Fiction Ed Shirley chats with Kirk Houston, our Illustrator Of The Week.
Above is an example of one of Kirk’s fantastic story illustrations.
Hello, Kirk. You started out as an illustrator working on the staff here at DC Thomson before going freelance. How did you get into illustrating?
My high school art teacher recommended that I show some of my drawings and paintings to the art studio manager at D C Thomson & Co Ltd., publisher of “The People’s Friend”.
This gave me the opportunity to work in a studio full of extremely talented and creative people. I was able to illustrate for a huge variety of publications in an equally huge variety of styles.
Do you remember what your first piece of published art was?
The very first illustration I had published was actually for “The People’s Friend”.
It was for a Children’s Corner story about a little pixie. The magazine was actually kind enough to allow me to keep the original watercolour artwork. It hung on my grandparents’ wall for the next few years!
My working methods have changed over the years, as I’ve gone from working in pencil, watercolour, acrylic paints, dyes and inks to working largely digitally nowadays.
Do you immediately start to visualise a scene when you read the next story we ask you to illustrate, or does it take time?
Upon receiving the commission, I’ll read the story and begin thinking about how best to capture the feel of it.
Do any particular types of story offer greater challenges?
Stories set in the past can require a considerable amount of research, as it’s important to depict historical details as accurately as possible – though if I’d lived through as much history as my young nephew seems to think I have, I wouldn’t have to do so much homework before I begin!
Apart from working on the “Friend”, what other types of illustrative work do you do?
I work for other magazines, too, but I’m delighted that all these years later, I’m still working for “The People’s Friend”. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed illustrating many fiction stories, features, children’s stories and cartoon strips.
And a P.S. What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators?
I would say that when you’re starting out, copying other artists’ styles is a great way to learn. Work that looks particular to you will eventually emerge from doing this. It’s very rare for a distinctive style to emerge fully-formed right from the get-go and you’ll learn lots of new techniques along the way.
For more in our Illustrator Of The Week series, click the tag below.
You can also take a look at our Writer Of The Week series by clicking here.