Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 7, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Lucy Semple

Lucy Semple is an illustrator based in Nottinghamshire, having graduated with a degree from Loughborough University in Graphic Communication and Illustration.

She always dreamed of one day slotting into a creative career, as a child she would either be using the family video camera to direct a rendition of a Roald Dahl poem or have her head firmly buried in a book. Specialising in children’s illustration she now enjoys channeling that creative energy into drawing bright, bold and often furry characters.

When she isn’t bringing her scribbled creations to life, Lucy enjoys drinking considerable amounts of tea, baking and cuddling up to watch a film with her partner, daughter and their grumpy tom cat Nim.

Midlands based Illustrator specialising in children’s publishing.

I love creating little worlds for fun, humorous characters to live in, which are often inspired by my daughter, who when I’m not illustrating is taking up most of my time. Lucy is represented by The Bright Agency and has won YCN Student Awards 2017 and Loughborough University Award for Enterprise and Innovation 2017.

HERE IS LUCY DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

A close up of a scamp I did to determine composition, this one may show the only example which went from scamp to final artwork without having the composition altered too much.

Composition sketch which I do before I draw up everything properly, this is the stage where the small scamps I have done and the character development sketches start to come together.

Very rough beginning stage of character development.

A more detailed character development illustration where I have started to tidy it up ready to be scanned in and worked into more.

And finally to final spread sketch

Then development further into final artwork.

Interview with Lucy Semple:

How long have you been illustrating?

Not long, a year professionally but I dabbled here and there at university for the student magazine and for friends as one off commissions, wedding invitations and cards.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

The first job I landed was for Storytime magazine, whilst at university I had used Behance to network and build up a bit of a portfolio and they contacted me based on my work there. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job they were just amazing to work with.

What inspired you to attend Loughborough University and get your degree in Graphic Communication and Illustration?

I had always known I’d wanted to go into a creative field but being based where I was and as me and my partner were quite young when we’d had our daughter I knew I couldn’t up sticks and move to a city to pursue a world of creative roles; I knew my options would be limited. So I thought I would give graphic design a go, it would be flexible enough and there were plenty of options in Nottingham for me to explore. I felt so deflated visiting all my local universities which didn’t spark anything in me but the last interview I had at Loughborough really sealed the deal for me, they challenged my knowledge, questioned everything about what I wanted out of my studies and I thought ‘that’s exactly what I need from a university’.

What type of things did you study for that type of degree?

At first everything was graphic design based which was perfect for me at the time, but in the second year we really diversified and balanced illustration with graphic design. When it came to picking a route in my third year the thought of producing anything other than illustration left me feeling really down, I think that’s what really made me realise I wasn’t cut out to be a designer.

Did school have some children’s illustrating courses?

Not in particular but my foundation course did introduce me to children’s illustration, we had workshops with tutors from different specialities and one in particular really encouraged me to explore storytelling. I remember creating a large installation of paper cut artwork which was based on the roots of traditional fairy tales and I was so inspired by how we tell stories through images I do think it had an influence on my choices later on.

 

Is this when did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

No, I can’t really pick a point when I made that decision but I am very sure my daughter had some input, I know I spent more time poring over her picture books than she did.

Do you feel school helped you develop you style?

Not at all, but I do think I was very lucky to have had some fantastic tutors along the way who gave me the space to explore what work I wanted to produce and who weren’t afraid to challenge my decisions and give honest critique. I think without them I wouldn’t have had the confidence to have pushed myself to not overthink, and I think that’s where style comes from, just trusting your instincts.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

They did and they didn’t, they helped me find work within graphic design but when it came to getting illustration work I just wanted them to tell me exactly what to do. Now I get messages and emails from students asking me the same thing and I find my answers are the same as my tutors, there really is no clear path!

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I did quite a few graphic design jobs and internships but I realised I was starting to get depressed, it really wasn’t the career path for me. So I quit everything and went back to working in a supermarket, it was then a juggling act of doing personal work, trying to get paid work and just staying positive. The work I started with as an illustrator was mostly small magazine and educational jobs but I was very lucky to get signed by Bright early on so it very quickly took off from there.

Did you write and illustrated the board book Night, Night Busy Town (Read-Along Bedtime Stories)published by Kane Miller in 2019?

I didn’t write it but I did do the illustrations, it was a huge learning curve because I hadn’t worked on a picture book before but the designer was incredibly patient and it was a lot of fun to work on.

Was Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping (Ready-to-Reads) that make out in January your first illustrated picture book?

No Night, Night Busy Town was, but that was my second, Simon & Schuster were an absolute dream to work with.

How did you get that contract?

Through my agency.

I see you have another Simon Spotlight Ready to Read picture book Bird Singing, Bird Winging coming out in June. Was this a two book deal? Do you think there will be more in this series?

I was contacted by my agent midway through ‘Bug’s Dipping’ to say they were pleased with the work I was doing so would love to sign a contract with me for a second. Regarding any more I’m not sure, but I would jump at the chance to work with them again, they couldn’t have been more supportive and flexible.

You just illustrated another board book with DK Publishing this month titled, When I Grow Up…Great Leaders: Kids Like You that Became Inspiring Leaders. How did you get that job?

Again through my agency, I was approached based on my personal illustrations I had done of Amelia Earhart. I really loved the idea of illustrating inspirational figures from when they were young as a way of inspiring younger generations to see that no matter what background you come from we all have it in us to succeed.

