Updated: Aug 28
Welcome back to another #IllustratorTeam interview! We're super excited to welcome a new illustrator to the Qamber Kids family.
Michelle Keeley Adamson is an illustrator based in Liverpool, UK who mostly works traditionally adding digital elements to her work. She takes her inspiration from old victorian photographs she finds in dusty antique shops and loves illustrating anything a bit spooky. When Michelle's not illustrating, she is researching all things Ancient Egypt!
QK: Michelle, first off, we wanted to welcome you officially to Qamber Kids! We’re very excited to bring your creative talents under the Qamber Kids umbrella :) To begin, can you tell us about your journey into illustrating, and what led you to pursue your passion?
MKA: Firstly, I'm so excited to be a part of the team!
Like most illustrators, I've been drawing since I was a child. Over the years, I've done commission work on and off and spent hours drawing. I did art in secondary school, but the teacher wasn't a fan of my work as it wasn't very 'fine art'. I didn't let that stop me though, and I decided from that point on, I'd go down the self-taught route!
I really developed my style over the last 12 months and freed myself up to just let me style come naturally. I set up an art page and just kept going before opening up my little Etsy shop earlier this year.
QK: You are an artist and an egyptologist. We'd love to learn more about your artistic journey. How did you go from egyptologist to illustrator? As you continue to develop your career, what has helped you most?
MKA: I guess I haven't really taken the most traditional route! I studied Egyptology as a mature student for my Masters. During this time, I became really interested in how kids perceive ancient Egypt and how they engage with history through imagery. One of my modules was to design an exhibition, so I included lots of illustrations. I didn't get any extra marks...but it was worth it!
After that, I started volunteering for a local museum and have done a number of illustrations for them. Even though the lockdown has been really hard, it also gave me lots of opportunities to work with the museum to present history in a different way online: through illustrations! This was kick-started by my colleague who has a passion for doing things a bit differently.
The things that have helped me the most have been the information shared by other artists online. Katnipp illustrations has been my go-to YouTube channel to learn about how to start your own business and illustrations brand.
QK: We see you favor a mix of traditional and digital mediums in your artwork. Can you describe your technique?
MKA: Sure! I start off by sketching my illustration. I then ink it, and color using alcohol markers. I usually use grey tones as I love the old fashioned look, but if I use color, I go all out.
When I'm happy with it, I use a high-quality scanner to scan my work in (I use a Canon Lide 220) and then open it up in my editing software (I use Sketchbook Pro). I then digitally edit, fix any little errors I spot, and add in backgrounds and block colors.
QK: Is there a medium you love but don't get a chance to use often in your work?
MKA: I love making collages, although I've not done one in years!
QK: How long does it take you to complete a project, typically and how do you decide when it is done?
MKA: It can take around 1-3 days for me to complete a detailed illustration. Sometimes, I work for a few hours at a time and have a break, and sometimes, before I know it, it's 1am and I haven't noticed the time flying past.
When I decide I'm finished, I usually don't publish my work right away. I like to come back to it the next day to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes.
QK: You find inspiration through old photographs, chiefly from the Victorian Era. We love how you've interpreted the past through your illustrations. How did your inspiration develop your unique artistic style?
MKA: Thank you! When I started drawing from Victorian photographs, my work looked quite different. The faces were more angular, with more realistic eyes. I was never happy with anything I did. But, one day, I was early for a coffee date with a friend. So, I got my sketchbook out while I was waiting and just loosened up and my style finally came to me!
I'm super inspired by the clothing in the pictures, the hair and the expressions. Victorian photos can be quite austere, but I have quite a few where you can see smiles. A lot of my illustrations are designed to look like framed Victorian photographs, with the subject looking right at you from the page.
QK: Are there any professional goals that you have not yet reached? What do you see for your future?
MKA: My first professional goal would be to do this full time and in the future, I'd love to create my own children's book. Perhaps something spooky, or maybe even Egyptology based.
QK: We would love to read that! Do you have any advice or insight for illustrators and creatives who are trying to break into the business?
MKA: The best advice I can give is not to rush. Give yourself time, watch and learn from other artists on the internet and in books. Reach out to other illustrators, as they can be super helpful. Don't feel like you have to buy the most expensive and flashy equipment. If you start off small, you can always add to it.
Also, don't compare yourself to other artists or how well they seem to be doing. What you create is unique and special. We are all constantly learning, growing and developing our style. It can feel really vulnerable to put something you have created out there, but when you do, you'll feel so proud of yourself.
Finally, my biggest tip. If you're struggling with a piece, don't power through it. Come away for a few hours, treat yourself to something nice like a pamper or something you love to eat, and come back when you are feeling refreshed.
It sounds cheesy, but just have a bit of faith in yourself. This is one of the most self-critical professions in the world, but try to be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else.
QK: Sometimes cheesy is best ;) For our part, we love your advice. We all need that extra boost of encouragement wherever we can find it. Michelle, thanks so much for sharing the story behind your creative journey with us!
MKA: Thank you! I'm so excited to be working with Qamber Kids.