An Interview With... Nicola Grundy

An Interview With... Nicola Grundy

The memories I have of books from being a little child are mostly of stories being read to me by my parents and grandparents. ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton.
An illustration of an ostrich wearing a party hat and roller skates with rainbow coloured striped socks.
The memories I have of books from being a little child are mostly of stories being read to me by my parents and grandparents. ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton sticks in my head as the most memorable and I can clearly remember the cover illustration from our copy of the book with the animals and children around the tree and then the slightly bizarre ‘Moonface’ in his stripey onesie!
Whereas my mum encouraged my (and a lot of other children’s) creativity, my Nanna encouraged me in a different way, to plan what you are going to do, to colour inside the lines, keep the paints nice and tidy up at the end. This was maybe a good mixture to have been taught, especially as I found my career in Design. However the messy side on my part definitely overtips that balance. Plus it’s much more fun that way!
My mum has kept a lot of my childhood art work. There is a picture I drew of an old vintage car in pastels which is probably the first thing I drew that was noticeably actually quite good. I also did a huge picture at primary school of Ashington Colliery where we had been on a school trip and we have a photo we have of me holding it/ it swamping me peeping over the top and little feet sticking out at the bottom.
I always drew lots of pictures of my cats and so maybe that lives on now in drawing cute animals and characters.
What illustrated children's books did you love?

I have really strong and inspiring memories of my mums made up stories about two little ponies called ‘Neddy-Grey’ and ‘Dobbin’ and their adventures, even on one occasion their meeting a little green alien called ‘I-ooh’ (it‘s hard to write the pronunciation of that one!)

When being told these stories I just visualised and imagined all of the goings on, the scenes and characters in my head, but I can even still see them quite vividly now.

It’s magical really how a child's mind works like that and it is all still there somewhere when we are grown as more boring grown-ups!

The Illustrated books I loved were everybody's favourite; ‘The Tiger that Came to Tea’. The illustrations in this book are now so iconic. As a child you just remember being fascinated by all of the details; the pattern on her tights and the the water coming out of the tap. ‘The Jolly Postman’ where all of the letters could be discovered and taken out, unfolded and read. ‘Each, Peach, Pear, Plum’, and ‘The Lighthouse Keepers Lunch’ all of which have very memorable illustrations and all of which I have bought copies of for my daughter.


 Was there someone you looked up to in your family who was also an artist?

My mum was an artist, and an art teacher when I was growing up. A lot of our relatives have her drawings or embroideries and paintings in their homes which I would be fascinated by when we’d visit.

She has always encouraged me in my school artwork and then onto further and higher studies. She completely understands when you need just a certain kind of pink yarn or some scraps of the right blue fabric and can go to her stashes of bits and bobs to source them. My Nanna too painted watercolours in her little spare bedroom studio that I always wanted to go in and have a go too.


Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?

I think that it is all of the creative people in my life, starting with my Mum and Nanna and teachers and then my extremely talented friends at college and at University, and on to the brilliant people I have worked with.
They are all amazing in their talents and I feel proud of them all with the varied and wonderful things they have achieved through their artwork. I think we all inspire each other continuously really.


What are three things you cannot live without as an illustrator?

Blackwing pencils which my daughter pinches all of the time so I feel like I never know where one is, but they are my favourite to draw with as they feel right!
Nice pointy paintbrushes that don’t take their paint off the wood when left in water for far too long and cups of tea which fuel the day but you have to try not to dip the paintbrush in!


When or where do you feel most creative?

Probably when I am doing little artwork activities and projects or just painting with my daughter as there are no expectations or time constraints and you can just play with your ideas, or just before sleep when you have the most ambitious and fabulous new ideas only to realise in the morning that they are completely weird! Also, when talking to someone else about their work I will have a sudden buzz of ideas for them and things they could do. It is harder to do that for myself I often annoyingly find. 


Who is your illustration hero?

I love Brian Wildsmith’s work. I have a very old copy of ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ that I found in a charity shop and it’s a real beauty.


Tell us one thing about your childhood bedroom that you treasured...

I’m sure some other people will remember ‘Keepers’? I had the pink princess swan. You could lock your treasures inside with a key and it had a funny cauliflower head little character in there too for some reason! Also my Sylvanian Families.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A Vet...


When did you know you wanted to become an artist/illustrator?

I didn't really, I just followed what I loved and what I was best at in my education and I wasn’t actually ever sure I would land a career in it. I was prepared to do a different kind of job and just to do my artwork alongside if that’s how it went.

I was lucky that people saw uses for my work, in what I was making and doing and able to exhibit after my degree and I was very fortunate able to try out being a children's wear graphic designer as my first job.


How does your working process usually start?

I like to start with painting icons/elements that might go into the final design.


Tell us about your workspace: is there anything you keep around you while you work to inspire you?

I’ve got loads of prints and little postcards and books that I gather. Also I keep some of my kokeshi dolls on my desk.


What is your favourite piece from your M i N i B E A U collection and why?

The ‘Painty Floral Bloom’ wallpaper as it’s made in the way I like best to work by hand painting and then manipulating it into a working pattern. 


What inspired you to create your 'Painty Floral Bloom'?

I wanted to create a flowing and lush floral that gives the impression that you could be in a meadow in full bloom. I love my garden and (trying to) grow flowers. I love going out and collecting them into random vases to bring into the house and they often have this loose and wild feel, yet are always beautiful.




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