It looks like you have been busy; I am already working on a book feature for No Party Poopers, another book you illustrated coming out on May 5th. Was it hard to juggle illustrating three books at once?

It was especially as at that time I wasn’t the most experienced illustrator and was still working part time alongside it all. What I love about this career is that although I spend most of my time alone working on book spreads there is a whole team of people, my amazing agents, the designers I work with and of course the authors who without them there would be no book to illustrate, all come together to support me.

Tell me about the mural with the fox and the cat. Was that for a child’s bedroom?

Yes it was! Something I had never tried before but it was so much fun to work on. A friend of mine asked me to paint it for his newborn son and I just had to give it a go, I very rarely say no to opportunities.

I found an illustration which looks like a cover for a book titled, Amelia Earhart: Big Dream for Little Girls. Is this a book that is coming out or just a cover?

It was a personal series of illustrations I did to practice consistency and as a way of trying out a children’s book cover. I would love to revisit it one day as I would change so much, but I can at least credit it for being getting me a spotlight in the bookseller, which brought in a few jobs and a lovely offer from my agency.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

I have worked a couple of times for Storytime magazine and for Highlights in America. Both are wonderful, magazine spreads are so much fun to work on.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I have a cute little office which is in desperate need of redecorating, as we moved into our new place last year and it will probably be the last on my list! We recently brought home a little dachshund puppy so it feels less lonely these days.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

Only for myself, I have hundreds of ideas but none which I have yet to have the confidence to put forward, it is the writing which always stumps me so all are wordless so far.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate more picture books?

I have just finished one and I am currently working on a few others. I have definitely grown the most over the past few months and look back on work and think I have improved so much through those jobs, so I really appreciate what I’ve been able to do, but I’m also really excited to see what the future holds.

How did you connect with The Bright Agency? And how long have you been with them?

I was actually in talks with a few agencies but nothing really stood out to me that made me confident to sign with them. My work had been shown in the Bookseller during the 2018 Bologna book festival and a few days later they contacted me. It did take a few months to get the ball rolling but James my agent in New York really sold Bright to me, I couldn’t be happier having them as my agents.

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

I am very lucky to say that I have been since August last year.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

No, I have worked with a self publisher before but never on a children’s picture book, I think I got lucky in that he was lovely and knew exactly what he wanted and it couldn’t have gone smoother . However I think there is the danger that the role becomes much more than that of illustrator, having a whole team to guide the process is ideal.

What do you think is your biggest success?

That is so hard to pin point. I think managing to fulfil my dream of working in a job where I get excited to start the day every day, my partner has to drag me from my office most weekends because I would work through them otherwise.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I wish I could say something lovely like watercolours but I just love the flexibility that digital provides.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, I used to be terrified of working in anything other than pencils!

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I have a Wacom Cintiq which I couldn’t live without.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I use pencils for sketching and then scan them in and work over the top in Photoshop.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I often draw with my daughter in my free time and get in as much work time as I can. I am envious of other artists who create personal work on a regular basis, I just often struggle to find the time to fit things in between work and being a mum!

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I take mostly pictures of buildings, plants and trees. Otherwise research comes from online photographs, which I keep in a separate document that’s open whilst I work, to use as reference throughout the project.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes but it terrifies me, as much as it has given me a platform to show my work it feels so difficult to be heard amongst all the other voices. I could be better at social media but I do think it can affect my mental health, I try not to dwell on it too much because at the end of the day it’s my job it doesn’t represent all of me.

 

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to author-illustrate one day, until then I am working on building myself to where I want to be in my illustration. I’d love to illustrate young adult covers so I am working on guiding my portfolio in that direction too, but I am just excited for whatever comes my way!

What are you working on now?

It’s hard to know what I can and can’t talk about but I’ve recently finished a really amazing book with Miles Kelly which I am super excited to see in person. I have a few other books in the mix and I am working on a lovely story for High Five magazine which includes more crazy animals.

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 probably better placed to give out photoshop tips but I do use Daler-Rowney layout paper to do my sketches, it acts almost like tracing paper and I find there isn’t annoying pencil transfers onto other sheets. I scribble about on those and then lay over a fresh sheet to redraw the little drawings I do like then scan those in. For pencils you can’t really beat Derwent but I tend to use those for drawing up compositions for scanning in, otherwise I use a mechanical pencil as they don’t break on me!

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Just believe in yourself and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise, art is subjective and what one person loves another might hate. I wasted too much time wishing I was like other artists whereas now I see we all have our own journeys and if your not happy with where you are it’s just because your maybe only at the start of yours. I had a few friends who would regularly delete old work on their social media but I love to look back on mine and think of how far I’ve come, it’s a little reminder to keep pushing forward.

Thank you Lucy for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. You have done a good job using social media to show off your talent, which is so important for an illustrtator. To see more of Lucy’s work, you can visit her at:

Website: https://www.lucysemple.co.uk/

Bright Agency: https://thebrightagency.com/uk/childrens/artists/lucy-semple

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lucy.illustrates/?hl=en

Behance: https://www.behance.net/lucysemple

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-semple-b57831135/?originalSubdomain=uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lucy_semple?lang=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lucy.semple

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Lucy. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Wonderful illustrations and artwork! LOVE your attention to detail. 🙂 Best wishes!

    Like

  2. I love the way your illustrations show movement! So many of them make me feel like they’re leaping off the page.

    Like

  3. Wow. These are amazing illustrations. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    Like


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