Featured Artist: Suzanna Hubbard
We were lucky enough to print a beautiful A4 Magazine for the revered Suzanna Hubbard recently. We took this opportunity to sit down for a chat and find out a little more about her! Read on for more…
Hi Suzanna! Thank you for speaking to us. How long have you been illustrating for?
I have actually been illustrating for about twenty years, I am a cat of nine lives as an Illustrator! I taught Illustration for many years in one of my lives. I began working as an Illustrator after an MA in Narrative Illustration at The University of Brighton, we were just coming out of a recession at the time so things were slow, but gradually I began to get jobs doing mostly editorial work. My first job was for The Radio Times, I illustrated a scene from Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole a story set in the North of England about the notorious life of Francis Herries, a bounder and black sheep of the family. In those days they would send you the cassette to listen to, artwork was sent off in the post to arrive for the following day’s deadline, and briefs received by fax. I illustrated more stories for the Radio Times and then went on to illustrate for The Telegraph, The Times, TES, Woman & Home, Waitrose Magazine, and a regular slot for the fashion pages of Marie Claire whereby they would send me shoes that cost a small fortune to be returned once the job was complete. Gradually I moved more towards making a career in book publishing always having a strong predilection towards narrative work, I wanted to have a go at working with words & pictures bringing both together on the page. I wrote and illustrated a story based on a real person, the late Anne Naysmith who lived in her car. It was an idea that came to me after reading about her plight in the news. Anne was a brilliant concert pianist, a graduate of the Royal College of Music, who fell on hard times, she lived in her car in the street that she grew up in, her parents long gone. The street were divided about her residency, I guess my story at the time was about celebrating difference. Sadly Anne was run over in 2015, she was remembered as a much cherished character in her community.
We really like the work you produce, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
I think my recent work has the potential for both a young and a mature audience and is more diverse in its output and usage. Making art for me is as much about poetry as it is about telling stories, it’s an emotional connection with the world and how I see it. Good stories to me usually have some emotional force behind them and a deep connection with character, bringing them to life on the page. I take inspiration from characters I can easily identify with, both the light and the dark side of their story but adding a sprinkling of humour. The two books I most identified with as a young child were Old Winkle and The Seagulls by Elizabeth & Gerald Rose and The Old Woman who Lived In A Vinegar Bottle by Rumer Godden illustrated by the great Mairie Hedderwick. Both these stories are about simple characters both with an equal measure of light and dark, but both struggling to overcome some difficulty of one sort or another, be it friendship or being just too greedy! I think my love of character was formulated from these early books.
What is your view on having to compromise on a creative vision when being asked to produce work?
I think it’s a fine balance between all parties. You have to be able to work with the writer (if it is not you) and often this is a question of being the right person to illustrate their text. You need to be able to establish a good relationship with both editor and designer as they will be working closely with you. It is the publisher who will have the final say and the booksellers too, but for most projects you are chosen for ‘your voice’ so there is a chance to shine and do your best.
What do you think of the current climate for illustrators/designers? Is now a good time to be an artist?
It is a great time creatively, so much has changed with the advent of the digital world, it’s easier now to be more visible than ever in the work you do to a worldwide market. Instagram has I think mostly been positive for artists, makers & illustrators, giving them exposure and recognition perhaps beyond maybe what they could have expected before. At the end of the day, if you have a strong voice in your work, or something that people really love and ultimately good content to what you do, you are heading in the right direction.
Following on from that, what advice would you give to somebody wanting to break into the industry?
Be wholehearted in what you do and be devoted to keep growing – starting out, it can take time to find a way of working that you feel happy with. There will always be influences and many great people to learn from, this is great but it can be confusing! So my advice is to put the people you much admire aside, get out the tools you love and find your connection with them.
Finally… What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever produced?
I am particularly fond of a story I have been working on about a Captain & Dog at sea. I am also getting attached to a new character I have been working on called Juliet. I think for me whatever I am working on now is best as that is where my attention and focus is. Last year has gone, and tomorrow can’t wait.
Thank you so much Suzanna!
You can see more of Suzanna’s work here.