It’s About Time for Sophie E Tallis

Last year at BristolCon, I had the good fortune and pleasure to meet author and illustrator Sophie E Tallis in the art room, where she was exhibiting her fantastic pencil portraits, silk paintings and incredibly detailed fantasy maps. She’s been a practising artist for over 20 years, has a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art and a Post-Grad in Education, was a teacher for 16 years and has been a freelance illustrator for the last 6 years, including working for HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and as an Artist-in-Residence for Oxford University.

Sophie has illustrated 15 books so far, specialising in hand drawn detailed pen & ink illustrations and fantasy maps, including creating the fantasy maps for Anna Stephen’s ‘Godblind’ and Anna Smith-Spark’s ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, both published by HarperVoyager 2017 and for Diane Magras’s ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ by Penguin Random House, published 2018, for which she is now drawing the sequel’s map for.  Most recently Sophie has seen her artwork on the front cover of Far Horizons magazine. Sophie has also been a panellist, moderator and an exhibiting artist at BristolCon. Sophie is a shortlisted nominee in the 2018 British Fantasy Awards in the Best Artist category.

 

She is also a published author with BFS Award winning independent press, Grimbold Books, has been a full member of The Society of Authors and ALCS since 2013 and was an author/illustrator in the 2015 Cirencester Literary Festival. Her epic illustrated fantasy debut, ‘White Mountain’, the first of her Darkling Chronicles trilogy was re-published in December 2014 by Grimbold Books. She is still writing the sequel, ‘Darkling Rise’ and has had a number of stories published including her sci-fi short story ‘Silent Running’ featured in acclaimed anthology, ‘Fight Like A Girl’ published by Kristell Ink in 2016, and ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’, a dark fairytale in anthology, ‘Shadows of the Oak’, published December 2016 by Tenebris Books.  Sophie also has two Darkling Chronicle novellas, ‘The Siege of Kallorm’ and ‘A Friendship Forged’, coming out later this year.

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If this wasn’t enough, she has also recently opened her own Etsy store! Sophie lives in Gloucestershire with her four white wolves, and over the summer I asked her if she would take part in my continuing series of interviews about finding the time to be creative. Here is what she had to say…..

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
ST: I wake, usually after an insomniac night of between 3 – 4 hrs sleep and sit for about half an hour while my vertigo settles so I know I’m safe to stand up and walk to the bathroom. Annoyingly I get vestibular vertigo every day, some days are far worse than others, but I need to move slowly and give my brain a chance to stop swirling. My waking times vary due to my library job, so on mornings I’m working at the library I wake about 7ish on non-library days it’s nearer to 8:30 – 9 depending on how late my four doggies will let me sleep! I take them out for exercising & play for at least an hour, they then get their daily Piriton and treats, more exercise and play, then ‘fishy on a dishy’ (I have a whole embarrassing song ritual which goes with this) which involves giving them tablets/supplements in their favourite tinned salmon and tuna. Did I mention that my daily life is dominated by my four huge white wolfies? More exercise and play (and at the moment a lot of massaging my poorly dog and Photizo laser treatment). I never eat breakfast, I had forced myself for a few months but in all the heat that’s dropped off entirely. By about 10/11am after I’ve fed the birds and done my doggie stuff, I work for about 2/3 hours, either on drawing for a commission work or silk painting/other art (for sale). Sadly, I rarely do any writing these days. Before I got ill, I’d be writing for a solid 6 hours or so, now, my concentration and the mental exertion needed for writing maxs out at about 30mins. After the dogs lunch and my own, I continue working until 3pm ish when I take them all out again for a couple of hours. Back in for them to rest and more work then out again for another hour before they have their dinner. I only check emails and social media in the evenings, I’d get nothing done otherwise. After a final toilet for the dogs I head upstairs and mess around online or writing notes/little excerpts or sketching drawing ideas until about 2am. I rarely sleep much before 3.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
ST: One of my older dogs Tolly has degenerative myelopathy which paralyses his back legs and travels up the spine, so he requires so much help and attention throughout the day that it’s difficult to carve out any time for other things. I deal with it better on some days, if he’s relatively good and can walk a few steps before collapsing and worse on days when he’s bad and is just dragging himself around. The other time zapper is usually having to juggle several projects at the same time, like buses you have a quiet period then they all come at once!

