One of the best part of writing this blog is to see how each artist grows, and today I’m so thrilled to interview Natasha Newton (featured previously). You may also know her from an article that she wrote for Etsy’s Storque: My Big Break: Intro to the World of Illustration and Book Cover Design — it’s a great article with tips for getting started in the world of art and illustration.
Name: Natasha Newton
Location: Suffolk, UK
Website/Shop: www.natasha-newton.co.uk | www.theblackbirdsings.etsy.com
Illustration media: Acrylic paint & ink pens on canvas, paper and wood. I’m not a digital girl…yet!
Tell us a little more about yourself!
I’m an artist and illustrator, fuelled by copious amounts of tea and good chocolate. I love hearing the birds through my open window, watching the clouds moving across the sky, and sitting on leather couches in London pubs with my boyfriend.
Where do you live? What stands out about living where you are, and what is your daily schedule like?
At the moment I live mainly in Suffolk; a beautiful county on the East coast of England. It’s a very artistic place, and I also find that being surrounded by so much nature is wonderful for my work. I’m also spending time in Paris because that’s where my boyfriend lives, so I’m currently trying to work out the best way of dividing my time (and work!) between the two places. My daily schedule varies depending upon how busy I am, where I am, and any deadlines etc.
Generally, I wake up between 8:00 and 9:00am, check my emails, try to reply to some of them before I start my day, grab some breakfast, and catch up with anything online. I also tend to package up any orders I’ve received via my Etsy shop in the mornings. I’ve found that I’m much better at the practical, administrative stuff earlier in the day. The artistic part of my day starts from lunchtime onwards, unless I’m working to a really tight deadline! I work until evening, take some time off for dinner and spending time with my family, and then I often start work again at about 10pm and work until midnight or 1am. There’s some variation to this routine of course, but as a rule I’m much more a night owl than an early bird!
How did you get your start in illustration?
I’m really an exhibiting artist who fell into illustration along the way! I found that I was picking up illustration commissions alongside producing work for galleries and shows, commissioned paintings, and personal work for my online shop. I think that the line between ‘fine artist’ and ‘illustrator’ is somewhat blurred these days, but I love the variety of being able to do both.
Are you a full-time artist?
I’m happy to say that for the past three years the answer has been ‘yes’!
Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece or a project?
I get ideas all the time, and often at odd times when I’m least expecting them. They seem to appear from nowhere, but of course this can’t be true. I try to jot down a few written notes on paper as soon as I can, just so I won’t forget the general idea or initial thoughts, and sometimes I’ll make rough sketches too. I don’t tend to work on incredibly detailed preliminary sketches though, preferring just to have an idea of the composition and allowing the piece to develop as I’m working on it.
What’s your favorite project so far?
I couldn’t possibly choose just one because I’ve worked on so many fulfilling and exciting projects, but seeing my work on the covers of a series of five books for the book publishing company Random House earlier this year was incredibly exciting! I look at the books every so often and still feel the same ‘thrill’ as when I first saw them. I’ve received many messages from people who’ve seen them in bookshops telling me how much they like them, and it’s so nice to think that my work is out there in that format!
Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
I’ll be honest with you; I tried to photograph the pages of my sketchbook for you but then discovered that I just don’t feel comfortable sharing such a personal aspect of my work. I realised that to me this would be like sharing the pages of a secret diary. I find it very hard because the small sketches and notes within my sketchbook are not-quite-fully-formed thoughts that really only mean something to me. So I’ve decided to share a little work-in-progress shot instead; some small illustrations I was working on this Summer in my boyfriend’s Parisian apartment!
Would you care to share your studio space as well?
I’ll share a photo with you; this is a corner of my current space!
What or who inspires you?
Nature, books (I collect art and design books, as well as unusual children’s storybooks), the changing seasons, trees and forests, bonfires and full moons, other artists, Scandinavian design (I desperately want to visit Norway and Sweden), love, and of course birds.
What keeps you motivated?
I just love what I do! And I’m always excited by what might be around the corner; both in terms of opportunities and how my art evolves.
Could you share with us your progression as an artist — compared to when you first started out, how has your style changed since then?
I was much more ‘traditional’ in style I suppose – I didn’t take as many risks and I was still trying to find my own style. As my confidence grew I found a way of painting and drawing that felt right for me, and I let go of self-imposed rules. That’s when my work and career really took off!
What’s your favourite tool?
A finely-tipped paintbrush or a nice black ink pen. I get excited by such things, which can be a little embarrassing.
What advice would you like to give people who are interested in being an artist full-time?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work with many ups and downs. Look at it as a journey; if at times it isn’t going smoothly, just know that you’ll get through it. The most important thing is to keep going and never give up. You’ll need determination, good humour, and nerves of steel! But it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet.
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
Wherever I happen to be geographically, I’d like to have a larger studio space (I sometimes have fanciful thoughts about owning my own gallery with a studio or workshop attached), but most of all I’d just like to be able to keep doing what I’m currently doing! I’m trying to build a long-lasting career, so I look forward to any opportunities the future brings regarding that, and I’m keeping an open mind about the rest.
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
I just try to make thoughtful and sincere work, and then leave it up to the viewer to interpret it in their own personal way. If I can bring a little more beauty into the world and into peoples’ lives, then that’s a very good thing too!
Tell us something random about yourself!
I’d quite like to be an astronaut.