Meet Kerry Millard - artist, illustrator, poet and - vet! Kerry's quirky, lively and often comical illustrations enliven the pages of all four title of The School Magazine. She put down her pencils long enough to answer some questions about her work.
Was there some point at which you realised you wanted to be an artist?
I always loved drawing ~ my favourite time at school was when it was too wet or there was too much snow to go outside for recess and we got to stay in the classroom and draw. I thought I would be an artist, then later thought I'd be a vet. I eventually became a vet, and then changed and became an artist! So I've lived backwards.
What are your favourite aspects of illustrating?
I love getting to read stories and poems and articles that other people have created, and then to really think about them deeply to be able to make an illustration that truly reflects and honours what the person has written. At the same time, I love being able to add something of my own. As long as it is true to what the author has written, I believe that my job is to add something of my own sense of humour or knowledge or feelings, otherwise, why am I there?
How do you approach the illustration of a new poem, story, play or article?
I love to be surprised, so don't look at the poem or story or play until I'm sitting with my paper and pencil ready to begin. That way I can be completely absorbed in my first impression and can use my very first feelings and thoughts and ideas that come to mind when I meet the piece for that very first time. I read it over and over while I'm working, but there's nothing as powerful as that first impression!
Animals feature in your work a lot. Is there a reason for that?
I've always loved animals, have had lots of pets, studied zoology and became a vet. So they have played a big part in my life and my interests. I suppose I enjoy having them crop up in unexpected places, and looking at our world from a very different angle; it makes you think about things when somebody else sees them quite differently to you.
How do you produce your art? Do you use pencils? Paper? Watercolour paints? A computer?
When I make illustrations for The School Magazine, I'm given pages with the words printed on them as they will be in the magazine, and blank spaces where the drawings will go.
I first draw lots and rub out lots and draw in pencil on thin paper which I lie on top of the pages I've been given. That way I can see the writing through the paper and make my drawings sit anywhere except on top of the words. Next, I loosely draw over the pencil lines with a black fine felt-tipped pen. When that has had a good amount of time to dry, I rub out the pencil lines, leaving the black ink lines behind. Some black pens are better than others for this so I experiment to find the best ones.
The next stage is to get my local printing shop to photocopy the illustrations onto thick smooth paper using their excellent machine. I used to be able to do that on my old photocopier, but modern machines use a different kind of ink that runs when it gets wet, and I need it to be waterproof.
I take my copies home, and paint them using a little paintbrush and my little watercolour set.
You are an artist as well as an illustrator. What is the difference?
Well, a poodle is a dog, but not all dogs are poodles.
An illustrator is an artist, but artists can be illustrators, or musicians, or dancers, or sculptors, or can work with fabrics or sounds or theatre or film or ice...
As an illustrator, I am an artist who makes pictures that work hand in hand with something that someone has written. As a painter I am an artist who makes paintings which don't go with a story or poem. I'm also a cartoonist which is a bit of a mixture of the two; I make drawings that have to stand by themselves, but they contain a whole story. Sometimes my artworks contain a bit of painting and a bit of sculpture, and I'd love some day for them to include a bit of music or sound as well.
So 'artist' is a broad category, and 'illustrator' is an artist making a particular kind of art.
Printed magazines for children: invaluable literacy resource or relic of the past?
Printed work is available to everybody and doesn't depend on having a device to read it, electricity to run it, and an internet connection to obtain it.
I think that stories have been with us forever and will be with us forever and I think that they are an important and rich part of our lives. I hope they will always be available in paper form to be read and thumbed through and discovered again and again (under the bed and in a drawer), to be shared, passed along, and accessible to everybody, particularly those who don't have access to electricity, internet and technology. And for those who do, I think it is important for the brain, particularly young ones, to have a break from living life on a screen.
To find out more about this versatile artist, visit Kerry Millard's website.