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
ST: Small steps. It’s obvious, but if you have a hectic life or are struggling with illness, you physically and mentally can’t take 5 or 6 hours just for yourself to go work on a project or block everything out until you complete it. No-one scales Everest in one go, tackle the small foothills first, one stage at a time. Every moment spent on a creative endeavour, no matter how short, is time well spent and is a success.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
ST: I get my best writing ideas/scenes when on the toilet or in the bath/shower, bizarre but true, and I get my best art ideas at night when I’m struggling to sleep. Actually being a total night owl my creative brain really ramps up in the wee small hours. There’s something a little magical about being awake when everyone else is asleep and just listening to the night sounds outside for inspiration.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
ST: Some quiet alone time at least, which is why I’m so active at night, I rarely get quiet times during the day to just think about ideas and work out plots/scenes or artwork solutions, so my night times are essential. If I do nothing creative in a day, in whatever medium that may be in, I get really depressed, I literally need creativity for my physical and mental health!

GB: Final words of wisdom?
ST: Try to be kind to yourself. I say this as someone who beats myself up all the time over my lack of productivity, not being prolific, not writing fast enough (I’m glacially slow), not getting a project done by a deadline etc etc. Criticising yourself to the point of paralysis is self-defeating. Try not to be like me! Life throws curve balls at you all the time, it’s hard, it’s tough, shit happens, so give yourself a break if you’ve dropped a ball, missed a deadline, if you’re only writing a book once every 5 years while your friends whizz one off every few months, or if you’re only completing a few artworks every year while others manage new works every day.

Huge thanks to Sophie for her answers and insights. I love her advice to those of us struggling to find time and am a great believer in the power of small steps to move yourself closer to your artistic goals.

If you’d like to find out more, contact or commission Sophie, then all her links are below:

Website & Blog: sophieetallis.co.uk

Illustrations: sophieetallisillustrations

Book: thedarklingchronicles

FB page: facebook/fantasyepic

 

If you’d like to read more interviews about finding creative time, the previous ones can be found here: Andy Bigwood, Joanne Hall, Aliette de Bodard, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gareth L Powell, Iain Clark.

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It’s About Time for Iain Clark

Welcome to the latest in my series of interviews about creative time. This month it’s the turn of artist Iain Clark. Iain divides his time between producing art for the Dublin 2019 WorldCon (slowly seeing the light of day in the form of adverts, flyers, posters, badges, bookmarks and t-shirts) and fan art for Doctor Who and other genre TV.  He has reviewed TV and film for Strange Horizons, and was a panel member at LonCon 2014 discussing the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).  He currently fits drawing and blogging around the capricious whims of his young daughters.

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
IC We’ve got our two daughters (aged 6 and 9) to a point where they no longer yell for us at 6.30 sharp, so we actually get some semblance of a lie-in until, ooh, maybe even 6.45 am (Okay, 7.30 on a good day). Then it’s simply of case of breaking the mesmeric spell of children’s television at 5 minute intervals until the kids are actually ready to go to school.

I work full-time and my wife works part-time so weekdays are pretty hectic.  After work it’s feed the kids, wash the kids, read to the kids, say night to the kids, and then try to fit creativity into whatever is left of the evening. (Not that raising kids isn’t creative, but it’s a very different kind of creative and like any manuscript they seem to need constant revisions and spend most of their time covered in biro.)

