Fairy Tales Imagery presents Artist Spotlight: The exceptionally brilliant creative artist and graphic designer Thea Baker.
A big fan and enthusiast of her beautiful artistry, I am excited to interview Thea, children’s illustrator, skilled artist and graphic designer extraordinaire! Catching her lovely art posts on Twitter, I always look forward to her latest creation showcasing her magical, delightful style and expertise in creating captivating fairy tale art. Thea’s gorgeous illustrations transport their audience into a make belief world charming and intriguing the imagination with dazzling color, textures, light and charm.
Personally, I admire and seek out artists whose work can evoke such lively fantasy and whimsical stories all on it’s own. Take a glimpse through her fantastic gallery as each art piece easily engages and presents itself with it’s own little story, wrapping around the details, brushing with fables, and flowing with the beauty and delicacy of each piece.
Praising her collaboration group Pinch Punch Post, I applaud the time and energy in managing a multi-talented supportive group of artists all showcasing a wealth of all imaginative and creative themed imagery. Thea offers every level of artist an engaging platform to highlight their hard work and valuable opportunity to promote and share current artistic abilities. More on that in a bit, let’s dive right into the interview and get to know Thea on a more personable level.
Thea, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background and experience.
I’m originally from the UK. I moved to Australia after I met my husband who is Australian. We have one gorgeous daughter who is 8 years old. She frequently creates her own children’s stories, which are wonderfully inspiring. We have a small, fluffy, white dog. The exact kind of dog I thought I’d never own. I always thought I’d have a “proper” big dog but it turns out she’s pretty awesome.
As well as working as a freelance illustrator, I work as a graphic designer in a very dynamic, creative role that compliments my life as an illustrator perfectly.
My illustration style incorporates mixed media. I start with a sketch. I used to re-draw this over and over again to get “right” but I have more recently found it is better to try and retain as much of the energy in the original sketch by taking the rough straight to computer.
I have a library full of textures in a range of mediums that I’ve created to use in my illustrations. Generally I pull the elements together in Photoshop.
Occasionally, for commissions, exhibitions or pleasure, I ditch the computer altogether and work on canvas.
As far as tools are concerned, I use two contrasting pencils, generally b with 4b or similar, good quality paint brushes, sharp pencil crayons, Caran d’Ache oil pastels, rubber-tip paint brushes for making some great textures in acrylics and an old digital Canon SLR that I’m looking forward to upgrading! In Photoshop it has taken me a long time to find particular brushes I like working with. I think this comes down to personal taste and nothing but trial and error will gain you those trusty favourites. Several that I like are from Kyle T Webster’s collection of Photoshop brushes.
Have you always done children’s illustration artistry? Tell us how you have developed your style and where you hope to see this style evolve as you continue to work and grow as an artist. I admire your recent Three Billy Goats Gruff art piece. The wonderful textures you incorporate highlighting the little goat prancing on top of the bridge!
Thanks Sondra! I love doing classic fairy tale pieces. I studied Illustration at Falmouth University (when I was there it was Falmouth College of Arts). I had to choose which area of illustration to study after the first year of my degree and there was absolutely no doubt it would be Children’s Illustration. I’ve always been passionate about children’s books. I love collecting them. Going to a book fair, and particularly uncovering vintage picture books, is like going on a treasure hunt!
My style naturally evolves with the constant absorption of the amazing illustration that’s out there. Saying that, I have an awareness of the direction in which I’d like to take my work and I’m striving towards achieving that satisfying balance and harmony that I think must drive every illustrator to want to continue to improve. If I could really nail one aspect of my work at the moment, it would be to capture that energy and looseness in the very first sketch and see it clearly in the final piece. I’m constantly trying to loosen up!
Who has been an influential and formative inspiration in your art?
I seem to have an endless list of illustrators that inspire me. Illustrators that make me want to grab my sketchbook and begin work immediately like Brian Wildsmith, Stepan Zavrel, Satoshi Kitamura, Carson Ellis and Jon Klassen. There are also many amazing illustrators who I have the privilege of interacting with on Twitter and I’m humbled at the time many take to offer creative support and encouragement.
I have been lucky enough to witness many friends, not just illustrators, achieve their dreams and without doubt the common denominator is hard work! I don’t know what the average ratio for success from a degree course in illustration is but our Falmouth graduation class of 2001 is doing incredibly well!
I have been lucky enough to exhibit alongside some amazing artists as well as having some great tutors and mentors along the way.
Using an example of one of your favorite pieces which one from your gallery of work feels most connected to “you?” Can you take us through the process from start to finish?
That’s an interesting question because the illustrations I feel more connected to I seem to have broken the normal process creating! Maybe that should tell me something!
