Tons of published books, a colorful portfolio and lovely licenses… there is no doubt why clients from all around the world are captivated by Natalie Marshall’s amazing work. (And I’m sure by now you will be a fan as well!) Her fascinating and bright illustrations look amazing everywhere! (I truly love her outstanding greeting cards! How about you?) Do you wanna know more about this talented children illustrator? Well, it’s your lucky day! I had prepared a little interview just for you:
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started as an illustrator?
A: I studied graphic design at university, but my first love was always drawing. It sounds familiar but I did spend my childhood colouring and cutting, painting, sticking and drawing. My problem was that I could not see how I would be able to earn a living as an illustrator so I chose the next best path for me - graphic design, and I loved it.
After high school I spent a year doing a pure art course and building a portfolio of work so I could apply for a university - there were a very limited number of places in the degree so it was very competitive! After I finished my design degree I was selected to stay at uni for another year to complete an Honours Degree. During my Honours year I focused on producing illustration work in a variety of mediums, I also produced an illustrated magazine with a friend and wrote my thesis on illustration in design.
After I finished my Honours year I started work as a designer in Melbourne. After a few years I moved to New York and worked in a small studio that had very high-end clients in the financial sector. After almost four years in New York, I moved to London and freelanced through an agency for a year or so. Working in lots of different studios on a wide variety of projects was a nice break from the pressure of my old job in New York! I then took up a full-time senior design position in a studio in London which did a lot of community based work which I really enjoyed. Many of my clients did not have the budget for photography so I began to illustrate projects for them - which was great - seeing my illustrated posters on the streets of London was a huge thrill.
When I returned to Melbourne I decided to work for myself for a while and see if I could be successful on my own. It was really tough but I gave myself a year and started a little business illustrating personalized art for children's rooms. I then drew on my print and design background to start Little Red Owl, my greeting card business. Little Red Owl was hard work, long hours and a big leap of faith but I really loved it. A publisher saw my cards and offered me a book project which was a dream!
Q: Your art style is absolutely cute and unique. Has it changed a lot since your days at the uni?
A: My style has changed a lot since I was at uni. I have a very strong background in still life and life drawing and I especially love screen printing and painting but my many years as a designer meant working on a Mac and my style has evolved to suit that medium. When I first started woking on my own I spent A LOT of time drawing on the screen to really hone my skills. I can see a huge evolution in my illustration work over the last nine years.
Q: Could you share your typical work day?
A: Organize my kids for school, take our dog for a run. Then I work from home for the day while he sleeps under my desk. A couple of times a week I do an early morning run or an afternoon swim. My schedule is usually pretty packed - for instance I currently have twelve books on the go so I try to manage my stress with exercise! I usually do a few more hours at my desk after the kids are in bed.
Q: You have illustrated and also written tons of books. Do you find writing harder than creating art? Or is it the other way round?
A: I am always thinking about words and pictures. It is a constant thing that happens in my head no matter what I am doing, and I always think of them together. I think books are a partnership of words and illustrations and they have to work together and support each other. I sometimes get these bright lightbulb moments when an idea pops into my head - which is exactly what happened when I had the idea for my 'Happy Book'. I was out for a very early morning run, the sun was rising, and I was listening to the birds singing and they seemed so happy and full of joy that the idea for the 'Happy Book' popped into my head.
When I got home I scribbled down the words I was thinking of and then later refined them and I could already see the illustrations in my mind - so to me they tend to happen at the same time. I love creating books that teach children about the world and that is how my 'Millie-Mae' books were born. Millie-Mae is a child of the outside world, but in a small way that children can relate to - she builds sandcastles at the beach, flies her kite on windy days and makes lemonade from the lemon tree in her garden.
Q: How do you come up with new licensing ideas?
A: I do little sketches during my working week - sometimes they are specific sketches for a book I am working on but sometimes they are much more random - for instance I will think 'I would like to draw a crocodile with a hat... or an elephant... or a bear wearing a tutu' and I will experiment with the style of that sketch and then sometimes that little random sketch will become a card design. I love creating cards, they are a little mini story with a message.
Hey! Don't leave without checking out Natalie's wonderful web!