Wednesday 1 April 2015

Interview with Claire M Hutt - Illustrator of North by Southwest

C M Hutt is a mature student studying Drawing and Print at the University of the West of England.  She co-edited a zine called Full Frontal Lobe where she published her first illustration, 'Inner Workings of a Ray Gun', and her short story 'Verne's Rise'. She has also had an illustration in an anthology called 'Felinity' for the short story 'No Tears'. 
Her work can be found at, on facebook at C M Hutt Art or on Twitter @clairedreams99.

Claire made the wonderful art in the anthology North by Southwest

I know you as an artist, where you did the rather marvellous pictures for North by Southwest, but you’ve had words published too. Can you tell us a bit about that?

A friend and myself were talking about how difficult it was to sell work and be seen. We had no idea how to go about it but we decided to make a zine to showcase our work and the work of our friends. We called it Full Frontal Lobe. I had an illustration (inner workings of a ray gun) and a short story (Verse's Rise) published in that.

Skirting perilously close to ‘where do you get your ideas’ but how do you go about coming up with an illustration for a story or a book?

Ideas for any art we do come from a lifetime of experiences and the things we see in our everyday lives, but to illustrate someone else's story is a little different. For NbySW I had to read the stories and think of an image to go with them as I was given free reign. Some were easy, like Christmas Steps, some were really difficult, like Lye Close. I had to think about what was important to the story without giving it all away. I did some research for each, took photos, sketched ideas, etc, until they were done.

Do you find restrictions on what you can draw a help or a hindrance? For example if someone tells you exactly what they want and don’t want for an illustration

Both. I think a happy medium of input and freedom is the best mix for me. At university we are given a lot of freedom, which is wonderful, but can often overwhelm me as I don't have any restrictions. Far too many ideas, never enough time. NbySW was good for me as I had the freedom to get on with it but I also had the restrictions of time, theme and story.

North by Southwest if your first fully illustrated book – what did you learn about art by doing the art for the book?

Never have an equal amount of black and white on the cover image, it plays havoc with the text. I also realised I need to plan my projects and my time better. I've already improved my time management for university by mapping out what needs to be done and when. It taught me a lot about doing art for other people and has given me a huge amount of new experiences.

You’ve used models in some of the pictures, can you tell us a little about that sort of process?

When using models you need to be careful. Get them to sign a model release form which you can download for free. ( ). If you intend on publishing or making money from their image you need their permission and to agree a form of payment (if any). I used my husband and sister-in-law but still got them to sign release forms. 

I think all the writers in the book have their favourites of the pictures (and there are differences), do you have a favourite, if so what is it?

I love abstracts, so when I read Kevlin Henney's Like Giants I knew what to do. I love the story and the image, it was fun to do and makes me smile. Christmas Steps is a close second.

You are currently doing a degree, what do you say to the people, like some of the people currently in government, that art degrees are not value for money?

I'm always being asked what kind of job I could possibly get from art and I'd like to point out to them that architects are artists, and an architect designed the houses of parliament. Graphic designers are artists who designed their logos. Game designers are artists, fashion designers are artists, photographers are artists. Art surrounds us and without it we are nothing.  

What can writers do better to help illustrators who are working on their stories?

Feedback. Positive or negative it doesn't matter as long as it's constructive. We want to bring your words to life and any help you can give us is vital.

Do you have a set process for creating art, if so what is it? If not why not?

Ideas usually come to me when my mind is clear, like when I'm about to go to sleep or relaxing to music, reading a book, etc. Other than that I don't have a fixed process yet but uni is teaching me the importance of research and the need for sketchbooks. 

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new artists?

Confidence in yourself and your work is the most important tool you can have.

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