29 minutes | Oct 28, 2015

PODCAST – Mariko Francis, Illustrator

Dyan Burgess Summary: Mariko Francis, who you may have met on our Words From Daddy’s Mouth “Who we collaborate with” page. Is the illustrator of our Undercover Cop book. What a treat to work with this talented lady. We love Mariko’s interpretation of our words. Find out more about Mariko and her techniques in the interview below. For those who don’t want to listen to the podcast have a read below. DYAN:   Hello Mariko. MARIKO:              Hi Dyan, how are you? DYAN:   Thank you for joining me today. We are doing an interview about bringing our books to you and your processes and skills and what you have done and challenges that you’ve faced along the way. And then we’ll wrap it up at the end with the top three tips and see what happens. So we start with describing your creative process and how you go about that? I’d like to hear your thoughts. MARIKO:              I guess before I even before I create a proposal, I project myself to the end point and try to visualise what the finished product would look like. I imagine what I’d like to see and I’ll come up with the craziest of outcomes and possibilities and then I start from there. And working backwards, then I know where I’m going. So it’s goal setting. Once I’ve got the job and I read the manuscript for the project, I will sketch some initial ideas, almost like visual flags along the story line. For example, in this book, I imagined the sneaky Sebastian at the cash register, and that was a really strong image in my mind. I sent that initial sketch to you as an idea what would style I would work in for the rest of the characters. Also, it was a good idea to understand the characters that I was going to be drawing, to avoid having all the kids, for example, looking exactly the same. So that’s when you sent me the images of your family. It helped me create unique characters for each of the girls, especially their smiles and their eyes. I guess those two things are the key areas that give any face its uniqueness in a drawing. And then I developed their hairstyles and their clothes and their height relative to each other, and it helped me to understand who they were. After I became familiar with the manuscript, I would put myself in their shoes to capture different expressions, for example when they’ve been grossed out or rolling around laughing. I did that for the image of the old couple handling underwear and then the girls would roll around going ewww. It was actually quite helpful to put myself into the shoes of a 10-year-old doing that, because I imagine that’s how they would react. They’re the kind of emotions that I try and portray in the pictures. I think expressions are really important. I would sit with a mirror to help me understand where eyebrows go when you’re surprised or shocked or rolling your eyes. Eyebrows are really important expression points as well. To sketch pictures, I use a pencil and then I’ll go over with a fine marker pen and clean up the pencil marks. I’ll scan the pictures in to the computer and clean it up before I digitally colour and put in the layout and extra images as well. That’s pretty much my creative process. DYAN:   Do you find that you’re walking down the street and you’ve had this project bubbling around in your head, and you just all of a sudden go ah, actually, now I just need to . . . and that image, like something that you’ve been waiting for that’s been sitting around that didn’t necessarily work when you’d set the time? Does it pop in your head? Or you find when you sit down at your desk, you know that this is your set time and you would just focus in that time? MARIKO:              I do tend to take the book with me and doodle. Yeah, you’re right. It’s when you’re not really expecting it to happen and then you’re doing something and it does all fall into place. But it does actually help, rather than think about it, just to put it down and see what it looks like and how it works on the page. But yeah, I think so. It was helpful to really understanding the storyline to the point where it became my story as well. DYAN:   Interesting story. With respect to falling into your profession, because sometimes it’s hard when you’re at school and kids go what are you going to do when you grow up, and then sometimes when you leave school, you may think oh yeah, I’m going to go that way and then it goes that way. So tell me the story around that. MARIKO:              About my background? You know what, I was always interested in the creative, the fine arts. I was planning to go to art school. I’d setup my portfolio, and yet I believe that my mother had a big issue with it. She didn’t think it was a good idea to become what she called a ‘struggling artist’, because she believed that it was something that you couldn’t really make a living from. I was impressionable and I didn’t want to be relying on my parents for the rest of my life for handouts or whatever. So I thought she was right and never really believed myself talented enough to run with the best. You know what, I wish I was brave enough to take the challenge head on. The opportunity didn’t really exist to pursue such challenges however I don’t think I was quite clued up enough to figure out how to make those opportunities appear, because it is about creating those opportunities as much as finding them. So I did what I thought was best for me under the influence of my parents, and worked office jobs and I made an ok wage. I also moved around the world following my husband’s career. I did take on some really interesting courses and jobs, but I still continued to draw and paint. I attended creative workshops. I did sculpture courses. I did drawing and portfolio development and I studied and I researched and experimented with different mediums, from wax, acrylics, oils, and then I taught myself how to use Adobe’s suite of software. I did it at any chance I could get because I was interested in it and I loved the challenge of learning. You know when babies were napping, or the house was asleep or when my husband was traveling. I guess following a dream is one thing. But in reality my dream was following me around the world all the time. It’s always been there. To get involved, it’s a matter of not saying no, putting your hand up and creating those opportunities for yourself. It is really about that. DYAN:   Be brave. MARIKO:              Yeah. The worst thing that can happen is you do end up on your bum but you have to get back up again. Giving that sense of courage to my kids is important. If they want to follow a creative path or do something a little bit out of mainstream, then I would encourage them to be brave and give it 150%. My dad always used to say you need that piece of paper to fall back on: As long as you’ve got that college degree, you can do anything. I don’t know that that’s always right. You have to really understand what interests you and it’s not about passion so much passion follows much later… If you enjoy doing something that you like a little bit then go deeper. Otherwise you risk ending up in a job where you hate your boss, and the people you work with are dumbnuts and infuriating. Understanding what interests you on a deep level is really important. DYAN:   Finding your strength. It’s funny. As you say, if you walked down the street and say oh, I’m an artist, people say oh yeah, but what do you do. There’s that . . . MARIKO:              Yeah. I think the concept of being an artist is so broad that you actually . . . I think the vocabulary for what it is to be an artist is not there for a lot of people. I remember looking through the papers when I was young. It was the Saturday paper that had the job sections. There was not one job opening for an artist. I guess it’s so much better now that you have the internet to educate kids on careers . But if I’d looked up graphic designer, there would have been jobs listed I’m sure. But I didn’t have the vocab or the depth of knowledge to understand that being an artist could mean so much more. DYAN:   As you said, like in other professions, if you say doctor or lawyer, they have subsets, and it’s clear and defined. But when you say artists, as you say it’s like . . . . . . it is becoming more known because artist now is oh yeah, but do you dance or sing or do graphic design or work in water colour or use Adobe. So all of a sudden people are starting to use that language to know . . . when it’s like saying oh you’re a doctor, it’s not just that top layer. There are so many subsets. I guess for you and I, knowing that that is clearer, I guess it’s almost a double-edged sword for our children, is that they can go out to the world and say ok, is this diversity now that wasn’t as clear when we were trying to decide what’s our future. But that can also be very confusing because all of a sudden it’s like oh, there’s so many. So try and pull that into a neat . . . MARIKO:              . . . understandable and a viable I guess career or . . . When we were growing up, there was a limitation as to only one choice of career. The pressure to choose a stream was really big. I don’t think that it’s such an issue now. You don’t have to choose one thing, because it’s understood and encouraged for kids to try out lots of different things. DYAN:   It’s almost an expectation you won’t stay in a job for more than a certain number of years whereas before you had a job for life and that was just no longer relevant. The other thing was moving onto the aspects of your work that you love and you
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