Generally I paint while sitting in the living room, which probably sounds a bit odd.  I’ve found that I’m far more likely to work if I can stay in the heart of the house with the TV as comfort noise in the background, rather than some isolated corner.  I have an easel set to the right height for the sofa, and I can happily paint until bedtime while my wife does one of her vast array of crafts.  Fortunately I mainly work in acrylics so the paints don’t stink out the room.  I’ve been trying some low-odour water-miscible oils recently too (such a different technique.)

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
IC Mentally I need a bit of a run-up to creating art.  I can’t just do ten minutes, I need to know I have at least an hour.  The later the kids go to bed, the more squeezed it becomes.  Depending on how the evening has gone up to that point, I generally end up with 1-2 hours to paint – that’s assuming we don’t watch TV or anything crazy like that. I always sit at work itching to paint, get home too knackered to even think about it, and then bounce back.

Current time management strategies are to try to eat when the kids eat, something we’d fallen out of the habit of doing, and we limit TV viewing to just the few shows we’re following.  Just one TV show a night really eats into my painting time.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
IC I need them more than the kids! Twitter is my Achilles heel. My rate of reading books has suffered the most, because social media eats time and then I prioritise art over reading.  It’s so easy just to sit glued to the internet consuming and consuming and never make that step change into creating.  I don’t use any limiting tools. Maybe I should start!  I do really value the social interactions I have on social media so it’s a balance.

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
IC
I’m learning all the time as a parent and I’m learning all the time as an artist, but the two don’t crossover all that much.  My daughters love art and are very supportive of their daddy doing pictures (lots of gratifying oohs and aahs!).

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
IC Tip: don’t have kids, a day job or social media!  Since I’ve foolishly pursued all of those things, when knackered-ness takes over I trick myself into doing art by getting out a work in progress and just looking at it; very simple but it gets me over the mental hurdle of starting because I immediately become obsessed with what’s wrong and sucked into fixing it.  Editing is easier than writing.  I also remind myself how I’ll feel later if I don’t knuckle down, looking back on all those lost opportunities.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
IC
Despite having painted numerous fan art likenesses I still struggle to ‘find’ the face. They generally end up too long in the vertical axis.  I never trace, and I haven’t used grids when copying a likeness but recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more structured to sharpen up my proportions. I know many proper artists don’t bat an eyelid about grids but it always feels a bit like cheating to me.  I’m not judging, this is my hang up! Everyone’s process is different.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
IC
Er…no!  Having an understanding spouse who allows you painting time is something I would highly recommend.  If you don’t have one, take yours back and get a refund.

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
IC
I’ve used my eldest daughter as a model in one picture (below).  ICpainting

And I’ve done a couple of pencil sketches of the girls as gifts for my wife. Other than that I do occasionally sit down and draw with them, particularly with my eldest.  She doesn’t want me to actually tell her anything or show her how to do anything (because obviously she knows best), she just wants the shared experience.  She’s inspired by cartoons she sees (she’s been perfecting manga-style eyes!) more than me.  I think there’s a fine line between being an encouraging role model and setting them an impossible standard. My art at age 9 was nothing special – they’re already much better than I was!

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
IC Coffee.  By the gallon.

I don’t need to do art every day but I really crave the satisfaction of completing a piece, and I enjoy showing it to people and getting positive reactions.  That keeps me coming back.  I actually paint and draw now far more than I used to, despite the crazy hours.

GB Final words of wisdom?
IC I’m a fraud! I don’t know anything about art!  I’m just winging it. But it’s great when it works.

I think you’ll agree with me that Iain is anything but a fraud, and I can’t wait to see more of his Dr Who art and the Dublin 2019 WorldCon artwork as it’s revealed over the coming months. Iain’s gorgeous artwork can be viewed and bought on his website: iainjclarkart.com
You will also find him on twitter: @iainjclark
and Tumblr: iainjclark.tumblr.com

If you have missed any of my previous interviews with other wonderful writers and artists, the links are below:

Aliette de Bodard
Andy Bigwood
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Kim Lakin-Smith

 

 

It’s About Time for Kim Lakin-Smith

This month, it’s the turn of Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy and Young Adult author Kim Lakin-Smith.

