Carol Liddiment was born in Widnes Cheshire. She graduated from Goldsiths College London in 1985 where she had studied Textile Design, and became a Jewellery Designer for Eric Beamon.
She went on to run her own Jewellery company with a retail outlet in Hyper-Hyper, London. Carol moved to suffolk in 1994 with her Children, where she has combined illustrating with teaching.
She graduated from Angla Ruskin, Cambridge in 2005 after completing her Masters Degree in Children’s Book Illustration.
Carol Liddiment’s Client list includes:
Alison Green Books ( Scholastic), Harcourt Publishing, Pearsons, Heinemann, Arcturus Publishing, Saadhak, OUP, Times Educational Publishing, Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill, Silver Editions, Nokia, Weiden and Kennedy Advertising Agency, Lux Verbi BM.
Here is Carol explaining her process:
I begin my drawing process with research. I take lots of photos, visit places to draw from life, look at books, watch video clips of animals to see how they move, how they hold themselves, and of course use the internet. When I am developing a character I never look at other peoples illustrations to see (for example) how they have drawn a bear. I find that this would influence me too much, and I wouldn’t be able to get their character out of my head.
Once I have developed the characters I usually start with small thumbnail sketches to get an idea of overall composition. I scan these in and enlarge them to the desired size, print them out, put them on a light box and trace them onto a piece of paper. This then gives me something to build on. I like to do quite detailed sketches (if deadlines allow) as I prefer to do all my working out at this stage. Working on small scale thumbnails which are then blown up is a great way to develop composition.
Once a sketch is more or less complete I scan it back up and spend a little time tweaking it in Photoshop. May be changing an expression slightly using the liquify tool, or enlarging or reducing certain areas. Once I am happy I print it out again (at full size) and again use the light box to trace the sketch onto my painting paper. The paper is stretched onto a board to prevent it warping when it is wet.
I use a limited pallet of colours….cadmium red, burnt umber, cadmium yellow, ultramarine, yellow ochre and white. I mix all my colours from these. I find that I can always get my colours to fit/ blend well with each other, starting from this limited palette.
I paint in Acrylics. I start on the background areas, and will paint right across any foreground detail, ensuring that the line just about shows through still. I prefer to do it this way, rather than painting around foreground objects. In this way the brush strokes in the background have continuity.
The first coat is a purely flat colour, darker than I want the eventual effect to be. I work from dark to light…..highlights coming last. I build shadows in next, and then work about 3 or 4 layers of glaze coats on top of these, getting lighter in shade as I model my figures.
As I work purely in paint I’m afraid I don’t have any screen shots to show you of a painting in progress. Even though Acrylics dry quickly even the smallest of paintings has to be worked over a period of at least three days. I find that even though the surface is touch dry highlight coats are kind of reabsorbed into the paper and don’t stand out as bright unless I work it over several days. This is time consuming, and usually why I have at least 3 or 4 paintings on the go at once.
In the beginning the cover of the book was going to be like a present, with a real bow on the front, and the bear character on a gift label.. It was a nice idea, but I don’t think any of us were too sure .
I then tried several sketches of the bear excitedly rushing towards his presents, then unwrapping his presents….so we could sit down as a team ( editor, art director and myself) and have something to discuss and look at.
The art director suggested I try a side profile view of the bear…which again I worked through several variations of until we all felt it was just right.
The cover is a very important part of the book, so it’s important that it really works.
Sketch of the back and front cover.
At the last moment the title of the book was changed, so it required some final tweaking.
Tell us a little bit about your college experience.
I did my Bachelor’s Degree in Textile Art. In the UK most people do a foundation course in Art for a year preceding their degree….A kind of taster course. Drawing was always my greatest strength, but for some reason Illustration Degrees were never discussed as an option….The choices were Fine Art, photography, Graphics, Fashion and Textiles…..so I ended up at Goldsmiths College in London on a textile Degree. I spent most of the time using a sewing machine as a tool to draw with.
What made you stop creating jewelry and go off in another art direction?
I fell into Jewellery design as it was the first job to present itself after leaving college. I had a lot of fun but my passion was always drawing.
When did you start illustrating?
When my Children were small I stated writing stories for them and putting together handmade books with pictures. I took my children to the library from the age of about 6 weeks old…we got through a lot of books.
What made you go back to school to get your master’s Degree in Children’s Book Illustration at Angla Ruskin, Cambridge in 2005?
I had already started to approach publishers with story ideas, but I wasn’t having a great deal of success.
How did you decide to attend Angla Ruskin?
When I heard about the Master’s Degree in Children’s Book Illustration (at Anglia Ruskin) I was very excited. It was the only course of its kind in the country.
Since many people reading this interview are not from England, can you tell us about the school?
Anglia Ruskin is a very prestigious University in Cambridge. It already had a very successful Degree course in Illustration. When I applied in 2002 it was only the 2nd year of the Masters Programme. It is a 3 year Degree, run by some of the most respected specialists in Children’s Book Illustration in the Country. It was an honour to be accepted on the course. There were only 10 places.
What classes were your favorites?
Each student was allocated their own studio space…The first Years project was all about developing observational drawing skills. The second year focused on the sequential image, and the final year was the masters project (the development and completion of images for a story) and a written dissertation. We had visiting lectures from many illustrators, animators, publishers, agents, etc…went on drawing trips to Florence, and visits to the Bologna Book fair We also studied the History of Children’s book Illustration. I loved every aspect of the course, it was a priceless experience. After which I was certain of the direction I was heading.
Did the School help you get work?
