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Marjory Illustrates for the Kids

Who are you? What do you do, and why do you do it?

My name is Marjory Gardner, and I am a freelance children’s book illustrator.

Marjory in her studio working on the rough drafts for ‘Frankie Goes to Kindergarten'

How has your practice changed over time?

I am more confident in my style. For years I fought against my work being called ‘cute’…but when you draw for little children, ‘cute’ is what works.

What art do you most identify with?

Illustrations for children’s books.

Illustrations all traced and ready for colouring in - with texta colour and then colour pencil.

What themes do you pursue?

That is determined by the brief…in most cases, a manuscript for a picture storybook which I have been commissioned to illustrate.

What’s your scariest art experience?

Not having the cash flow to support me when I first started freelancing. To remedy this, for the first five years of freelancing, I always had a part-time graphic design ‘proper’ job, where I received a weekly wage, sick and holiday leave and superannuation.

If you have one, what’s your favourite artwork?

Usually the last job I’ve done! In this case, the illustrations for a book for kindergarten children called ‘Frankie Goes to Kindergarten’. Peta Baxter and Connie Hemmens wrote it, and it was published 1 March this year by Ford Street Publishing. See:

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

I often give Drawing workshops in schools. Observing children and how they draw is inspirational…and seeing how they dress/wear their hair/sit/play etc., is a great reference for when I draw children for my books.

The numerous stages, from rough draft, to the finished book

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

Apart from giving workshops in schools (which I love to do), various part-time/casual jobs over the years to supplement my income: working in a book store/ working as a polling official at Federal and State Elections/ working as a Census distributor…

Is your artistic life lonely, or do you find living as an artist to be lonely?

No. I love working quietly on my own in my home studio. Radio on, endless cups of tea, dog on my lap. Lovely husband somewhere in the house if I want a break, a conversation, or feedback on what I’m working on. I also make sure I maintain contact with other illustrators and authors, both socially and at conferences, meetings etc.

What makes you angry?

The many years I spent illustrating for Educational publishers for a flat fee instead of a royalty. In Educational publishing, authors were generally paid royalties, but not illustrators. I know I have missed out on thousands of dollars over the years when books I illustrated sold squillions, but I never received another cent after the flat fee payment. And they kept the copyright, so I missed out on ELR, PLR and CAL payments. (Educational Lending Rights, Public Lending Rights and Copyright Agency Ltd payments)

Rough drawing for the Mealtime double spread of ‘Frankie Goes to Kindergarten’.

What is your dream project?

‘Frankie Goes to Kindergarten’ was a dream project…so another picture book commission like that would be a dream!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

There’s been a few:

  • Take your time, don’t rush.

  • Near enough is (sometimes) good enough. Particularly valuable if I am overstressing about getting it ‘just right’.

  • When taking photos, always look back as well as forward. Some of the best shots are just behind you.

  • Always be easy to work with. Maintain good relationships with editors, publishers and colleagues.

The finished Mealtime spread from ‘Frankie Goes to Kindergarten’.

What superpower would you have and why?

To duplicate myself so the other Marjory could do the tedious parts of my job, such as ruling up pages, tidying my studio and doing my tax.

Professionally, what’s your art goal?

I’d love to do more picture books. I’ve written a few stories too, so it would be great to write and illustrate a project.

The front cover of ‘Frankie Goes to Kindergarten’.

Do you have a favourite art tool, and if so, what is it and why?

My good old retractable blue lead pencil, which I’ve had for forty years. A lovely soft line for drawing roughs.

Find out more about Marjory by visiting her directory listing here


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