Wednesday 17 September 2014

Introducing Ruth Thorp


What is your first memory of art?

I’m not sure if I have a particular first memory of art, but I do know that I can’t really remember a time without it! I’ve always loved making and creating things. I never had time to get bored because my mum always had lots of creative projects to keep us entertained as kids and I always had a sketchbook on the go. I do have quite a clear memory of running a straw and tissue-paper flower making workshop with the other kids at nursery – I was about three and had seen it on Blue Peter the night before!

Which books did you enjoy as a child?

I absolutely loved books as a child - particularly picture books and fiction - there are just too many to name! My books were some of my most treasured possessions and I would stay up for hours past my bedtime reading. Luckily, my mum loved the books too and couldn’t bear to part with them, so they were all still in boxes in the attic waiting to be rediscovered during a recent house move. I could remember every one! It was like looking through old family albums. I ended up being very little help, because I just read them all and then fell into an exhausted snooze! Whoops! The lovely thing is that they are now being read by my gorgeous 2 year old niece who takes great joy in picking the books off the shelf at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

What’s your favourite subject to draw?

If I look at my current body of work, birds seem to pop up a lot! So I guess I like drawing birds...and funny characters...and I like creating abstract landscapes too. I haven’t got much patience when I draw, so I much prefer abstract doodles and simple outline drawings, which I can then manipulate on the computer.


Which is your favourite spread from your picture book The Squawks and why?

Oh this changes a lot. I think it really depends on my mood. I particularly like my ‘Squawk in disguise’ page though - he always puts a smile on my face and I love watching people’s reactions to him as well. There is always a little chuckle as they turn that page. I love my ‘mad’ page too, and the Squawks leaping home.

If you could only choose one essential tool of your trade which would you choose and why?

Wow that is really hard. I would like to say a pen and paper, as pretty much all my work starts with this, but my current work style and process is so reliant on the computer with graphic software, that I would probably have to choose that; maybe with a Wacom tablet so I could still try and get my hand-drawn style!

How did you feel when you first saw your book in print?

It was incredible. Quite unbelievable actually as it looked even better in print than it did on screen and it had my name and an ISBN number on it.... pretty cool!

Which three pieces of advice would you give to illustrators trying to break into the publishing world?

1. Be honest with yourself and choose which bits of advice to listen to and equally to ignore. The right path and end goal for one person may not always be the right path for you, and whichever path you choose it should be fun!
2. Connect and talk to other people. It’s amazing how inspired you can become from just having conversations with new people. Surprising and unexpected opportunities seem to arise when you just have the courage to talk to people about yourself, your work and your interests and the bonus is you meet some really lovely people along the way.
3. Be brave enough to go for it! There are many different ways to be an illustrator, and not everything will work, but you will never know if you don’t try.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s ok to change your mind.

Apart from illustration what’s your biggest talent?

I make a lot of my own clothes. Before illustration, I was planning on making couture wedding dresses for a career, but soon realised it was a lot more fun (and much less stressful!) just making dresses for me. I have had dance lessons since I could walk so I’m pretty good at that: I still go weekly in Bath and love it.

Which three things inspire you most?

Pembrokeshire and being in my parents’ beautiful barn conversion that my partner, my mum and myself created for them to live in. It is definitely my second home - I go there as much as possible and always do my best work whilst I am there. It is where I came up with the idea for The Squawks.

My family: we are a very creative bunch and we have a lot of fun together. We always have projects on the go and my parents are very dynamic, so we all spur each other on.

Great design, colour and the amazing work of others: this can sometimes get a bit overwhelming because there are so many incredibly talented people out there and it is hard not to start comparing yourself to them! It’s important to strike a balance between aspiring to be as good as all the wonderful work you see around you and having belief in your own work and style.

What’s next?

I have another book coming out very soon, which I’m really excited about. This is a collaborative project with my sister for a rhyming children’s book that she has written and I have illustrated. Sarah’s words are fantastic and I am really proud of the illustrations and colour palette. I have also recently completed my first magazine commission for the Spring issue of a Craft Magazine which was enjoyable and challenging. I hope that this will lead to further interesting projects. And then I have some more book ideas of my own. One that I have written, (but currently not started illustrating) and others which are currently just bubbling away as ideas. So lots coming up and as always not enough time to do it all, but the beauty of doing your own projects is that time doesn’t matter - you are in control!

You can purchase copies of Ruths debut picture book

 'The Squawks'  here
Find out more about Ruth's beautiful work by visiting her website or 

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