Interview with Caroline Pedler

Caroline Pedler

I have two sides to my creative personality.

Celeste: Hi Caroline, thanks so much for taking time out to chat to me today! I just love your work! I understand that you have done a lot of illustrations for children’s books over the years. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself and how you came into this industry?

Character Sketch from Little Bear's Big Jumper
Character Sketch from Little Bear’s Big Jumper

Caroline: Hey Celeste, Yeah thanks…. I was living at home in Cornwall after a disastrous gap year and bad health and worked on my illustration folio. I had a lucky break showing my folio to a card company in Bath and from there on in I started illustrating greeting cards for a company called Gordon Fraser, under the umbrella of Hallmark Cards in 1997. I worked for card companies for a couple of years, illustrating numerous ranges and making a living from that and bar work. I loved it. I was then offered my first children’s book around the same time, for Oxford University Press, and then another for Readers Digest in Bath. From one of the the first ever greeting cards I did with Hallmark, a company called Parragon wanted me to do a book based on that card, of Father Christmas. I did 7 more books in that range, plus another 6 over the next few years. That started my career. I also took part in exhibitions in local galleries at that time and got an agent via that connection. So for a while I did various illustration work and then I started working with the children’s publisher Little Tiger Press in 2005. I have been on a rolling book contract with them ever since. Meaning I am contracted to do 2-5 books in one contract, spanning over 12 months – 2 years in advance. I prefer a two book contract so I don’t feel trapped. Little Tiger are a great company and really look after me. To the extent of taking me to business parties and taking me out for dinner in Palaces and lovely restaurants in Bologna, Italy, while at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Dont Wake the Bear
Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare!

Celeste: Your illustrations are too beautiful. Can you tell us about the medium you used, for example in “Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare!”?

Caroline: I use acrylics for all my books. One reason because it’s so versatile and the other because it dries so quickly, meaning I can overlay the layers, working more quickly when on tight deadlines. I love that I can get a really fluid watery application, but I can also use them with a dry brush, layering textures and get a completely different effect. I use all sorts of techniques in my work as an artist and as an illustrator, and for a more simple style I use a watery acrylic wash and pick out the detail with coloured pencil, which is so much fun, and more in tune with my need for immediate satisfaction.

Celeste: You are also a teacher, I understand. Can you tell us about teaching illustrations and what kind of projects you give your students?

Caroline: I work two days a week on the Illustration degree at Plymouth College of Art in Devon, UK and I love it. Mainly because I love seeing what people come up with. I can give someone the smallest piece of advice and they can steer it into something completely beautiful or completely different to what I imagined, which is so rewarding. I don’t set the programme content, but I do set workshops, run classes and presentations throughout the course of the year. Starting with very basic skills and tasks that a self employed illustrator would need to work as a professional, including marketing themselves, creating CV’s, Portfolios etc and also developing them as an artists so they leave, not only inspired but also prepared as an artist and as a business person. I work with 2nd and 3rd years, so I see them develop quite considerably over the time I am with them, into their final year. The workshops I do are based around what I have learnt as an artist /illustrator and hopefully inform and inspire the students to explore their own practice in more depth and with more inclination, and hopefully helping them be the best artist /illustrator they can possibly be.

Santa's Star by Caroline Pedler
Santa’s Star by Caroline Pedler

Celeste: I am sure there are a number of personal projects that are buzzing through your mind. Can you share a little about maybe one of them? Or tell us about a character you might have?

Caroline: I have two sides to my creative personality. One is that of a children’s book illustrator, who loves to go through the process of idea generation, thumbnails, roughs and artwork, and the buzz of getting the book published and sold all around the world. The other is my authorial self, who is very spontaneous, knocking paint pots over to get to materials I frantically need to move my image forward. Creating one offs and limited edition prints.

The projects I have in mind at present are mainly books. I have my own small press called an-ti-dote press. I make books that are either catalogues of my exhibition work, or are a response to objects or a feeling, with subtle narratives running through them or working on my own children’s book ideas. I have created a book about my dog walks. Just snippets of funny or nice things that have happened on my walks with the dog, so I made a daily visual diary and made a few of them into a book. I have more coming out soon. I have a children’s book in my collage style coming out as soon as I can get it into Indesign! I always have so many projects written down to achieve. I have so many ideas. I want to do a project that spins around my family soon too, painting objects that mean a lot to us all, illustrating them next to texts written by all the family.