We held our Master’s Degree show at a gallery in London. I signed a two book deal with Alison Green books on the opening evening. I was also approached by many agents….I went to visit all of them and chose the Organisation to represent me.
What was the first illustration work you did for children?
That was HAPPY I’M A HIPPO with Alison Green Books, an imprint of Scholastic. The first book that I was signed for at my Master Degree Show.
Can you tell us the story behind how you got that job?
The story I had written for my Master’s Degree was about a Hippo. Alison Green just happened to have a manuscript about a Hippo sitting on her desk. It was by the well-known writer Richard Edwards. So I guess there was a bit of luck involved there. Though I’m sure Alison would say that she would have found a manuscript for me anyway.
Do you feel that the classes you took there have influenced you style?
Ironically the classes I took influenced my style by teaching me not to try to consciously have a style. I think a lot of observational drawing greatly helped me with this.
Did you do anything specific to get the contract with Albert A. Whitman to illustrate THE WOODEN SWORD?
Again the contract for the Wooden Sword came via my agent. I had already Illustrated How Many Donkeys (for Albert Whitman) two years earlier. It won the Sharjah world book fair award for best picture book, and the Middle Eastern Book award.
They must have been happy with your first book, because I see they hired you to illustrate HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEAR. Is there more behind the scenes to you getting that contract?
It was a two book deal from the start.
Do you own or are you a partner with Saadhak Books? How did it come about?
Saadhak books are independent publishers… who self-publish their books .Their idea is to bring traditional Indian Stories to children who were brought up in western cultures. The Stories have been passed down through generations. That job came about as they approached my agent looking for an illustrator.
How many books have you illustrated?
I have illustrated over 20 books, a mixture of picture books and Educational Books.
Is Oxford University Press and educational publisher? How did you connect with them on The Star Fruit Tree and Other Stories and Rama’s Journey coming out in January?
Oxford University Press is an Educational Publisher. The first two books that I illustrated for them were part of their song bird’s phonetic reading scheme. These books are written by the author of the Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson. Once again this work came via my agent. Rama’ Journey and the Star fruit Tree were both published a couple of years ago.N
What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?
I think I was about 14. Somebody paid me to do a portrait of their dog.
Have you done any work for children’s magazines?
Yes I have done illustrations for the times Educational supplement, and take a break Magazine.
This group of images with the goat was for a series of large vocabulary cards that Carol did for Macmillan publishers.
It was called Goat in the Garden.
Would you ever like to write and illustrate your own book?
This is something I would love to do. I already have a story written, and hope to begin illustrating it once my current project is complete.
What types of things do you do to find illustration work?
This is taken care of mostly by my agent. Though the project I am working on now I was approached directly.
What is your favorite medium to use?
I work in Acrylics… I enjoy building up images layer after layer
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
My Light box
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
It is a full time job, so I work a forty hour week …though sometimes I have to do much more than this….it can be quite exhausting. Deadlines are always tight, and because I work traditionally with paint and paper it is not the quickest of methods.
Have you ever won an award for your illustrating?
Yes books I have illustrated have won the Coventry inspirational book award (Happy I’m a Hippo)
How many Donkeys won The Sharjah World book fair award, and the Middle Eastern Book Award.
The Wooden Sword also was joint winner of the Middle Eastern Book award, received an honour book award in the Sydney Taylor Book Award, and won an honour in the South Asian Book Award.
Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?
Yes projects always begin with research, photos, sketches (from real life where possible)
The Wooden Sword required extensive research, which was shared between myself, Ann Reditch Stampler (The Author) and the Editor. We had to make sure that every detail was checked and cross referenced.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
I rely heavily on the internet; it means that I take commissions on from anywhere in the world. I can’t imagine life without it.
Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?
I only use Photoshop in the early planning stages. I do quick thumbnail sketches, scan them in, enlarge them, and play around with the composition. I use these to do more detailed sketches, which I will still alter in Photoshop until I am happy with them. Once I have the final sketch just right I use a light box to transfer the sketch onto the paper that I am going to paint on.
Do you own or have you ever tried a Graphic Drawing Tablet?
I have never tried to use a graphics tablet.
Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your materials changed?
My style hasn’t changed much since completing my degree….But it changed a lot during it. When I went onto my Master’s Degree I was working digitally. I can remember my tutor telling me that my breakthrough came when my computer broke down and I had to start painting (as I couldn’t afford to buy another one at the time)
I love working with paint, I don’t think I would ever go back to illustrating digitally
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
Yes, I want to write and illustrate my own books.
What are you working on now?
I am working on an Amazing project right now. It’s by first time Children’s Author Ronald Meade.
It an enormous project, a 200 page fully illustrated picture book. It’s a wonderful story of adventure that spans all corners of the earth. So it’s a really creative opportunity for me as an illustrator. It will be Self-Published by the Author sometime next year.
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.
I’m afraid I sort of stick to what I know. I use Windsor and Newton Artists Acrylics and just a heavy Gram flat cartridge paper. Once I have used the light box to transfer the image onto my paper, I stretch the paper onto boards. This prevents the paper from warping when wet.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
Put yourself forward for everything. In quite periods work on new samples, do not become disheartened by rejection, listen to and take on board critics and do not try to emulate somebody else’s “style”. Above all be true to yourself.
Thank you Carol for sharing your process, illustrations, and sharing your journey with us. Loved seeing all your illustrations and books. I hope you will stay in touch and let us know all your future successes.
You can visit Carol at the Organisation http://www.organisart.co.uk/search.php?artist_id=37 Please take a moment to leave Carol a comment. I am sure she would like that and so would I. Thanks!