'The place where inspiration hits the page running... A sketchbook to fail and reflect on my work and my process'

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Teaching and Artists and Illustrators magazine

Well what a year! Lots happening and I'm taking on a lot more teaching. Currently working on a two day Illustration course with Georgie from Pirrip Press for Newlyn School of Art. I've taken on another day at Plymouth College of Art, teaching the second and third years Illustration BA this year. Along with running my own evening course in Illustration from Sept at PCA also.
Along with illustrating the books still, but there is good news. I had an article in the Artists and Illustrators magazine this month. It's such a great article. Jenny White wrote it and did such a lovely job, and I only met her once. So have a look and a read and I'll add more next week.

The words are here..it's a bit long in this format sorry!

Look for Caroline Pedler’s work online and you may
conclude that there are two artists with the same
name: one, a prolific and versatile illustrator of
children’s books and the other, a bold painter of fine
art in the spirit of Cy Twombly and Antoni Tàpies.
These are, in fact, two sides of the same person.
The Truro-born artist has created bright and colourful
illustrations for some 50 children’s books, yet over the past
four years she has also developed her own darker, more
personal style of painting, too. And rather than dividing her
time or one taking preference over the other, these two
strands have instead enriched her practice and given her
an outlet for all sides of her personality.
Caroline’s remarkable double-edged career began with
her studying illustration at Falmouth School of Art and the
University of Portsmouth, before she took time out to go
travelling to Hong Kong, Bali and Australia. Those
experiences abroad transformed her palette and helped
to kick start her career as a professional illustrator. “It was
so colourful out there that when I came back and created
my portfolio, it was full of colour,” she says.
In 1997, Hallmark Cards sat up and took notice, and
Caroline has since been in continuous employment, first
creating greetings cards and then illustrating children’s
books. The popularity of her work for stories such as David
Bedford’s Bedtime for Little Bears! and Julia Hubery’s
A Friend Like You has resulted in 30,000 
Caroline Pedler-illustrated
books being borrowed from libraries in the last
year alone. Likewise, in her pretty home just outside
Falmouth, the bookshelves groan with dozens upon dozens
of different titles – a riot of colour, fun and imagination.
Many of the books that Caroline has worked on, including
the recent Badger and the Great Storm, have been
published by Little Tiger Press, who she credits with helping
to develop her style. “When I started out, my illustrations
were all drybrush and very heavy,” she explains. “Little
Tiger worked with me quite hard to get me to loosen up.”
These days Caroline switches between styles
effortlessly, tailoring her approach to different
commissions. Surprisingly, however, this is not something
she recommends when teaching students at Newlyn
School of Art. “I’m always telling my students not to have
too many styles, but it’s worked to my favour in that I do
get bored doing the same thing every time,” she says.
That versatility took another leap forward in 2009
when she decided to undertake an MA in illustration and 
authorial practice at Falmouth University, partly with a view 
to writing her own books. “I needed something to change
and I went onto that MA thinking I would write [my own]
children’s book. I’ve been illustrating other people’s books
for 16 years now and I sometimes can’t help but think that
I would write the stories differently. I also felt it would be
nice to have the proper me in my books. What actually
ended up happening was that the MA opened up a
completely different side of me.”
That side is free, sometimes anarchic, and often darker
than her bright, cheery illustrations. Caroline used it to
explore work more in keeping with some of her artistic
heroes, including the aforementioned Twombly and Tàpies,
as well as the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, David
Hockney, Mary Newcomb and contemporary illustrator
Laura Carlin. To provide an outlet for the work, the Cornish
artist has founded her own imprint. “I’ve called it An-ti-dote
Press, because all the work I do off the back of my MA is an
antidote to my commercial illustration work. I love doing the
bright illustrations but I need that to be able to do this
other work. At the moment, it’s nice having the two sides
to what I do.”
Printed in editions of just 25 each, her self-published
books stretch the boundaries of contemporary illustration,
frequently crossing over into fine art. Some of them are
best described as picture books for grown-ups, while
others point towards the way she would like to write
children’s books.
The subject matter is diverse across the six titles
released so far. The Extra-Ordinary Events of Walking The
Dog is a relatively straightforward daily journal of walks in
the local fields and coastal paths, while the more surreal
catalogue The Royal Beasts of Bialowitza sees bears
emerge from wild and messy brushstrokes or sit in dainty
teacups. It’s clear that the books have allowed Caroline to
give her imagination and creativity free rein. “I make time
for this work between books,” she says. “When a book is
finished, I’ll treat myself: I’ll tidy the studio and then just
scruff around in my sketchbooks.”
It’s a welcome release from the rigours of the illustration
work. In the past 12 months Caroline has completed no
less than five books, which has required her to complete
a double-page spread on average every single working day.
“I start each day early and don’t really stop until I’ve
finished. If the illustration is a bit more detailed it will take a
little bit longer. The only downfall of the commercial work is
the deadlines. Sometimes you’re working until midnight
then up again in the morning and doing the same again.”
However, it would be simplistic to say that her newfound
way of working is the real Caroline Pedler and that her
commercial work is just pretence. “There is a lot of me in
my commercial work,” she says firmly. “It is very influenced
by Watership Down, Disney, Winnie the Pooh – all those
things from my childhood. My drawings can be very much
like that – it’s one side of me.
“The way I write, however, is naturally is more poetic;
there is space in there, it’s a bit more ambiguous.
I’m beginning to feel there’s a proper divide between that
and the commercial work, and I suspect that the children’s
books I want to do will fit more in the fine art side than into
the commercial side.”
In keeping with this fine art slant, Caroline has begun to
exhibit her work now, including a solo show at Penzance’s
Newlyn Art Gallery last October. She plans to show her work
at the Affordable Art Fair too. “I’m going to see what comes
from that and also just keep feeding the website that
features that work, with the aim of making it strong
enough to pay its own way.”
An-ti-dote Press will play an important part in
documenting these ongoing developments, as she intends
to produce a book after every exhibition. “Each book is like
a full stop, a punctuation mark at the end of the show, and
a prize for creating that body of work.”
Caroline is currently in the process of creating a large
studio in her back garden, which will enable her to move
her work into a bigger space. It’s a shift that chimes well
with her expansive mood and the sense that she has
started to explore a newer, bigger creative landscape.
That said, she still treasures her commercial illustration
work, and it looks likely that this will benefit from her
creative experiments rather than being overtaken by them.
Earlier this year she went to the Bologna Children’s Book
Fair in Italy with Little Tiger Press and the experience was
a highlight of her long and productive career to date. “I felt
so proud to be part of this whole thing, and I don’t think I
would ever want to stop doing children’s books,” she says.
“This is something I love: I love the process, I love the
thumbnails, I love seeing the finished product. It’s always
“As for the other work,” she adds, tantalisingly, “I may go
down the path of publishing something very different under
a pseudonym.”
Establishing two parallel careers in both fine art and
illustration is no mean feat, but it is one that this talented
individual appears more than able to balance beautifully
for many years to come.

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