It’s my special pleasure today to introduce Kym Langfield, the illustrator of my newest picture book, Solo Dan. Kym is a children’s illustrator, author and teacher. Her titles include Adventure Guide – Teddy Town (Picture book, The Book Company, 2014) and Just One Wish – Christmas Tales Anthology Three (Short story, Storm Cloud Publishing, 2018). She gained her diploma in Illustrating Children’s Books from The London Art College in 2016, and she has experience in editing and writing book reviews.
Kym has a passion for watercolour, and also enjoys combining pencil, ink and collage. She is a primary school teacher, specialising in literacy and visual arts. Kym also creates commissioned art on a casual basis.
Find Kym on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kymlangfield
I was sent a couple of manuscripts to consider and I immediately felt a strong connection with Solo Dan. As a primary teacher, I feel very much for children who go through struggles in their lives. Reading Teena’s manuscript made me quite teary! Jennifer and I decided that Solo Dan seemed to be a natural fit for me.
What were some of the challenges in creating the illustrations? I wanted to make sure that the main character Dan looked consistent throughout the story, so I drew him in lots of different poses and positions.
Another challenge was drawing so many different types of characters, including toddlers, elderly people, guinea pigs and cats. I made sure that I looked at lots of different photos and examples of these character types (including photos of my own family members!) before designing my own!
Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? I often have an image come to my mind very quickly. Then I figure out how I’m going to draw it! I do lots of Google searches, take lots of photos, look at photos and books that I already have, until I’m satisfied that I can put the picture together.
Finally, it’s time for the colour! I often use watercolour to apply a base coat to the picture. Sometimes I add an extra layer of paint, or I move onto coloured pencils to add further details and shading.
For Solo Dan, I learnt how to use Photoshop to add digital improvements, alterations and to add text to the illustrations as the final step.
How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? I tend to spend a couple of days sketching an illustration, a day or so adding the watercolour and another part of a day using the coloured pencils. Usually no more than a week.
Do you have a favourite medium? Yes, I love watercolour. The colours and the way the paint absorbs and mixes together is always a surprise! It can also be nerve racking too!
Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? Adding the paint is always nerve racking because it’s like taking a risk or gamble every time I add colour! Will the paint behave the way I want it to? Will the colour palette look OK? Will the paint complement the picture or ruin it?
What’s next on your creative journey? Do you have any other picture books in the pipeline? I have been challenging myself to submit my work to a few illustration challenges currently happening with Australian groups/publishers.
Being September and a big fan of Christmas, I am already designing some new Christmas card designs, which I will sell via my social media pages. I’m gradually illustrating some early designs for a close family member who is an aspiring author. I’ve recently completed a few commissions which has been lovely. I also enjoy writing my own stories, so I will get around one day to illustrating one of my own stories!
What’s the best aspect of your creative life? As a busy mum and teacher, it’s really lovely to have a creative hobby/job just for myself. However being a creative person, I do love to bring creativity into my children’s life and into my classroom as often as possible! I really believe in making time for creativity every day.
—the worst? Wanting more time! It would be wonderful to have more hours/days/quiet time just for creativity.
Where do you draw your inspiration? Often my own children and the wonderful students I teach. I also find lots of inspiration in nature – both flora and fauna. I live at a quiet bay area, which is always an inspiration. I’m also inspired by touching stories that I hear, either in the news or in the lives of my family and friends.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? That the digital side of illustration is just as important as creating the illustrations traditionally. It is really handy if you know how to use programs like Photoshop and to obtain skills in typography and book design.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? To draw daily and to get your work ‘out there’ on social media as much as possible.
What is your creative dream? To write and illustrate a book (books preferably!). I’d love to be involved in creating a Christmas book. I would love to dedicate more of my time to creating books and running art workshops eventually.
Now for a little light relief – If you were going to invite two special guests for lunch, who would they be and what would you serve them? It would have to be a high tea! Preferably a garden party setting. Lots of tea and cakes. As for the guests – this is too hard! If I stick to arty people, I’d love to invite illustrators I admire and hope that they share their tips and tricks with me! I’ll start with Anna Walker and Tania McCartney.
I think it would be lovely to share a high tea with yourself, Teena, and with our wonderful publisher, Jennifer Sharp!
That would be a treat, Kym. We will have to arrange that!
Kym’s top tip for aspiring illustrators: Make time each day to practise drawing, even if it’s for only ten minutes per day. It’s amazing how quickly your skills can improve by doing this. I also found that enrolling in an illustration course (I have a diploma in children’s book illustration) improved my skills and knowledge greatly.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan
Illustrated by Kym Langfield
Dan has never had a place to belong. He bounces from one home to another, like a ball no one can catch. He’s OK with that. Families can be too much trouble. His shadow is all the company he needs. Or is it?
Perhaps what he really wants is a forever home.
A story about hope, love and belonging.
Buy the book here: https://www.daisylanepublishing.com/product-page/solo-dan