Published on

Q&A with Clare Elsom

Illustrator based in the UK

Hello! My name is Clare Elsom, and I'm an illustrator based in the UK. I mainly work in children's publishing, particularly the young fiction and picture book markets.

How did you get started in illustration?

I've always liked drawing, and at some point in my childhood I discovered ‘children's illustrator’ was a job and decided that I really, really wanted to do that. I truly got started when I did my degree in illustration at Falmouth University in England. I learnt a lot about different techniques and different areas of illustration while studying. Afterwards, I worked part time at NB Illustration agency in London, and learnt even more about the industry there. It was fantastic to work with talented and diverse professional illustrators delivering all kind of projects.

What is a turning point in your professional career?

I can think of a few turning points. My first 'proper' commission would be one, which was an illustrated booklet with The Independent newspaper (I was utterly giddy to see my work in print and bought about 17 copies). Leaving the agency to work full time as a freelance illustrator was another – I loved being an agent, but it wasn't where my heart was. I was scared to leave a steady job, even a part time one, but I'm glad I did – it's definitely given me more opportunities and more work as an illustrator. Another turning point was fairly recent – a publisher asked if they could put my name on the cover of a book when I'd only illustrated the cover and a chapter heading (it's rare to get your name on the cover in that situation.) It made me think I had some weight as an illustrator, and that felt fantastic.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work at your art studio all day long or mix a few activities?

I work from a co-working space at the moment, which is full of lots of different freelancers, and I've previously worked from a shared art studio, both of which suit me well. I don't like working from home too much – I find it isolating, and I like having a separation between work and home. I often pepper my day with a few different chores or activities, unless I get into The Zone, then it can be midnight before I look away from the paper!

My ideal environment would be a big desk, with all my equipment super organised (it never seems to be), fast internet, a window to gaze out of, and surrounded by lots of books.

Oh, and tea and biscuits.

Where does your work inspiration come from? (Do you believe in 'inspiration' at all)?

Definitely. Lots of different things inspire me. I love people and animal watching - illustrators are all terribly nosy creatures. Sketching or even just remembering different movements, interactions and funny phrases can be a jumping off point for artwork. Travel tends to make me think up stories and characters. I also keep files of inspirational images full of patterns, colour palettes, artworks, ornate buildings, clothes, toys, book covers, anything that catches my eye.

Where are your favorite art places in your city or outside?

I love visiting exhibitions of all kinds – from tiny seaside studios to the National Portrait Gallery. I am particularly delighted the House of Illustration has opened up in London. It's brilliant. To be honest, my favourite art place would be a children's department in a bookshop – I can spend hours browsing the wonderful stories and artwork!