A Day in the Life of a Children's Book Illustrator

I thought it would be fun to share a typical day in my life as an illustrator.  Right now we're in Cape Town, but my routine rarely changes whether I'm here, in London or in Canada. It's just the scenery that changes.  

7am: Wake up. Stumble bleary eyed into the blinding sunshine in the kitchen. Pour a glass of cold orange juice and will myself to wake up. 

I wish I started my morning by reading something erudite, or meditating, but I usually end up checking Facebook...

8am: I walk down the hill to the post office to send off the most recent order from my Etsy shop.

Luckily it isn't far to go.  It's already so hot that I make sure to find all the patches of shade on the way there and back. 

This is the view I see on my way back up the hill.  Our house is the one with the brown door in the garden wall.  The frangipanis (also called plumeria) are blooming so beautifully this time of year. There's a wisp of a Table Cloth on top of Table Mountain. That means it's going to be a hot and windy day. 

8:30am: On my way back from the post office I like to stop by Vida e Caffe for a cappuccino.  Vida is a local coffee chain with a wacky, energetic feel. I love how they decorate their paper cups.  Which moustache are you?  I also love that they give a square of dark chocolate with every coffee order. I'll save mine for later.... 

{Coffee on the studio table and ready to work}

9am: I'm already hard at work and listening toBBC Radio 3 online. I love how the classical music gives a sense of order to my crazy imagination.

Right now I'm working on a big book project for Magination Press (a job I got through my agents at Advocate Art). The deadline is fast approaching, so there's no time to spare.

When I'm painting I go into a zen state. I focus. I breathe deeply. I concentrate on the colours and patterns unfolding under my hands.

Any work I do in the morning is like double work. It's that magical time of day when my ideas flow and time seems to cooperate with me.

10am: I find myself googling things like "chalkboard brushes" and "monarch butterflies" to look for references for my current project. I also spend a bit of time trying to win a game of solitaire while my paint dries.

{This is how illustrators do their hair... with a paintbrush.}

{Dive into the colour!}

12 noon:  Noon Gun!  Boom! You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I always jump.  The noon gun has been marking midday in Cape Town since 1806.  It's loud; it echos between the mountains; sometimes I spill paint...

It wakes me from my painting reverie and I remember that I should eat lunch.  Wait a second, did I even eat breakfast?  (Usually not). I make beeline to the fridge and graze from last night's leftovers.

12:30pm: Back to the drawing board. Literally. By now I'm starting to lose concentration.

In the afternoon I often focus on smaller projects, or work on scanning or photoshopping illustrations I'd started the day before.

If I don't have pressing illustration work, I'll write blog posts, or brainstorm ideas for new projects.

....Oh dear, my eyes are drooping.

2pm: Time for that square of dark chocolate.  Thank-you Vida! 

3pm: Unless I have a super-stressful deadline, this is the end of my work day.  I take a long bath, to ease my aching muscles.  You wouldn't think working as an artist would be that strenuous, but hunching over paintings can make my shoulders so tight!

After my bath, I unfurl my back muscles with a short session of yoga.

3:30pm: I rush to the grocery store (aptly named "Pick and Pay," I laugh every time I think about it) and figure out what to make for dinner. Sometimes I pop into the bookstore for a little inspiration, or grab another coffee.

4pm: Skype time with my Mom in Canada!  She's finally awake and I can tell her all about my day.  

6pm onwards: I make supper, and my husband and I settle in for a relaxing evening. Sometimes we have a glass of wine; sometimes we watch a dvd; sometimes we read; sometimes we escape the heat and head to the seaside.

10pm: Time to curl up in bed and close my eyes. Tomorrow will be the same, all over again! 

Here's a one minute video I made of me painting... Enjoy!