How did you start as an illustration?
I have always loved illustrating and designing, at college I had intended on studying illustration but got side tracked by the animation department which seemed so creative and fun . So then I went to film school to study animation direction and worked in the animation industry making short films and stuff for tv. During that time, the most amazing job of being art director landed in my lap. It was for Tiger Aspects Cbeebies show “Charlie and Lola” based on the books of Lauren Child. After the first series I was desperate to do my own stuff again and got in touch with Lauren Childs agent and showed her all the books and stories I had made (for myself!) She got me some meetings at different publishing houses and from that point on, I have been lucky and have published lots of books.
What fascinates you most about writing and illustrating for children?
I don’t overtly try and write and illustrate for children… I just do what is natural to me and what I like or find interesting. I suppose some might say that I have never really grown up, in the respect that I love dreaming, and seeing the magic and fun in everything. Most people lose a bit of that and perceive it as being not relevant and childish. I think there is a big difference between being childish and childlike. All children are naturally inquisitive and open to new ideas- I think that those are wonderful qualities and a great shame most lose this as they journey through life. I like to create characters and narratives that are familiar, but to inject absurdity and things out of context to create interesting discord that can be enjoyed, and then thought about.
Who (and what) inspires you in your daily life?
Anything. Tiny little things, or big things. It could be a pattern on some socks, something somebody says, a shop window display, interesting typography in a book…. Inspirational stuff exists in abundance- you just have to be open to see it. There are so many creative people out there doing such amazing stuff. This can be inspiring or demoralising… depending on what mood I am in!
Do you remember your first illustration?
Not specifically, I can not remember ever a time when I didn’t draw and make stuff. I still have all my drawing books and storybooks I made when I was little (the benefits of being in a family of hoarders!) I loved being able to create stuff that was in my head- so then it became real and tangible. And I loved that you could share that with other people (and get praise for it!). Mum says at pre-school she was taken aside by the head teacher who told her she had never seen a child so young being able to colour in as well as I did… so I guess I was destined to be a professional draw-er and colourer-inner!
How do you maintain your creativity?
I don’t really think about it. I have to make stuff and be creative otherwise I get depressed. It is something I just have to do. My husband calls it creative tourettes, as it just comes out whether I want it to or not. I always have lots of different projects on the go… illustration, writing, upholstering a lampshade, designing laser cut things, making a wool rug in the shape of a giant turtle. I think working in lots of mediums is good as they feed off each other and make you look at things in different ways. I can’t understand it when people say they are bored- there are so many things I want to make that I just don’t have time to do.
Do you have a personally favourite project up to now?
That’s a tricky one. You always think the project you are working on or the one you have just finished is the best thing that you have ever done. I guess as that is where you are at creatively. I have just finished some layouts for a picture book that deals with the difficult topic of death and dementia of a loved one. I think it will be tricky to find a publisher for this book as it is a difficult subject. But I think it is important to be able to share and use books as a discussion platform with children who might be experiencing this with someone they know. I have made the book very approachable, fun and not too sad- with hope and meaning at the end… I really hope I will find a publishing home for it… shall see what happens…
Could you pick your favourite thortful card you created up to now?
I think the one with the 3 ducks swimming under a rain cloud. The original incarnation of this I created for my son before he was born and my clever mum made it into the most beautiful quilt for him. I am the mother duck, and the two smaller ducks following me are my daughter and my son So this card reminds me of him when he was tiny…. yes yes I know I am a sentimental fool!
What’s your favourite social network to promote your work?
Twitter and instagram
Tell us about your professional plans for the future. How do you see yourself in 2 years?
I love making picture books- so I want to do that forever! I have a huge pile of texts I would love to become books one day.
Also, hopefully very soon my husband (who runs animation studio Beakus) and I are going to be making a Cbeebies animated series which is very exciting. It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get to this point with this new project! We created it together and I have designed it. We are now working with writers on scripts which is great fun…. watch this space!
Name: Leigh Hodgkinson
City: Lewes (East Sussex)
Favourite Quote: “Don’t worry Mummy, when I grow bigger and you grow smaller, I will carry you”- said by my 2 year old daughter when I was moaning about having to carry her up a hill to get home.
Dream destination: Anywhere with all my favourite people in the world.
Favourite Colour: lime green or turquoise
3 things you’d take on a desert island: a bottomless box of art materials, coffee and a ukelele (which I am terrible at- but given time I am sure I would be better!)
Strangest moment I’ve experienced:
Ooh not sure- there are a few very different options here…
One is when I met my husband to be on a channel 4 reality show where 5 animators were locked in a room for 72 hours and had to make a film each. The person who made the best film win a 2 week holiday to the Maldives. He won (which he never lets me forget!)- but he took me with him- Not a bad first date!
The other was watching a huge angry baboon with sharp teeth chase my 65 year old father across the garden and over the balcony when we were on safari in Kenya. The baboon broke my dads glasses and my dad dropped his camera. It was all very odd and dramatic!
“I’d love to sleep for a whole night without being woken up by my children.”
Describe yourself in 3 words:
Scruffy, fizzy, idealist.
Leigh on Social: