20 QUESTIONS / by Tim Hopgood


Please briefly introduce yourself :) Thank you!
My name is Tim Hopgood, I work as a picture book author and illustrator. My first job after leaving college was for the street-style magazine i-D, working for Creative Director Terry Jones. i-D was put together by hand - in the days before computers - so this is where I learnt to think in layers, because we had to imagine what the layouts would look like as the magazine couldn't afford to have anything proofed. Sometimes there were big mistakes - or experiments that didn't quite go to plan! After i-D I joined the Art Dept at British Vogue. There was no experimenting at Vogue. I left after just a year and eventually set up a design studio with my sister Pen. The majority of our clients were high-street fashion retailers, but we also handled work for the Central Office of Information. In 2002 I moved to York with my family where we now live and started a new career as a picture book maker.

What’s your favorite color?
Blue. Any kind of blue.

What’s your favorite food?
Blackberry crumble and ice-cream.

What’s your favorite place or country?
In the UK, it has to be Northumberland which has lovely wild empty beaches. I also enjoy Lisbon, Portugal and Barcelona, Spain.

What’s your favorite kind of music?
Anything you can dance to - favourites include; The Bottle by Gil Scott-Heron, The Love I Lost by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

Do you have a pet? What is it?
We have an elderly cat called Honey.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
If I had a time machine I think I would go FORWARD - just to see that everything worked out OK in the end.

Have you always known you wanted to be an illustrator? Did you study illustration? How did you decide to become an illustrator?
From about 7 years old I was making birthday cards and creating decorative envelopes. I used to spend my pocket money on new felt pens. I have a B.A. (Hons) Degree in Illustration - I studied in the UK at Kingston Polytechnic.

What tools and materials do you use to produce your work?
I draw and paint. I use 4B pencils, ink and brushes. I scan original b/w drawings into the computer and then use a mixture of Photoshop and QuarkXpress to put these drawings together. I'm not a computer whizz-kid, everything I know (which isn't a great deal) I taught myself so I've probably picked up lots of bad habits. I wouldn't want to spend all my time in front of a computer so this way of working suits me. And I don't want my work to look too computer-perfect!

Can you explain a little about your process when creating an illustration?
I love colour - but all my work starts off in b/w. I use the computer to colour all the different elements. This means if I change my mind, or if my Art Director wants to see the layout in a different colourway the change is quite simple. My roughs are very rough - just a scribble!

How did your style of work develop?
My style of working has been influenced by my design background. I like my images to have a strong sense of design so I try hard to surprise people with each page turn.

Where do you find your inspiration and where do your creative ideas come from?
Inspiration is everywhere. Don't wait for inspiration to come looking for you - go out and find it. Once you start looking you realize ideas are everywhere. Being an author is a bit like being a spy - you need to stand back, observe, listen and learn. That's why I walk into the city everyday - because you never know what you might see or hear!

Do you ever struggle to come up with new ideas or worry that they will run out?
No! I like to work on more than one idea at a time - so I've always got plenty to think about rather than concentrating on just one thing. I find one thing leads to another - coming up with new ideas is my favourite bit of being an author/illustrator.

What’s your philosophy for making art?
Don't be afraid to make a mess. Experiment, be bold and clean up afterwards!

How long does it usually take you to create an illustration?
It usually takes me about 3 to 4 months to create the illustrations for a book. I usually allow one week per double-page spread. Some layouts take less, some take a lot longer. Some of my favourite spreads are the simple ones.

What has been your favorite project to date?
My favourite project is always my latest. I guess that's because creating the illustrations for a picture book can be quite intense so you need lots of enthusiasm to see you through to the end. I remember Here Comes Frankie was really hard work because my computer wasn't up to the job - it kept crashing. I've since invested in a more powerful machine.

What artists influence and inspire you? Who is your favorite illustrator(s)?
Artists - David Hockney, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Andy Warhol.
Illustrators - Alice and Martin Provensen, Brian Wildsmith, Neal Layton, Bruce Ingman, Laura Carlin, Christian Robinson, Lucy Cousins, Maira Kalman, Leo Lionni, Roger Duvoisin, John Burningham, Eric Carle.

Do you think your graphic design background influenced your style of illustration?
Yes! And because of my design background I usually get to design the page layouts and typography too.

What are your goals for the future?
To produce lots more books that are fun, colourful and inspiring. I'd also like to start painting large canvases again.

What advice would you give to college students who would like to pursue illustration as their career?
DON'T DO IT! And if that put you off then illustration isn't for you!