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Hello, my name is Emma Shoard, illustrator of The Pavee and the Buffer Girl. I moved into this shared studio space in Hackney Downs, London almost two years ago, soon after I received the exciting news from Barrington Stoke that I would be illustrating Siobhan Dowd’s beautiful short story.
I remember very clearly receiving an email entitled ‘Exciting Project’ which contained words like ‘traveller’, ‘young adult’, ‘love story’ and ‘highly illustrated’. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more interesting brief and immediately said yes.
When I get given a project with a deadline suitably far in the future I love to get involved in a long period of research and was able to really indulge with this one. Quite early on in the project I travelled with Barrington Stoke’s Mairi Kidd to Ireland to meet a community of Irish Travellers at a halting site in Kilkenny. At the start of the project – and now still if I’m honest – I had a very romantic view of the travelling life so I felt that this trip to Ireland was really important for the integrity of my work on the book. I wanted it to be as truthful as possible with the character’s feeling relatable and real to everyone including Irish travellers themselves. We had a really fun afternoon finding out a bit about their lives in Kilkenny and spent a lot of time doing drawings for the children, portraits, sketches of their horses and generally disrupting their afternoon homework club. From the photos we took and drawings I made on that day, several of the main characters for the book emerged.
Back in the studio I spent a long time developing these characters and creating the setting. I get my inspiration for these things from a broad range of sources. Google image search never gets you very far, so I try to collect images as and when I find them along the way. My ‘reference’ file for Pavee on my laptop contains photographs from The National Geographic, Tumblr, historical archives; stills from British, Irish, French and Russian films; and my own photography to name a few sources. The wall in front of my desk is always completely covered in pages of drawings pinned up for reference and partly to serve as a reminder of when I did a good drawing!
One of the best things about sharing a studio is having other people around to give you support, their thoughts on your work and to tell you off when you’re procrastinating too much. During my time in Hackney Downs I have worked alongside a graphic designer, illustrator, print-maker, photographer, sound and video artist, my current two studio-mates encompassing most of these vocations between them. It’s a great little community here.
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Thank you so much Emma, always a treat!
And speaking of treats, it was definitely one for us (and the people of London) to see Emma painting the windows of Waterstones High Street Kensington with moving images from The Pavee and the Buffer Girl last 28 March 2017. And don’t take our word for it. Drop by the shop or just take a peek at the photos below to judge for yourself!