Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Claire Powell: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.

Artist Claire Powell describes how coming late to illustration has been no bad thing, why dance inspired her colouring book artwork, how to make an award winning animation in your spare time and the joy of fart machines. Love meeting my featured colouring book artists!

Your artwork is about the freedom of dance, can you tell us more about it?
Well I knew almost immediately I wanted to feature a variety of characters in my artwork and I chose dance because I felt I could create a feeling of happiness and movement which would be fun to colour. I wanted to capture the feeling of being lost in the moment, which is how I feel when I’m illustrating and that’s how people feel when they dance to good music… or colour in! Each character is dancing in their unique way, lost in the music. The composition intentionally starts small and grows across the page – a crescendo of movement. Hopefully this piece makes people smile, maybe they’ll have a favourite character, or identify with a dance move – one comment on Instagram was ‘my mum dances like that!’ which made me smile.

How do the worlds of graphic design and moving image intertwine in your life?
I think training as a graphic designer has informed my illustration work hugely. I was taught a very traditional approach, tight grids and layouts, lots of typography, often drawn by hand and the simplicity of ideas was drilled into me – it shouldn’t take more than a short sentence to explain your idea! Those things have stuck with me and I see them appearing in my work now. Working in TV for nearly 10 years has also hugely influenced my ability to tell a story in a short amount of time. Storyboarding, sequencing, composition – all directly translate into my illustrations, especially my children’s books where I’m telling a narrative over a series of page turns. I often think of my characters moving, I imagine how they would walk or react to a certain situation (sometimes I act it out!) and then I try and capture that in a single illustration. I used to feel disappointed that I was arriving at illustration a bit later in life but now I see how the years of training in design and TV have actually been great ground work for where I’m moving to now… it’s all coming together like the ingredients of one ginormous, yummy chocolate cake!

The Scapegoat claire powell
What inspired your short film The Scapegoat and how long did it take to make?
My film was inspired by the book Arthur & George by Julien Barnes which I borrowed from Brixton library. I had no idea what the book was about when I picked it up but by the time I’d finished it I was hooked. I thought the story was so intriguing, it just felt like it would make a wonderful film. It’s based on a true story so there are several factual books written about the case, one written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, which I used as the basis for writing the script. After that followed a rough storyboard and animatic. Then I began drawing out the action of the entire film, frame by frame where necessary which took about a year. I had a huge chalk board with all 36 scenes written on and I’d cross them off one by one. I did it in every spare second of the day – before work, after work, weekends, on trains, planes… even on Christmas Day to my family’s horror! I scanned each scene as it was drawn and replaced it in the animatic. Then I started to colour each scene and add backgrounds. I’d chosen a style which was heavily textured, inspired by the Victorian era the film is set in which I always imagine to be dark and misty, so colouring was very labour intensive and took about 18 months. After each scene was complete it would get wiped off the chalk board, so bit by bit gaps started appearing on the board until there was one scene left, wiping that off was an amazing feeling. Music composition was happening in parallel and this was magical for me… Ged Adamson the composer got it so right the first time I heard his score I had goosebumps! Final stages of production were done in April 2014 – we recorded the final narrative with a voice over artist Jonathan Kidd and did a final grade. The whole film took 4 years from start to finish and I had a full time job through the entire process so there were definitely times I thought it would never be done but now it is I’m very proud I made it. You can find more including pictures of the chalk board at

How have you refined your illustration style and what materials do you use?
Well my film has a very specific look which I chose intentionally to capture the drama of the narrative but it isn’t necessarily a style that reflects me personally – it’s a bit dark! My illustrations have a natural humour to them and they’re actually quite simple. What I’ve always wanted to try and capture with my final illustrations is the spontaneity of my initial sketches as that can be lost when translating from sketchbook to laptop. So I’ve spent a while experimenting with how to retain the texture and looseness of the sketch. What interests me most is not having perfect outlines, I love it when the edges of a line or block of colour are broken in some way… I always start with a pencil sketch, sometimes I get it right first time other times there’s pages and pages of sketches. Then I ink each element of my pencil sketch separately using indian ink and a paintbrush or old fountain pen, scan everything, put the drawing back together and then add colour to the ink scans in Photoshop which retains the texture. I can spend hours choosing colours! I’ve also started playing around with different ways of creating texture – graphite, chalk, finger painting… I even busted out a potato the other day and painted with that! It’s an ongoing process of experimentation.

You recently joined the agency Darley Anderson, how did that happen and how has representation helped your career?
I did a children’s picture book course last year run by author/illustrator Claire Alexander, which she now runs at the House of Illustration. As part of the course Claire organises for industry visitors, the agent that came was from Darley Anderson. I expressed an interest in finding a picture book agent and the next day they asked if I’d go and chat to them which I did and they offered me representation there and then. It all happened quite seamlessly! I’m still very much at the start of my career and that’s exactly why I enjoy working with my agent Clare, she obviously has great industry contacts and a wealth of experience in what is a very competitive industry… she also buys me cake which is always a bonus.

CPowell_Yoga Farty Marty
Can you tell us more about Farty Marty – he sounds ace!
He is quite a character! All I can say is it’s the story of a mouse called Marty who adores cheese but cheese makes Marty Farty! His flatulence problem gets him into quite a lot of trouble. I’m in the process of artworking now and I’m pleased with how it’s looking. He’s a very expressive character who you can’t help but love and some of the spreads really make me chuckle. I read the book at Crouch End library to a group of children this summer and I took a fart machine with me for dramatic effect which seemed to go down well.

What led you to volunteer at the hospital?
I was actually approached by the events company (AD Events). They’re screening Disney’s film Inside Out for the children at Chelsea & Westminister Hospital MediCinema and were looking for some pre-entertainment. They asked if it would be something of interest to me and of course I said yes! Myself and another illustrator will be drawing pictures for the children to take away with them. It’s a great opportunity to do something for a charity event and practice drawing live! Eek.

Any other exciting projects in the pipeline?
As well as my children’s book work which is ongoing I’ve recently been talking to an independent card company about developing a range of cards for them and whilst it’s early days I’m really excited about it, so fingers crossed! I’m also doing a school visit where I’ll be doing character workshops with 2 groups of secondary school kids which will be great fun and I’ve been commissioned to do a collection of nursery prints too!

I’ll aim to post one interview a day until I’ve introduced everyone, so keep reading about my Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artists right here.

Categories ,#ameliasccc, ,Adult Coloring Book, ,Adult Colouring Book, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,animation, ,Arthur & George, ,Chelsea & Westminister Hospital Medi Cinema, ,Claire Alexander, ,Claire Powell, ,Coloring Book, ,Colouring, ,Colouring Book, ,dance, ,Darley Anderson, ,Farty Marty, ,Ged Adamson, ,House of Illustration, ,interview, ,Julien Barnes, ,Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ,The Scapegoat

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