Little Bears Big Jumper
Little Bears Big Jumper

Celeste: Do you attend any workshops or conference relating to illustrating? Can you tell us a little about them?

Caroline: I am hungry for anything that can add to the knowledge and experience I have of being an artist. I go to anything I can. I interact as much as I can with the industry. Going to various events around art, illustration and anything creative that I feel will move my practice forward. I am always going to private views of exhibitions too. They are a great way to be inspired and met up with friends you wouldn’t necessarily get time with. I especially love the MA Illustration forum at Falmouth University every year. It includes many seminal illustrators from the 70’s to current day contemporaries. It covers practice, content, application and context and generally  inspires you to think a different way and helps you realize your own practice in ways you wouldn’t have thought of before.

Celeste: I always think that it was some story book we saw as children that inspired us to be who we are today. What was your favourite children’s book and do you have any other illustrators who inspire you?

Caroline: I totally agree, we are our childhood experiences for sure, but I don’t have any really strong memories of books from my childhood, unlike other illustrators I know. I therefore can’t put my work down to one book specifically, but I do know, after looking through my old books, that the Ladybird books, Winnie the Pooh and the anthologies of illustrated stories we had as children have been a huge influence. That said, I do remember one book that my parents had, which was the Wonder Book of illustrated stories. It had Arthur Rackham style illustrations and tissue paper over the illustrations, making it feel so precious, I felt really special reading that book. So it’s more of a feeling that books gave me that I took away from my childhood, rather than specific books or illustrators. I have realized that my parents books like Winnie The Pooh and EH Sheppard style drawings, are what my work is most naturally influenced by. The thumbnails I do for my children’s books could quite easily sit next to EH Sheppards illustrations and not look out of place. I always remember Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar, which I didn’t like as a child and it is only on becoming an adult that I have enjoyed these more abstract, contemporary style illustrators.

Zooming up to the present and I am very influenced by more contemporary illustrators like Manon Gauthier, Laura Carlin, Isabelle Arsenaught, Beatrice Alemagne, but I have always thought the work of Walt Disney and the film Watership Down has been an influence on the landscapes I create for my children’s books, which I only noticed a few years ago.

Caroline PedlerCeleste: Has there been any project or book that you have done that has really stuck with you over the years?

Caroline: I’m an artist who gets distracted so easily and not being a creature of habit or routine, I move on from one project to the other very quickly. So when I start something I have to immerse myself in it, locking myself into the space I’m in, so as not to get distracted by the outside world. My end product could be a new illustration, an exhibition, or a book. For each I am focused to the end goal and then I can move on. The same goes when I am on deadline with my children’s books. I have to give everything to those three months, in order to get through it on time. I get less and less time to complete them, so I have to focus. There are characters that turn up in my books that are almost like little charms, like the mice in Don’t Wake the Bear Hare, and little incidental creatures/ insects that I add in with a little humor. Some have to be cut out, due to being too silly, which is a shame.

Penguin resting
Penguin resting

Celeste: Thanks again for taking time out to chat with us today. Can you share a little-known-fact about yourself and where people can find you on the internet?

Caroline: A little known fact about me is that when I was at playschool (aged 3-5), I wouldn’t say boo to a goose, and my teachers thought I wasn’t keen on talking at all and thought there was something wrong with me. The truth was that I had nothing interesting to say, so I kept quiet. I just sat in the corner drawing and painting all the time. Nothing much has changed to date, I still find it hard to talk about nothing and spend every spare minute drawing and painting and creating.

My more commercial children’s book work can be found anywhere online, under my name, but that website is www.carolinepedler.co.uk. I then have an alter ego body of work, that is in complete contrast and was born on the MA Illustration Authorial Practice in Falmouth, and is at www.an-ti-dotepress.co.uk. This work is more in tune to my natural palette and way of working. My blog has a lot more practice and process, and a variety of events and projects that I have going on at one time. Soon to be updated after a long stretch on the Children’s book deadlines.

Thank you so much Celeste for asking me to contribute to your blog. And I hope I have something of interest for your readers. Thank you : )

 

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Thanks for Reading!