Meet IA's Lisa Stewart - On the energy and excitement of illustration

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lisa Stewart




Do you have an art practice outside of illustration?

I'm also a professional violinist

Who and what inspires your art and creativity?

Nature and animals inspire me. As do people and music. I love looking at other peoples illustrations and illustrators of yester years. I love books and talking books. Theatre and dance humans are amazing.



What excites you about illustration?

Oh everything! I love it when you get the story from the publisher or agent. Those first images you see in your mind are very exciting and sparks fly around and you can't stop thinking about the author's words and how to best honour them with your illustrations. That lasts until the day you hand them in. Also working with the amazing people at the publishers. The editors are very important, and so so wise. Also I respect and adore my agent who encourages me. 


What do you love illustrating?

Oh the first mark makings in sketchbooks, the feel of the pencil on paper. The thoughts whirling around and around in your head. How do I best illustrate this? Will I do the story justice? Is it ok? Is it good enough? Practise practise sketching, research, heart pounding a lot . Meetings with editor. Constructive criticism taken, open to ideas, open also to the fact that your first idea may change in the process. The storyboarding nerves.Then the nod to begin on final artwork. And then bliss!!

The paper chosen and brought, the hope that you've brought enough good paper for the pages that may not work and you need to redo!

Then adding colour. Completely absorbed, going for hours on end without realising the time flying by.

Then exhaustion but a happy exhaustion. The exhaustion helps you be less nervous when you hand in the final illustrations complete and ready to hand in.


What’s a typical day for you as an illustrator?

I alternate between being being a performing and practising violinist in Acacia Quartet, so I may be touring, traveling, recording, but I always have my sketchbooks on me and am always sketching ideas for the latest picture book, or writing story ideas. Traveling is a wonderful way to open the imagination. I will spend train trips listening to music and sketching or writing with the sound of the train on the tracks as my accompaniment.

On non music days I will begin the day sketching in notebooks, then when I feel I have enough material I will go to the big table top and put up sketches. The authors story. Create and stick storyboarding all around the room with washi tape (that's good as it doesn't wreck the walls - don't want the landlord unhappy).

If I'm in final weeks of illustrating a book, deadline approaching I like to work pretty much non-stop. I won't really be able to sleep as I will be so exciting and ‘on a roll’ or ‘in the zone’ as people say.

Do you regularly exhibit your work? Why or why not?

I have once some years ago and would love to again. It's a matter of organising it and I don't think to ask, or get to nervous to, but when offered love it. It's scary before hand, like being backstage before a concert, but once there it's wonderful and exciting. 


What are your thoughts on social networking and marketing yourself online as an artist? How has this helped you gain a following or given you opportunities?

I enjoy putting up sketches on Facebook and Instagram. It helps me to give me a sense of that I'm doing something. I think as an artist type or perhaps from my music background there is a strong sense of 'Have I done anything today? Have I practised my sketching?'. All the time I just see so much to improve with my illustrating and playing. I really love seeing what other illustrators are doing and I'm so inspired by them!

Given what you know now, do you have any advice for yourself in those early stages?

It will be ok. Just keep going! Perseverance!

Could you give some experience of roles with clients?

I'm grateful for having the most amazing agent who guides and encourages me.

Do you have any advice for illustrators interested in joining Illustrators Australia?

Join! Very important to have support and support others!


What’s your favourite weird colour (or weird paint shade) name?

Bumblebee yellow!


ThirteenRedShoes: Talking to Somebody


Lisa Stewart has taken some of her very precious time to join us today for Talking to Somebody.  Many thanks Lisa, I am thinking of you and your family.


What is your work space like?

Well its just lovely, its the side room in a little apartment in Manly NSW.  The light comes in and I have a wonderful pin board my Step Dad Ralph made and he stuck a table top on top of an old architect table for me. He also made the bookshelves up the top . Lucky me! Also the love of my life Stefan is always thinking of practical things to help me be organised. I'm not sure if you can see the toolbox which I have all my pencils paints etc in.



How do you record your ideas and thoughts for your work be it as a writer, illustrator/graphic designer?

