Shoreham born and bred freelance illustrator Phoebe Kirk talks to us about her globally recognised children’s book series Truth and Tails and what it means for her to be self employed in this industry. We discuss one-off commissions and upcoming projects as well as the bespoke handmade gifts that you can get your hands on for Christmas.
What led you into illustrative work?
I have always liked drawing when I was at school
At school I was actually quite academic! I always thought I would end up in journalism as I loved creative writing and media studies but art took over my interest. My media studies interests have worked very well with my illustration work because illustration needs to be ‘current’, you need to be aware of current affairs, be able to follow trends and take an interest in what is going on in the world.
When I left school I went straight into an Art Foundation at Brighton City College. When you do a foundation course you try all different elements, woodwork, textiles, fine art etc. The illustration pathway really grabbed my interest and this is how my career in illustration started.
What has been your biggest success to date with your illustrative work? What has this meant for you?
Half way through my career I had four books published by Jessica Kingsley publishers which are now sold in all the major global retailers. These are part of the Truth & Tails series which are diverse and inclusive children’s books for ages 4- 8. We began the process by marketing and self-publishing ourselves, selling through amazon etc.
Jessica Kingsley publishers approached with a book deal which has allowed us to grow the series audience and market them in a way which we would not have been able to ourselves.
(Truth & Tails mission is to create children’s fiction that eliminates prejudice, encourages acceptance and aids understanding by addressing hard to deal with concepts such as gender disability and self-worth through simple, sensitive and beautiful stories and interesting characters.)
Aside from T & T, what does a working week look like for you?
For me, a working week is always from home. I work independently and every day is different. My work is always varied meaning that one day I can be making hand-made ethically sourced tea towels, undertaking illustration commissions, painting personalised portraits or making and shipping orders from my ever-growing Etsy store. Working from home suits me as I like to be able to work at my own pace and although I have always enjoyed creative environments with other people I enjoy working solely much more.
You talk about Sustainability a lot on your personal platforms, why is this so important to you?
I am currently working towards producing solely sustainable artwork and my means of shipping orders to customers is already completely plastic-free. For larger orders I try and maintain as fewer air miles as possible for shipping out orders. I think it’s become more important to me as a sole trader and as a business owner to reduce my impact on the environment in the work that I do.
Why do you think it is so important for people to support small business owners?
Small business owners are the backbone of the economy. As such, supporting them is beneficial to society and buying handmade pieces means that you get something that is one of a kind and not just brought from big chain “art-makers”. When you buy from a small business you are buying something that is made from quality and not in quantity. You are supporting your local economy, helping develop artists and recognizing skill sets as opposed to mass-produced products.
What’s upcoming for you ?
Looking forward to Christmas I would love to be able to grow my product offering in homeware and one-off commissioned pieces. I really enjoy the personal portraits. This is an exciting time of year for me as I take on more commissioned work and my books fill up quite quickly with lots of exciting new projects. Apart from this I am currently co-authoring our fifth children’s book in the Truth and Tails series and I am excited to see where this takes us.
What challenges have you faced being freelance in the Art industry?
Despite loving working alone, it can be difficult to maintain a momentum with setting goals and chasing work on a weekly basis. Our industry is a heavily saturated one. There are plenty of illustrators vying for competition which means that you have to be able to adapt and develop your style continuously to be competitive.