Answering Your Questions About Me
It always seems incredibly self-indulgent and somewhat narcissistic writing about one’s self, and I certainly don’t wish today’s Blog Post to come over that way at all. It’s really just so that you, my readers get to know me a little better and also answer some of the questions that I’m frequently asked via my social media pages. Each of the questions below was recently submitted.
But before I begin answering your questions, let’s get one thing straight, something that 9 times out of 10 you get wrong! I’m not a woman as many of you seem to think! I think this is primarily because a large part of my 20,000+ Social Media fans are from the U.S, and from my understanding ‘Kris’ with a K is more of a female name there, and I suppose to a degree it is here in the UK too. It really doesn’t bother me, and I find it funny, but I thought it would be a good time to settle the debate once and for all (haha!).
Thank you to each of you who have sent me some questions to answer via my Facebook Page. Here are the answers.......
We've never seen you, what do you look like?
Well, i'm not one to post pictures of myself really - hence the character painting of myself that you'll find on my homepage - so here I am. See..... I wouldn't make a good woman now would I?
Were you good at illustration at school?
I’ve always enjoyed drawing and remember doodling on my exercise books, but art never really featured heavily for me at school as such, mainly because I left school at a very young age (I don’t recommend leaving early kids!) so my only memories of drawing was from primary school – secondary school never really happened for me, although I did an hour or two a week of home-schooling where I did cover art as a subject.
My art teacher as lovely as he was would get me to draw the most boring of subjects, so I suppose to a degree it put me off of drawing and painting. Harvey was his name, and he had an unhealthy obsession with drawing spoons…. Yes, SPOONS! Not only is a spoon uninspiring to draw (for me at least) but it’s reflective, so it wasn’t easy, although I don’t think that was really part of the challenge to be honest – In fact, I to this day don’t know why I always had to draw cutlery! Even my exam was drawing a set of spoons.
On the day of the exam I felt so ill that I was nearly unable to make it in – not because of a stress (I don’t fret exams for some reason) but because there was a bug going around at the time and the exams could not be resat, so I dragged myself into the test centre and sat the exam, but I couldn’t be bothered to embark on the written element and thus only received a ‘B’ as a result, although I was advised that it would have been an ‘A*’ if I’d written something, so it was a moral victory at least.
Are your family artistic?
My mum can draw, although she doesn’t agree that she can. One of my cousins is also good at drawing. My little boy enjoys drawing and painting and creates lots of Halloween and Christmas themed images, but the rest of my close family are long gone, sadly.
What did you do before becoming an illustrator?
It’s more of a case of what I still do I’m afraid – illustration work is on a freelance basis for me as I’m a company director and do many different things, but first I’ll cover those that I did before any form of professional illustration.
Over the years I’ve done lots of different jobs, both paid and voluntary positions. By trade I’m a professional survival skills instructor – essentially I used to teach members of the public and special forces how to survive from the land. My specialist area is ethnobotany and as such I used to teach this subject on a frequent basis. Ethnobotany in case you are unfamiliar is the study of the interrelationship between people and plants. My courses would cover the hidden uses of plants, trees, fungi, etc. This led me to supply foraged foods for TV shows, so when ‘Gordon Ramsey’ or similar claim to have collected something for the pot it was very often someone such as I in the background that actually did the identification and collection. Because this is a somewhat niche area I was also a writer for several magazines and books and used to train people that you sometimes see on survival type shows – not the dramatic and silly sort, but the ones that are more documentary based involving true test of endurance or expeditions.
Somewhat linked with the job mentioned above, I became a wildlife guide and a warden of a nature reserve (the warden element I did for free for a charity for around 8 years). I was also an assistant manager of a nature reserve for a brief period and worked as a wildlife ranger which mainly involved teaching children about the natural world.
I’ve run a property business since I was 23 but sold that this year. Today, I’m a director of a busy company that I started back in 2006 and this takes up the vast majority of my time (sadly).
Illustration is a hobby that I began to venture into professionally within the last couple of years – so I’ve not been doing this for a long time publicly, in fact, you could say it is still in its infancy, but it is an area that I’ve been actively interested in, but finding time was always the problem!
Have you always drawn and painted in the same Style?
No, in fact I used to draw more realistic type work – mainly pencil drawings of animals and I used to paint in acrylics, but over time I abandoned both of these mediums/styles in favour of a more relaxed whimsical kind of style, usually painted in watercolour. I’m often asked why, and I think it’s mainly because it’s fun. I don’t want ‘pressure’ with art – I have enough pressure and stress with my other work, I want to sit down and draw something fun, much like you’d find in children’s books. Also, the rule book is thrown out of the window and I can paint or draw what I want – it doesn’t matter if a mouse is the same size as a badger, or a ladybird – my creation, my rules and that’s how it is in my paintings!
What’s your favourite thing to draw?
If you follow my work you will know the answer to this one! I enjoy drawing pumpkins, mushrooms, mice and anything autumn or winter based. I do love creating other stuff too though.