I have lots of stetch books / visual diaries/ journels which I write in or try to every day. Often a sketch in one of these books then is used for a final picture or just a feeling. I always feel better too if I can put pencil to paper its a real theapry and I think a way of expressing emotions.  I suppose I feel at peace when I'm sketching. It is the only way out of times of feeling sad or low for me. Music helps me too.  I also love watching David Attenbourough and spend time watching his series to help draw places I can t see or be at so can sketch something like a baby platypus or try help me collage a baby cassowary or create a possum and its baby.

I would love to hear about a few of your favourite picture books.

Oh I have sooo many . But there is one that just amazed me as a four year old onwards called Sunnyside Up. Its a wordless picture book and I would stare at it for hours and hours wondering what it all meant. As I write to you I realise it has had a big influence on me. With being part of nature and I think animal and human rights.

What is your favourite thing about your home?

My husband Stefan and daughter Claire, all the amazing books , my bed - I seem to be always tired lately, the peacefulness Stefan creates, the friends who come to visit and that they feel comfortable here and that I really live surronded by nature that is my heaven on earth.

Growing up what did you want to do and be?

A concert violinist and secretly in my journels after the birth of my daughter Claire an Illustrator.   I have been supported by many many people in making these dreams come true.  Hundreds over the years of music making and now again with illustrating.  I'm so lucky. I think illustrating is another form of giving, as is the music.

How does the city you live in influence your style?

Oh very much so Manly is divine I am so lucky to live here. I love the water the trees the lizards the birds the fish the sky the rain the trees the flowers the insects. The people.

Lisa's titles can be found online at the links below.  Please do remember to visit your local boutique bookshop first. 

Bushland Lullaby
Rainforest Lullaby
Mummy's Kisses
Can I Cuddle the Moon?

An Illustrated Year 2013 Calendar - About Lisa Stewart (Miss September)

SEP 29 2013

An Illustrated Year 2013 Calendar- About Lisa Stewart (Miss September)

About September’s Illustration:

This divine image by Lisa Stewart was the first I allocated to a month in An Illustrated Year 2013 As soon as Lisa sent me ‘Koala’, I knew that it belonged in September, Save the Koala Month. You can read more about Save the Koala Month and how you can help at Wildlife Fun 4 Kids.

What was the inspiration for ‘Koala?’

‘Koala’ was inspired by this very, very soft and delicate paper I saw at my favourite paper store, Wills Quills (which has sadly closed down). I wish now that I had bought more of it at the time.

How did you create this image?

‘Koala’ was created using a combination of pencil, white gouache and the gentle tearing of this delicate paper.

About the illustrator:

What do you enjoy most about illustrating picture books?

I love that it takes me into another world. I am so focused that I feel like I’m in a dream whilst I create the pictures.

Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming book?

Rainforest Lullaby, written by Sally Odgers, will be coming out in November for Scholastic Press. I used some of the same soft, grey paper on the baby kookaburra- perhaps you can see that?

I also just finished a book for Random House called Jam for Nana by Deborah Kelly, which will be released next Mother’s Day 2014. I’m very nervous about it because it’s the first book in which I’ve illustrated people. Feeling confident about my illustrations can be tricky.

I’ve also illustrated a counting app for Snappyant. Here’s an image that shows that when you click on the eggs the little baby animals will hatch.

Next year I will begin work on a book for Scholastic Press called Baby Bear’s First Sleep with images similar to this one I created.

Can you give us a peek into your creative work space?

My studio is in the side room of where we live in a rented apartment. We feel very lucky to live in such a lovely place in Manly.

This image was taken when I was working on the counting app for Snappyant.

Lisa’s books include:

Can I cuddle the Moon? By Kerry Brown, Scholastic Press

Mummy's Kisses by Paula Clark, Scholastic Press.

Bushland Lullaby by Sally Odgers, Scholastic Press.

Some of Lisa’s illustrations can be purchased through Books Illustrated, but Lisa can be contacted for more specific pieces.

Bushland Lullaby Blog Tour

Today we're interrupting illustrator Lisa Stewart in her light-filled home studio to chat about the delightfully soft and textured illustrations she created for the must-have new picture book for parents and grandparents, Bushland Lullaby, by author Sally Odgers.

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