I guess the process is fairly similar though. Lets take the Cheetah. This was done for #colour_collective. The colour theme was lemon yellow. This illustration was very quick and that tends to be common in the work that I’m pleased with. I think it goes back to capturing that initial energy and looseness in the first sketch.
I did the sketch very roughly in my sketchbook. I then scanned the sketch in to Photoshop. I used a couple of textures I had made using acrylic paint for the background then finished it off quite literally playing around with a range of Photoshop brushes. It probably took an hour.
Tell us about the Pinch Punch Post art and illustration group featured on Twitter and Facebook ~ from concept idea to present, featuring all those amazing artists, in addition to highlighting a sweet Junior version for kiddos!
I imagine a great deal of heart and work goes into this creative collaboration and supportive artist group which opens up the playing field to feature all levels of experience and artistry. So many times a new artist, or even an experienced one, may feel that they create something and yet no one seems to see it in such an overwhelming online platform such as Twitter. Disheartening at times, attempts to obtain views of art work to secure future work possibilities, can easily feel like small fish in an overwhelming ocean of amazing talent. This is a wonderful chance for artists who wish their work valued online and an opportunity to showcase their style and unique skills. Pinch Punch Post collaboration board is so welcoming and genuine because it gives an artist, no matter their level of experience or talent, a platform to not only be seen, but also be encouraged and supported. Simply fantastic.
From first hand experience, I have learned how valuable social media can be in the exact way you describe it. I only joined Twitter in November 2014 and almost immediately stumbled upon #illo_advent, a December art challenge created by Penny Neville-Lee. I started creating artwork to contribute and was amazed by the supportive nature of this community of Illustrators both professional and aspiring. #illo_advent only ran for the month of December. I was so disappointed when it had finished but then Penny started #colour_collective in January 2015 and the fun continued.
I slowly discovered more daily or weekly illustration challenges on Twitter and was very keen to start one myself. I hadn’t seen any monthly challenges, although I’m sure they are out there, and this seemed a great idea for those wanting to contribute to an art challenge on a less frequent basis. The tag #pinchpunchpost derives from a traditional saying in the UK, “Pinch, punch, first of the month”, and the posts run on the first of each month. I’ve had some funny queries about the name, which must seem bizarre if you’re not familiar with the saying!
I decided on a creature theme. I thought it would be a great opportunity to build characters in portfolios. I try to tie the themes in with animal awareness days if possible. For example February 1st theme is a whale and on February 16th it’s World Whale Day.
The response has been amazing. As you say, the idea is that anyone can join in at any level and that’s one of the most exciting aspects of the challenge. We occasionally have children contributing to #pinchpunchpostjunior via their parents. It’s really wonderful to see artwork from children and I hope they are encouraged by the positive feedback they receive. They may even be lucky enough to get responses from practicing illustrators whose work they admire.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Being asked to do interviews or contribute to blogs like yours is very flattering! One instance that springs to mind was working on a children’s story that was actually created by three children for a school project. They had come up with a pretty cool story and some ideas for characters. I acted as their illustrator, going through sketched ideas first, taking feedback from them and then completing finals. They were blown away; it was such a lovely experience.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given that continues to motivate you and inspire you to keep going even during the creative slumps or when you feel you just hit a road block in advancing your skills or finding work as an artist?
One of the best pieces advice ever offered to me was that when creating an illustration, is to just start! Don’t get caught up on whether you should do this idea or that. Start. That first thought or moment of inspiration that comes from the directive, I just run with it. Sometimes it’s like magic and things come together very quickly, sometimes it does need to be re-thought or re-worked but procrastinating is quite literally a waste of time!
What other things in life inspire you creatively when you are creating a new illustration?
I love listening to music while I work. There was a great radio station when I first moved to Australia called Dig but it has changed a fair bit so these days I prefer Pandora.
How do you manage your art career / time / social media promotion / finding clients / family and life? I always seem to ask this question in my interviews searching for the magical great white unicorn in the forest of time and energy.
Lots of late nights at the computer!
If you could give one single piece of good advice to an artist just starting out in children’s literature artistry what would it be? For example, it’s one thing to work “in” our art, and yet entirely another to run a successful art business. Seems rare to find an artist that is proficient and excited by both marketing and creating art, unless they hold experience and degrees in business marketing.
So true. I’m still learning myself, but as long as you keep moving forward and keep putting yourself out there, work will come. I’d say showing diversity but within your own recognizable style. Staying up to date and keeping in touch with what’s happening in your area of illustration.
Where would you like to see your art career in 5 years?
I’d like to be represented by a great agency and, among other accomplishments, I’d like to have my own children’s story published.
CONNECT with Thea and the PINCH PUNCH POST collaboration art groups on these social media platforms~