Interview with illustrator Christina Newman

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For the 2018 Christmas appeal, we asked illustrator Christina Newman to draw the donkey on our commemorative badge. Scouts gave Doris the donkey her name and Christina gave Doris her face. Here we give Christina the chance to tell us a little bit more about her journey as an illustrator, her influences and her thoughts on Doris’ name.

Q: First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, and I celebrated my 30th birthday in June this year. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be an illustrator but I also had another massive passion - circus arts and dance. My first 'proper' job was as a director at Playbox Theatre in Warwick.

In 2011, after a backpacking trip around the world, I moved to Leeds to study my degree, BA(hons) Graphic and Communication Design at the University of Leeds. I adored Yorkshire and stayed up there for five years, but have moved back down to the midlands more recently to be closer to my family.

Q: What do you think of the previous Christmas Appeal Badges and animals' names (Fleur, Ralph & Bernard), all voted on by Scouts?

I love them! It's always such a lovely surprise to find out the names of the characters I have created. I think Fleur was particularly apt for the robin in the first year.

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Q: What do you think of the current name, Doris? Would you have chosen anything different?

I particularly love Doris and I think it really suits her. It's sort of a wartime name, so it is fitting for a hard-working expedition leader like Doris the donkey. 

Q: Is there a name or animal you would put forward for the Christmas Appeal next year?

I've always wanted to do a snowy owl, but I’m not sure that Fleur the robin would get on with an avian predator! I think the Scouts are best at choosing names, but if I could choose, I'd probably call him David, after my hero David Attenborough.

Q: When did you get into illustrating and how long have you been doing it?

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be an illustrator. At school, when the teacher would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up, my answer would always be 'I want to illustrate books'.

My grandad was an artist and we used to draw together on Sunday afternoons, which really inspired me to keep doing what I love. So, I guess you could say I've been illustrating all my life, but I turned it into my career in 2014 when I graduated from university.


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 Q: How would you describe your style? Who are your inspirations?

I think my style is quite naive and simple and definitely colourful! It's funny because at school I was very into art, particularly drawing, with lots of emphasis on detail and depicting 3D form. When I got to University, I rebelled against my own style in a way, and became much more interested in a more flat, minimalist style, using simple shapes and lines.

I grew up reading Roald Dahl books, so Quentin Blake was the first illustrator I loved. As an adult, I'm hugely influenced by Saul Bass and my biggest artistic inspirations are Matisse and Picasso. I'm also inspired by the work of contemporary illustrators like Otto Baum and Oliver Jeffers. I'm drawn to a simple, yet characterful style.

Q: How is the marketplace for illustrations as a young graduate? Do companies often go with experienced illustrators they know or does a decent portfolio allow you to attract commissions?

I was lucky enough to be spotted online by the Scouts the same year I graduated, so I would say it's your portfolio that matters most, not necessarily your experience. Scouts discovered me through my WordPress portfolio site and I was over the moon when they contacted me out of the blue.

My advice to any budding illustrators: the most important things are to be original and to get your work out there. Put it on Instagram, Behance, Pinterest, make a portfolio site – it doesn't have to be fancy!

Q: What made you choose to go into illustration as a freelancer, and how are you getting on as a young professional in general?

As a freelancer, you have more freedom to create the type of work that you want to, in a style that you want to work in. I was really keen to keep developing my style and see where it took me. Working for yourself, you are able to devote time to projects you really care about - for example, I am writing a children's book all about adventures in nature, which I'm hoping to get published next year.

This year, I started a design agency called Joyous Creative with my best friend Jess. We're really interested in working with forward-thinking companies who want to make a difference. 

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