Kim is the author of the immersive steampunk novel Cyber Circus (shortlisted for the 2011 BSFA Best Novel award),  young adult novel Queen Rat, and has been featured in numerous anthologies and publications including Black Static and Interzone.

Let’s find out how Kim makes time to be creative and balances family life and full time authoring!


GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
KL-S
I wake up to a chorus of dogs, cats and guinea pigs demanding feeding. Once everyone is satiated, I see my daughter, Scarlet, to her desk where she logs onto her laptop, ready for the online school she attends. Then I get out my mat and do my best attempt at yoga or Pilates, ‘assisted’ by two excitable dogs!

The writing starts around 10am, when, coffee in hand, I collapse onto the sofa and open my notebook. I write nonfiction on a pc and fiction using pen and paper. I am a Paperblanks addict; opening the little metal clasps of an antiqued notebook is very inspiring. I also love the fact that I can write anywhere, a coffee shop, library, train, etc.

I aim to write 6 pages every day. I’m not sure of the word count but I write in a tiny, indecipherable scrawl so it’s usually enough to make my brain feel emptied out. In-between, I perform the duties of your average domestic goddess and try to post on social media – something I struggle with as I’m a pretty private person. Usually I try to think of the inanest thing I can and go with that 🙂

I finish up work around 4pm, in time for the next round of feeding at the zoo. Evenings are reserved for family time, Scarlet’s homework, US TV shows, and the occasional night out. I’d love to say I collapse in bed with a good book around 11pm, but more often than not, my husband, Del, and I are also accompanied by two cats, a fat Labrador and a mad spaniel.

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
KL-S
Everyday life is my biggest time suck. I think it is a conscious choice whether a person allows themselves to be interrupted or not. Some writers are totally self-absorbed; family, friends, reality, everything comes second to the writing. My persona choice is to embrace these interruptions to my writing day. I do dream of a perch in the garden in summertime a few years from now when Scarlet is happy at college and everything is peaceful.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
KL-S
I live in a family of social media addicts and do my best to personally steer clear of mobile phones and being online too much 🙂 That said, I use the internet daily for research. On the occasions, I have had no internet connection, my productivity has increased tremendously. It is a modern dilemma for us all!

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
KL-S
I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the compromise that comes from trying to juggle work and parenthood. But there are also great splashes of technicolour which come from the wonder, pain, joy, and awe of having a child. In recent years, I have switched gears from adult SF to Fantasy for children and young adults. I’d love to say I write for Scarlet, but she doesn’t read books so I settle for remembering the child I was once and the kinds of stories I loved to read – J M Barrie, Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, Michael Ende, and their ilk.

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
KL-S
You really do have to create time, by which I mean dedicate a realistic portion of the day to working on your craft. In terms of writing, I think it is all too easy to underestimate how valuable it is to read. See your reading time as adding to your practice. In addition, I find that I can achieve a lot in a very small amount of time so long as I dedicate myself wholly to the writing. Tuck yourself away, set an alarm and focus entirely on letting the words flow.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
KL-S
I am often to be found making strange hand gestures! By this I mean I will act out a scenario or an action with my hands to try to spark ideas and come up with the ideal description. I also have to find exactly the right mood of music to fit each individual story.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
KL-S
Only paper and pen, and a lock on the office door!

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
KL-S
I have asked Scarlet her advice on occasion, but she is a very fierce critic! She has introduced me to some wonderfully inspiring resources which I would never have known about otherwise – South Korean music videos, Japanese Anime and Manga, Youtube stars, and Cosplay.

