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An Interview with Patrica Papps

Patricia illustrated "Twelve Dancing Princesses" from the 606d Well Loved Tales series

"Although I was very good at art at school I didn’t have the confidence to go to Art College and trained as a secretary to earn a living. I wasn’t really very happy doing this and I attended evening art classes at the college for years and studied drawing and painting - mostly oil painting. The number of hours I put in at evening classes must have added up to the equivalent of a college course!

I met my illustrator husband when we both attended life drawing classes at Bournemouth College of Art and he introduced me to the world of illustration and design which opened my eyes to a whole new form of art. Illustration suited my style which is stylised and decorative.

I soon had an agent, Eva Morris at Associated Freelance Artists and it was she who got me the Ladybird work as she knew the editor there. Most of the work she was getting me then was greeting card designs and I also did some illustrations for the popular ‘Jackie’ magazine.

My contact at Ladybird was the Editor, I have forgotten her name, but I remember she really liked my work which gave me confidence, and commissioning me was her idea. To begin with I had to submit pencil roughs for each illustration. They actually paid me a separate fee for the roughs which was exceptionally good in those days! These roughs had to be approved by the Editor and the Art Director. I recall that there were minor adjustments and on the whole my work was accepted.

I was given the page layouts and the text for the pages, and I had to come up with an idea. I don’t think I was given a brief, I seem to remember that I was left to get on with them. I found the subject matter beautiful to illustrate and I didn’t really have much difficulty in coming up with ideas.

The feedback was very positive when I submitted the work and I remember that they were all accepted without alterations.

I think the book sold very well and it certainly seems to have been popular in libraries for my PLR (Public Lending Right) statements showed consistently high borrowing figures over the years.

It would have been nice to do more work for Ladybird and there was talk of doing another fairytale book in a larger format but nothing came of it because the editor I had worked with left and then there were changes in the company. No one seemed interested and I think my agent found it difficult too as she had a number of artists and I think some of them had worked for Ladybird too.

After doing the Ladybird book my agent continued to get me a lot of greeting card design work and I also produced paintings for two series of collector plates for Bradford Exchange. I really enjoyed doing those as they so suited my style. One was a series of Goddesses of the world and the other was a series of Egyptian Goddesses. I really love ancient Egyptian art and feel a great affinity with it.

I also started to specialise in natural history illustration for children and completed several books in that genre for various publishers. This work came about from the work I had been doing for the pre-school magazine ‘Playdays’ which was a BBC TV tie-in. It was published by an independent publisher and I regularly did a ‘nature spread’ in the magazine from issue number 2. They used me regularly for several years until the BBC decided to produce the magazine in-house. The new publishing team gave it a new look, - it wasn’t the same and although they used me to do a couple of nature spreads the work dried up.

In recent years I have concentrated more on ‘personal’ paintings, uncommissioned work of subjects I want to paint. I love painting miniatures and have exhibited these at a London Fine Art gallery and also with the Royal Society of Miniaturists.

One major project I worked on over a couple of years was a series of paintings based on the folklore of flowers and plants. These paintings were seen by W H Smith and they published them as a calendar for 2006 entitled “The Language of Flowers”.

Looking at the ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’ now I feel it would have been fun to have done some more fairytale books because it enables an illustrator to really be imaginative not only in design but in costume and detail. But doing the ‘Goddesses’ work compensated for I was able to use my love of detail and costume to the full for those commissions.

Most of my work is available for sale, including original illustrations from ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’. I recently sold the original of the cover for the book.

My work at present concentrates on the magical and mystical. I am very interested in Celtic design and am planning a series of Celtic Goddess that I hope to sell as prints."

Email Patricia Papps

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