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11th September 2014

Q&A Frances Castle Artist Profile


Frances Castle portrait
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Frances Castle is not only an award winning artist, she’s a musician, graphic storyteller and Jarvis Cocker is amongst her biggest fans, tipping her for stardom in Dazed and Confused. She has kindly revealed her inspirations in this week’s Artist Profile.

Edinburgh International Book Festival Quotes

Edinburgh International Book Festival Quotes for the Guardian

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You are keen collector of all things vintage – which three of your collected treasures would you save first in case of emergency and why?

Over the years my partner and I have bought a lot of stuff in junk shops and markets. It is hard to pick out one thing, but at the moment it is probably my two bicycles, one was built in 1954 and the other 1969. They are from an era when bicycles of their type were handmade, in little workshops up and down the country – which is hard to imagine now.  I guess if there was an emergency I could escape on one of my bicycles which would be handy.

Shapwick by Jon Brooks - Illustrated by Frances Castle for Clay Pipe Music

Shapwick by Jon Brooks – Illustrated by Frances Castle for Clay Pipe Music

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Your work continues to evolve and change as you experiment with new techniques, which have been your favourite and what will you experiment with next?

I like to keep trying new things out, one of the reasons I started my little record label (Clay Pipe Music) was to give myself a place to experiment when designing artwork for the sleeves. Initially I wanted to do more work away from the computer and play around with print making. That has had to change a bit as the label has grown, and I’m doing bigger runs and vinyl LPs. Later in the year I’m doing an LP for singer Sharron Kraus based on some Welsh folk tales called the Mabinogi I’m really looking forward to doing the artwork for that.

Do you think newly graduated students are given enough advice about best-practice and the professional working environment? What advice would you give people trying to break into this industry?

I think perhaps professional practice might be something you have to pick up as you go along. I’m sure colleges can give students a basic grounding in copyright regulations etc but I suspect it is something you really have to learn on the job.

Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry

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Struwwelpeter

Struwwelpeter

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Which children’s classics would you most like to illustrate and are there specific illustrations from books which you remember from your childhood?

I think it would be very hard to illustrate something that is already a ‘classic’ – especially if the illustrations are already well known, (a bit like how remakes of films are never as good as the original). I think I’d be happier leaving the classics alone and to try to illustrate something new. I still have the copy of Miroslav Saseks London that I had as a child, I never got rid of that. I loved Richard Scarry – I think I was drawn in by the detail, and the fact that it was American made it fascinating to an English child. Also Ladybird books where the illustrations were really real looking. I loved pop up books – I had a pop up Wizard of Oz where the whole of the Emerald City stands up in the centre pages. I also had a copy of Struwwelpeter which had belonged to my Dad as child, it was in my book case but I was too scared to get it out and even look at the cover let alone open it up.

Eric Ravilious woodcut

Eric Ravilious woodcut

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Tyneham by Frances Castle for Clay Pipe Music

Tyneham by Frances Castle for Clay Pipe Music

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Do you follow the work of other artists in your field? Do you have any particular favourites who you think we should look out for?

Yes I’m always looking at other artists work. In recent years I’ve become interested the work of British print makers like Bawden and Ravilious and their contemporaries. I’m always looking for interesting comics to read, and like to dig around in second hand  book shops for old illustrated books and magazines. I’ve admired the work of people like Paul Blow, Adrian Johnson and Jonathan Burton for a long time and newer illustrators Eleni Kalorkoti and David Doran are both really good.

You can see more of Frances Castle’s work on her website here.