What are your favourite animals?
My favourite animals are dogs, but I don’t enjoy painting them very much! I do sometimes, but ask any artist and you will soon notice a theme of dogs, cats, horses and cows appearing as some of the top animals that we don’t like to draw/paint – and it’s because of their awkward-shaped legs! That’s why many illustrators have them standing in foliage (haha!). I do paint all of them, but I’m not such a fan. In terms of real animals I love dogs and all wildlife, and cockatiels.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I’ll exclude family from my answer here and include other illustrators. I enjoy lots of work by other illustrators, such as Quentin Blake, Axel Scheffler, E H Shepard, Beatrix Potter, Jill Barklem and so on, but my favourite illustrator is Raymond Briggs – not so much the subject matter all of the time, but he masters the sense of feeling and emotion in all of his work.
Do you own any art from famous illustrators?
UPDATE: see the end of this answer....
No, I don’t, although I did place an hefty bid on an original Raymond Briggs painting last year for charity, but someone outbid me and due to an error on my part I didn’t realise I couldn’t make another offer and so it was lost.
UPDATE: As a very strange twist of fate, I ended up owning this piece of art! See my blog for more details!
How did you come up with your quirky characters?
Most of my characters just evolve with time. Generally I will see something, maybe on a walk or even from out of the window – a little scene unfolding that you just wouldn’t spot unless paying attention to detail. For example, when I was painting recently there was a bird, a blue tit, that was settling on a bramble branch outside of my window and eating spiders from the underside of the leaf. I’d watch this and create a character or scene from it – sometimes switching the main character with something else but keeping the scene much the same. Another example from the other day on a walk, where I saw a devil’s coach horse beetle – these are fascinating creatures and somewhat aggressive which gives them great character so there is lots to focus on when building a character around them, and the name too is ideal for playing around with to create different versions of the new character - for example, a beetle pulling a coach along.
How many paintings or drawings do you complete each year?
This is difficult to answer, but I’d estimate between 300 and 600 paintings a year, but this includes small images too.
Will you be releasing your own Children’s Books?
Since this blog post was put up I have written and illustrated two books of my own - and there are more to come!
Why do you love Halloween so much, how do you celebrate it and what will you dress as this year?
I’ve always loved Halloween even when here in the UK you’d probably not find another person who celebrated it at the time. In the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s my mum would always arrange a Halloween party for me and my friends – so essentially a lot of happy memories and fun times. We’d have our dining room completely fitted out with Halloween decorations and lots of fun stuff going on for kids (and adults). It was always a big thing for us. I loved the artwork and colours associated with Halloween too and it’s just stuck with me, and today I do the same kinds of things for my children. This year I’ve created a hologram that walks around the house scaring people – it’s life-size and appears and vanishes from time to time (you can see a video on my Facebook Page). It’s the subtle things I like most about Halloween though, glowing Jack-o’-lanterns, autumn leaves, gourds and harvest type foods adorning the kitchen, and the children enjoying themselves with their costumes and trick or treating.
To answer the last part of this question – I don’t really dress up, although as a kid I was almost always Dracula, but today I may don a Halloween T-Shirt or similar, but I leave this to the children – unless they force me to wear something silly!
What other interests do you have?
I enjoy gardening, making things, cooking, writing, history, photography, powerlifting, boxing and anything a bit strange or where there could be a mystery to sniff out, such as historic events – who was Jack the Ripper? I’m also interested in the paranormal (not the ridiculous and crappy TV stuff), science, and anything that’s a bit different to the normal day to day things and forces you to think outside of the box once in a while.
What advice would you give to upcoming illustrators/artists?
I have to say, I don’t really feel qualified to answer this as I’ve not being illustrating long enough, but I will say that it’s not an easy hobby to turn into career. There are several reasons, mainly due to a large amount of competition in a very limited market place, but also, much like with music, it’s about getting lucky in many ways – I have no doubt those who already got ‘lucky’ will dispute this, but the truth is your work needs to be up to par and you need a bit of a break too.
My advice would be to focus on your own portfolio – do the best you can and persevere with things. Rejection in the world of illustration is common (no matter how good you are) so you will need a thick skin too. I’d certainly advise anyone to treat illustration as a hobby and let it build naturally over time, unless you have enough savings and resources to dive in headfirst – and still have some left to support yourself if it were not to work out.
Also, it’s worth asking yourself what ‘success’ as an illustrator means to you? Maybe it’s one book or publication for some sort, whilst others may want a full-time job until retirement. Be clear with your objective, set your goals and a deadline and work hard – see what happens.
Can you share your first drawings?
I cringe when I look at these now, but these are some of my cartoons that I was drawing as a child – probably copied from a Chris Hart Cartoon book!
Well, that's it for now. Thank you for sending your questions in - I hope some of this was of at least some interest to those who enjoy knowing some background details. Please feel free to comment below and don't forget to check out my social media pages!