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
KL-S
Coffee and music 🙂

GB Final words of wisdom?
KL-S
How hard do you want to work as a creative? I would say that is the only difference between success and mediocrity. That, and wholly embrace the ethos of artistic self-reliance, as expressed so eloquently by the inimitable David Bowie:

I am immensely grateful to Kim for taking the time to answer my questions and let us sneak a look at her daily process and finding time to be creative. As ever, please comment below to ask more questions or share your own tips. If you’ve missed the previous interviews then just follow the links below:

Aliette de Bodard
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Andy Bigwood

It’s About Time

One of the things that I’m sure you struggle with is finding enough time.

Like most creative people who are passionate about their craft, I want to spend all of my spare time on it, and I know most of my friends feel the same. I seem to have a natural affinity for writers (after all – I married one!), and so quite a few of my friends are writers. I think it’s even harder to find time for writing than painting, and so I thought I’d ask some of my creative friends for their advice on how they find time for their craft.

This is the first in a series of blogs featuring the answers to finding creative time that my friends have given me. I hope you will find them as useful and enlightening as I have and that they help you to think more deeply about finding the time for your art.

So, this week, it’s about time for the talented artist Andy Bigwood! Andy is an Artist, Draughtsman, Bookbinder, Cartographer, and Illustrator from Trowbridge, Wiltshire. Trained in technical illustration, in Bath (shortly before the evolution of computer aided art), Andy has provided artwork, cartography and cover designs for a variety of Fantasy, Horror, and Science fiction novels, twice winning the British Science Fiction Association Award for best artwork.

 G: Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

AB: Up at 6AM, train journey, in work for 8AM work until 4:30, train journey until 17:45, 45mins cycling, microwave meal, then doing art or whatever until midnight – three days a week
The other two days I work from home gaining me an hour’s extra sleep and 2 hours extra free time!

G: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

AB: Weight loss, achieved by cycling 5 miles at least 3 times a week.

G:Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

AB: NO, One can never have too much internet!
You just have to recognise how much time a thing will take and how much you want to invest in it. I find that the hardest thing on the internet is an MMO where you end up leading a group/guild/team… you likely have kids/teens relying on your leadership, and thats a really tough thing to walk away from. Facebook is easy to walk away from.

G: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

AB: Try to maximise your day. The government has laid down an obligation to employers to allow working from home wherever practical. Not spending 2 or 3 hours travelling a day is a big bonus. If you have to travel to work, try to use public transport, use the time on public transport. On a train you can write, read, look at your mail/email. In the morning I get an extra 40mins sleep on the train and set my phone alarm for two stops before get off.  

G: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft.

AB: I am an author and an artist, creatively I can’t do both in the same week..the creative energy always goes one way or the other. If you are creative EXHIBIT IT, there is no better ego boost than the unsolicited praise of the public.

G: Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?

AB: NO. buying a book on time management is a waste of time. Every person is an individual and will have unique circumstances. In the same way that personal trainers and Gyms work for some people they won’t for others (that’s why I cycle for exercise).

G: Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?

AB: I don’t have a child. But if I did, then he/she would be the main focus..consider a child as an art project, teach your child to draw and paint, read and write… the young ones thrive on the attention and are (probably) less trouble when focused on creativity. Clearly what sort of art you can let a child do really depends on age.  

G: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?

AB: Internet access and an ebook to read.

G: Final words of wisdom?

AB: Creativity can’t always be set aside, sometimes an artistic concept will DEMAND to be put on paper. When you absolutely NEED to do a piece of art, then you should try to make the time to let it out. And thats what Annual Leave is for.

auth_andy_bigwood_web

Many thanks to Andy for these answers and insights into his creative process. If you’d like to discover Andy’s fantastic art, you can check out his website and DeviantArt page. Andy is also the organiser of the BristolCon Art Show, so if you are coming along to BristolCon be sure to say hello and check out his work.

Do you have any advice about finding time to be creative, or do you want to ask me any of the questions above? If so, please leave me a comment!