve had in my life and their and personalities. I still view the world through my 6 year old eyes so joy, humour, energy and an innocent but slightly unhinged quirkiness permeate everything I do.
How did you get into illustration?
In an interview with a careers advisor at school, I was told I wasn’t clever enough for plan A. and I would be too tall for plan B. so I opted for plan C. – ‘Some kind of Artist’. (A. was Equine Vet and B. was Jockey). I always had a talent for art through school, but it was a love-hate relationship back then. It frustrated me enormously
After leaving school, ‘will draw or paint for cash’ became my maxim and I worked as a jobbing commercial and fine artist doing anything in any style and medium, from painting racehorses to tattooing and murals. Later in life I had the opportunity to study a degree and a Masters in Illustration at Falmouth University and I realised then, I’d actually been an illustrator all my life. I discovered the world of Children’s Picture books on my degree and my heart found a new home.
What are you currently working on?
Like most creative types I like to have more than one project cooking on the stove. Having my own Author-Illustrated Children’s picture books published is my main professional goal and turning all my stories into dummy books to pitch at publishers and writing new stories is ongoing. I have recently finished ‘Moustronaut’ and ‘Some Monsters’. ‘The Turnip Horse’ is now on my drawing board; a medieval tale featuring discontentment, knights and plump vegetables.
When I’m not working on commissioned illustration I’m fuelling my personal projects. These projects include Fauna Nation, an expanding bestiary of whimsical anthropomorphic animals, available as prints and other gifts. I’m also developing a sequel to Sweeney Todd. For a change this is dark humour aimed at an adult audience. The illustrations will be photographed 3D sets made from my own black and white drawings, inspired by the likes of Edward Gorey and Thomas Bewick. I have also just become a member of the Society of Equestrian Artists and I am working on new paintings for their upcoming annual exhibition.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
In no particular order…
1. Never listen to anyone who tells you Art is not a ‘proper’ job, It may take more dedication, self-belief and hard work than most career choices but if you really want to be an illustrator, don’t consider alternatives (only supplements). Being an illustrator is who you are, not what you do.
2. Draw, Draw, Draw
3. Never, ever (ever) work for free
4. Never close the door on your studio. When you have no paid work going on, always keep generating something new.
5. Grow a thick skin
6. Don’t avoid the things you find difficult, practice until you own them. Your flexibility as an artist will be the key to your long term survival.
7. Never throw in the towel… remember, there is no towel.
9. Follow your heart not the money and the money will follow (eventually)
10. Plug your work shamelessly, at any opportunity, by any and every means; internet, social media, mail and in person. Be your own greatest pimp.
See Mandy’s full portfolio HERE.