Lynne Russell is an artist who works with great sensitivity and passion for her subject. Born in London, she has travelled extensively drawing inspiration from her time in Africa, India and especially Central America. After studying art foundation at Goldsmiths College, she undertook a BA in fine art at Wimbledon School of Art (taught by Maggi Hambling and Bernard Cohen).
At Wimbledon she won the student union prize for her painting ‘Home sweet home’ (Oil on canvas – 5’6″ x 8′). This painting was accepted for the ICA’s Young Contemporaries Exhibition (1982) where it won the Windsor & Newton prize for painting.
Lynne studied Post-Grad illustration at St Martin’s School of Art. Her work was seen by publishers Heinemann who asked her to illustrate her first picture book entitled ‘One Smiling Grandma’. This book was nominated for the Kate Greenway award, was on the SATs official reading list for two consecutive years and exhibited in the Society of Illustrators ‘Best of Children’s Book Illustration’ exhibition held in New York.
When did you know you wanted to become an illustrator?
I decided to be an illustrator in my mid teens.
How long does it typically take to make a page or cover for a book?
It takes 30-40 hours per image.
What’s your favourite piece of art equipment?
My electric pencil sharpener till it broke. Now my sable brushes.
Do you have a favourite colour scheme, if so what and why?
I like bright colour not neutrals.
Who were your inspirations when starting out?
Do you have another job beside being an illustrator, if so what?
I am also a Fine Artist, portraits/travel pictures
What do you do to overcome a creative block?
For inspiration I go to a new environment/travel eg. Venice Carnival, Marrakesh souks or go to exhibitions
Do you have a favourite piece in your portfolio, if so could you share it and talk about it?
My fave piece: my current picture book – the Kangaroo Barbecue picture & the lion in mankini dancing.
What was your first book related project?
My first book commission became a worldwide bestseller luckily! ‘One Smiling Grandma’ nominated for the Kate Greenaway award, exhibited in NYC by the Society of Illustrators and on the official schools list for 2 years (SATs)
What type of media do you prefer to work in and why?
I do all my work by hand: oils/acrylic/watercolours/pen&ink or pencil.
Do you have a playlist you like working to? If so do you want to share it?
Always listen to music – depends on my mood: classical/soul/pop/retro
Do you have any rituals when working?
No rituals but like to start with a clean palette
Do you have a favourite artist outside of the world of books, if so who and why?
Influences: Diego Rivera, Degas, Lucien Freud
Did the books you read as a child influence your work?
Yes influenced by reading from childhood: Malory Towers/Anne of Green Gables, To Kill a Mockingbird, Marjorie Morningstar. Later Maya Angelou books. Classics: Pride & Prejudice etc
Has your illustration/art style changed over time?
Style has changed – less realistic more expressive. Less from life, more from imagination. I have also written 2 picture books now in which my style is more cartoony and fantasy.
How closely do you work with the author on developing the illustrations for a book?
Don’t work with the author – with the art director in Trad Pub. But now write/illustrate/design & published myself.
If you can please tell us about your latest project and if not your last project.
Currently painting an acrylic painting on canvas for the Brain Tumour Charity exhibition ‘Time’.
I had a tumour and brain surgery to remove it so this is an expression of my experience. Has been a turning point in my painting work – going full circle back to more personal, expressive work I was doing decades ago on my Fine Art degree.
Do you have any events on in the near future?
Working for the Brain Tumour charity which is: ‘Time’ Exhibition is 5-15th April at Islington Design Centre.