Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday - An interview with super-talented Michelle Vinall, self-published author and illustrator of "Hurricane Lane" and "256 Postcards Ago"

Ludo, Ollie, Digit and Nicholas on the lookout! (Image © Michelle Vinall)

We're very fortunate to be able to take a look at Michelle Vinall's amazing work this week, and we managed to nab a smidgeon of her time for a quick interview too. We massaged our brains and came up with a crop of questions between us to put to Michelle. So take it away...!

Hi Michelle and thanks for stopping by ReadItDaddy for an email chat.

ReadItDaddy: So tell us a little bit about yourself!

Michelle: Hi Phil and Charlotte, thanks for wanting to interview me! I’m a 24 year-old artist from London, England and I’ve been working in the games industry since leaving art college three years ago. I’ve worked both as an artist and quality assurance tester at various companies and I’m loving every minute of it! In my spare time I make childrens’ picture books and just generally draw other random little ideas.

ReadItDaddy:  Your artwork is amazing! Tell us a little bit about how your process, favourite tools, how you go about creating such magical work?

Michelle: Aw thanks, you’re too kind. I’ll start by setting myself a brief and a deadline, then work to that. I favour digital art tools like Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash, although I’ll occasionally begin a sketch on paper and scan it in. Photoshop is my program of choice! The rest is just imagination and hard work. For personal drawings – I mostly listen to music, play videogames or watch a film/cartoon and get an idea that I want to draw from those. With client work, they supply the idea and I and make it a reality!

ReadItDaddy: "Hurricane Lane" (which is your first children's book, and is soon to be available as a story app) feels like a really nicely written slice of ordinary life - again with gorgeous illustrations, what was the inspiration for the story?

Michelle: Hurricane Lane is very much based on my hometown and memories of childhood. I thought up the story whilst visiting my primary school and got an overwhelming sense of nostalgia that I wanted to translate into art. I was also very interested in piano music at the time and wanted to do a story based on a pianist whose daughter made up stories from his music, so things just evolved from there!

ReadItDaddy: I see you're a bit of a gamer - How do you feel that videogames influence your work? Are they really as bad an influence as everyone makes out?

Michelle: I’m a huge gamer and I don’t think they’re a bad influence at all! Games offer us the same sort of escapist freedom that books and films do but to an even greater extent since you have more influence on your experience with them. I love running/driving/flying around the various worlds and experiencing things that could never happen in real life. I think it widens people’s imaginations and games should be viewed on the same level as other mainstream entertainment since they are living, breathing portals into the creators’ minds. Can’t recommend them enough! (Hear hear - RID)

ReadItDaddy: Charlotte asks: "What's the best way to get good at drawing and painting?"

Michelle: Just practice! Draw every day and as often as you can. Find out what you like to and what you don’t and draw them both anyway! But also, go outside - explore, experience. Your art will always be very personal to you and you will create feelings and experiences you might want to turn into something special later.

ReadItDaddy: Charlotte really loves the characters in "256 Postcards Ago" (she keeps switching between Ludo and Digit being her favourite)  and the story is fab too. Are there any more plans for the characters? They're so great, we'd love to see them in more stories!

Michelle: Thank you so much! I don’t have any current plans for further books but I did want to make a small game where you walk around the 256 town, find your friends and play little mini-games with them! My next book will have different characters but since the 256 cast have been so popular I wouldn’t rule further adventures out.

ReadItDaddy: Describe an average day when you're in your creative zone?

Michelle: I’ll normally start by doing various sketches of the primary character until I’ve drawn one I’m happy with. I often hit art blocks at this stage and so will simultaneously be browsing other artists’ portfolios or google search poses when I’m stuck on them. The rest of the process is just building everything up – neater lines, colour, shading and then background. I draw what I like first and often jump around the piece before it’s done but every picture varies! I also normally draw with films (particularly animations) in the background and might pick up ideas or inspiration from them as I work.

ReadItDaddy: Charlotte asks: "Who's your favourite Ghibli character?" (She figures that you must love Ghibli stuff because you're so cool!)

Michelle: Thank you Charlotte, I do love Ghibli! My favourite character is probably Baron from The Cat Returns. I always watch that film for his lines when I need some encouragement art-related or otherwise, so he’s become quite an inspiration for me.

ReadItDaddy: Charlotte also asks "Who's your favourite Disney Princess?" (ooh tough question!)

Michelle: That is tough! I think it’s Elsa and Anna from Frozen because I love that the act of ‘true love’ at the end of their film is sisterly affection and not a romantic kiss with the love interest. That part really got to me :’)

ReadItDaddy: One more from Charlotte "What's the best way to start writing and drawing stories when you're little?"
Start by drawing the things you like! Since you are a Disney and Ghibli fan I would recommend drawing those characters to get some good practice in! Then later you can build up your own characters and stories, but for now just have fun and don’t worry too much about what you’re drawing – you’ll naturally get better the more you draw and experience. Good luck!

And a huge thank you to Michelle for stopping by for an email chat. Please take a look at "Hurricane Lane" (and watch out for our upcoming review) and "256 Postcards Ago" on Michelle's story website