Interview: Lorna Scobie

London-based illustrator Lorna Scobie has a portfolio full of character, colour and fun.

In every projects she tackles, whether it is contributions to ANORAK and Loop Magazine, a product range for Ohh Deer or a day of sketching at museums in London, there is always a certain spontaneity to Lorna’s work.

This collection of spontaneous creations has developed a quirky yet cohesive style, with the joy of creation ranking over and above sticking to a set style or medium.

The abundance of animal-themed project can often make looking at Lorna’s portfolio of work feel like stepping into a jungle and so it seems fitting that her first book would share this setting. Jungle Paradise, Lorna’s brand new colouring book, features countless wild animals emerging from wild leafy settings.

With the craze growing and growing, the colouring book market has become a little overcrowded. However, there are few things which set Lorna’s book apart. The inspirational quotes which are dispersed throughout and the fact that she has deliberately left white space for the reader to add their own jungle details has added an extra layer of fun!

We catch up with her to find out more..

Hi Lorna! Let’s start with a bit about your new colouring book Jungle Paradise – how did the book come to be?

Earlier this year, the lovely boys from Ohh Deer kindly invited me to hold a one-day workshop at the Pick Me Up illustration festival in Somerset house. I decided to do a huge live colouring in sheet, where I illustrated lots of animals on an enormous piece of paper. Whilst I drew, members of the public were invited to come and colour in the animals. It was a really fun day, and it caught the eye of my editor. I was already planning on creating a colouring book so it was great timing! We both loved the idea of a jungle colouring book and thought the theme was perfect as there are so many incredible animals and plants in the jungle. We aimed for the book to be relaxing and therapeutic to colour in, but also full of character.

Did you find it difficult to adapt your style to something easily colourable? 

Although most of my illustration work is full colour, my sketchbook work is usually black fine liner pen, like the artwork in Jungle Paradise. In fact I compulsively draw animals in pen on every sketchbook or piece of paper I can find! This way of working is quite loose and spontaneous, so to make my style more suitable for colouring in, I planned out each drawing beforehand and added more detail when I felt it needed it.

I tried to channel the energy of my sketchbook drawings into my drawing style in Jungle Paradise, to keep it fresh and full of character.

I love the idea that as soon as people start adding colour to the lines, the page become their own piece of art, and I hope people will be inspired to add their own drawings to the pages too.

Do you yourself enjoy a bit of colouring in? Why do you think it has become such a craze over the last few years?

I love it! Even though I spend a lot of time drawing, it’s usually for a brief and so it’s so refreshing to take some time out and do some colouring-in. It’s also something I really enjoy doing on long journeys as it helps to pass the time and also (as I’m not a great traveller) makes me feel calm. Perhaps the reason colouring books have become so popular is that people have been feeling that their lives are just getting busier and busier, and colouring-in offers a perfect opportunity to unwind and forget the stresses of the day. They offer the chance for everyone to be creative regardless of how much experience they have. I believe the adult colouring books are so successful because they really do help your mind relax.

From just glancing at your portfolio you can tell you are a nature fan! Have you always been so interested in wildlife?

Yes definitely. Growing up in a tiny village in the Somerset countryside meant I was surrounded by the natural world and I always had lots of pets which I adored. I was fascinated by every part of nature, and would catch tadpoles in fish bowls and examine them for hours through the plastic to try and understand how they worked. One of my favourite subjects to draw was my cat, Runty, who would sit still for just long enough for me to paint her. I like the fact that nature is so varied, from leaves to zebras, and also that animals can show such amazing personality in their faces, despite not being able to talk.

Other than nature, what else inspires you?

Everything I enjoy inspires me and feeds into my work – articles in New Scientist magazine, conversations I overhear, people’s funny or interesting stories, novels and encyclopaedias, funny scenes I witness. Seeing great artwork always inspires me and makes me want to instantly start drawing. Some of my favourite artists are Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Cy Twombly and Charley Harper. I use Pinterest a lot for browsing design and art, and it’s great for getting inspiration for unusual colour palattes or discovering other illustrators.

Were you creative as a child? What is the first thing you remember creating?

I was always drawing and making things. I remember going to Bristol zoo for the first time as a very young child, seeing Wendy the Elephant, and just being OBSESSED with her. I painted endless grey splurges trying to describe her shape. (Unsuccessfully). Another thing I remember doing is making hairy pictures – which involved collecting up my hair after it was cut at the hairdressers and, when home, sticking it down to make hairy animals! Creepy but fun.

Can you talk us through your creative process now? What materials are your favourite to work with?

Watercolour paints, coloured pencils and black fine liners are my staples. I like that they are fast to use and that the watercolours can be unpredictable as the colour moves, and this leads to happy mistakes. I don’t like my illustrations looking too perfect, so I work quickly, using a fatter brush than I need (to avoid precision) and allow the accidents with painting to happen.

How do you document ideas as they come to you? Do you keep sketchbooks or use photography?

I use the notes app on phone when I see interesting things. A note I wrote today is ‘lots of pigeons with one leg each.’ I do also keep a little sketchbook with me so that when I’m out and about and see a funny scene or a cool looking dog I can get it down whilst it’s still in my head. The portable brush pens filled with water are really useful for this as I can paint without all the hassle of having to clean paint off my brush. I do take some photos but usually only for colour ideas, because I like to illustrate things how I see them, rather than how it actually is.

I’ve found that working from photographs can be dangerous because my work becomes too tight and less spontaneous when there is a right and wrong, and I become too focused on getting an exact drawing rather than imagining how the scene felt at the time.

What is your studio like?

My studio is in my home. It’s a little bit busy and covered in cacti and succulents as I love seeing greenery and plants when I look around me. I’ve got lots of books and my most used are my animal encyclopaedias which are a great source of animal reference. I like to spread all my coloured pencils and paints around me before I start working, as having all the colours out means I can work quickly without overthinking it.

What would your dream brief be?

I have been lucky to work with some fantastic clients, and on some really enjoyable and varied briefs in the past few years. One thing which I haven’t done much of is editorial work, and this is something I would like to do more of in the future. Although I really enjoy working on longer book briefs, it’s exciting working on editorial briefs as the timeframe is really tight and it helps keeps your work fresh.

Finally, what is next for you? Any creative projects you would like to mention?

I’ve got a couple of really exciting book projects coming up next year, including a really exciting book about the animal kingdom with the author Nicola Davies which will be published by Hodder. I can’t wait to get started on it!



Posted on Nov 6th, 15 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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