Laura Wood teaches us that there is nothing more educational than illustration. Creative freedom without limits, a meticulous technique and attention to lines, an explosion full of colors. But the profound message is educational formation through the world of innocence, purity and childhood: the world of animals. Laura works for the Anglo-Saxon children’s book market.
Let’s get to know her visual poetry better.
Hello Laura, tell us a little about your work.
I have been an illustrator for almost ten years, that is I create images that will be used for commercial purposes by customers around the world.
It’s a very creative job, but above all very free: it allows me to organize my day as I want and to choose the type of customers to work with.
During the early years of my career, I illustrated everything by hand, using the digital technique only to color the finished drawing. Now I do everything on the computer instead, using Photoshop and a graphics tablet.
From the beginning, and almost by chance, I found myself working mainly for the children’s book market, especially for publishers of the Anglo-Saxon world (UK, USA, Australia). I also occasionally create pictures for magazines, websites and advertising.
When did your passion for illustrative art begin?
Since I was a child, I have always had a great passion for various disciplines concerning visual arts: comics, photography, cinema. Illustration came later, when I had finished my studies in film and lived in Melbourne, Australia.
There, I discovered to my surprise that there were people who made a living out of drawing. I couldn’t believe it was possible. No one had ever told me! I did some digging and discovered that there was a world called "illustration". It was like love at first sight, something I saw myself into right away. I decided it was something I absolutely wanted to do, so in 2011 I enrolled in an illustration course, where I learned the basic techniques of the trade. I haven’t looked back since...
Your work is an explosion of color. What value do you give to the choice of color in your work?
The chromatic choice really matters a lot in my work! I would indeed say that, in some cases, it is the most important element of an entire illustration. In fact, I always take a long time to find the right palette for every image. Finding the right palette to create the right mood and the right setting is really crucial. Maybe because, even in other people’s illustrations, color is always the first thing that strikes me.
Lately I’m trying to build a portfolio with pieces of work that are a bit different from those made in recent years, something that is different from publishing for children, with more adult and abstract tones. And the undisputed protagonist of the new work is precisely color: brilliant, super pigmented, at times phosphorescent, with great contrasts, and I would even say a little insolent.
I don’t know what’s gonna come of this research, but I’m glad I’m back to exploring and experimenting, just like I did at the beginning.
Does the animal world have a poetics that is completely different from the human, artificial, present one?
Yes, definitely! As far as I’m concerned, the animal world evokes childhood, innocence and, in general, a fantastic world where everything is possible.
As a great animal lover I like to draw them and give them life in my illustrations, which in fact are full of them. They have always been my favorite characters, especially anthropomorphic animals, those who talk and move like us... they are so tender and funny!
Does illustration take you to another world? (does your work take inspiration from the world in which we live, from experiences of everyday life and later transport you to a parallel world or is it simply a reinterpretation of the real world?)
Personally, it has always been very difficult for me to define where the inspiration for my illustrations comes from.
Because it’s usually a great mix of things: things that excite me, combinations of colors that I happen to meet, thoughts that buzz in my head or ideas that pop up when I’m in the shower. Then, I imagine that this beautiful mix finds order by creating a world of its own.
Surely, I consider the world of my illustrations an idealized one, or rather a fairytale reinterpretation of the real world. However, I would like to point out that I never wanted to create illustrations to be used as an expedient to escape from reality, but rather as a way to enrich and improve it.
Is there a project to which you are particularly attached?
I’m particularly attached to a book called The Cow Tripped Over The Moon, which I illustrated in 2015, written by Tony Wilson and published by Scholastic Australia.
It was one of my very first books and, perhaps for this reason, I remember really putting body and soul into those illustrations.
The lyrics are an ironic and witty remake of the famous nursery rhyme The Cow Jumped Over The Moon. It was also the first step of a wonderful collaboration with Tony: later I illustrated three other books of the same series.
The book was a resounding success in Australia and New Zealand and, as a newbie of illustration as I was, it helped me a lot at the time to increase confidence in myself and in my abilities.
To this day, Cow is a well-sold children’s book.
For me it was, and still remains, a great satisfaction.
Illustration and education: how are these two elements related according to you?
Well, I’m just saying that, even today, I still remember very well some illustrated elements of elementary and middle school textbooks, such as the characters that accompanied you chapter by chapter throughout the year, or the cover image.
Today there are a lot of educational apps - I myself had the good fortune to illustrate some - and I doubt that they are devoid of illustrated elements.
If we want to be less literal and consider the concept of education in the broad sense, even a geographical map or the simple assembly instructions of an Ikea cabinet, drawn step by step, want to teach us something. The ultimate goal of illustration is to communicate a message and, in this sense, it is a powerful ally of education in all its forms.
Would you like to take the art of illustration to new, almost unexplored levels?
Absolutely yes! There are still many things I would like to do that I have not had the opportunity to experience yet.
I have many secret wishes: for example, I would like to produce large-scale illustrations, collaborate with advertising campaigns or even participate in exhibitions, be part of a collective, start writing children’s books as well as illustrate them and maybe start to keep sketchbooks regularly, as you should...
In short, the ideas and dreams are many, but the time available is always the same, unfortunately! But slowly you can do everything if you want, with a little goodwill, maybe, one thing at a time, one day... you know, I’ll make it!
Check out Laura's instagram here.
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