28 June 2021
Tombow Talks to: Lorna Scobie
Lorna Scobie grew up in the depths of the English countryside, climbing trees and taking her rabbit for walks in the fields. She is an illustrator and designer, now based in south-east London. Growing up surrounded by nature has heavily influenced her illustrations and her work often revolves around the natural world and animal kingdom. She enjoys illustrating non-fiction 0-6 and 6+, black and white, children’s books, and pre-school books. We were lucky to catch up with Lorna to chat about her brand new book and how she got to where she is now....
Congratulations on the publication of Pocket Art! Talk us through the book and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! I’m so excited about Pocket Art as it is a book I’ve wanted to create for a while now. It’s a handy-sized art activity book full of creative tips and colourful ideas and inspiration.
As with the 365 Days of Art book series I created, I thought about the hurdles I personally have to overcome in order to get creative. A blank sketchbook page can hold people back as it’s quite intimidating. The idea for the 365 Days and Pocket Art books was for them to become personal sketchbooks, but instead of blank pages I’ve suggested art activities. For some, I’ve started off the activities, and for others I’ve created examples for people to follow. Pocket Art has 100 new art tasks to do on the go or at home.
It has been carefully designed so that it’s your perfect partner out and about. It has a sturdy hardback cover to rest on, and lay-flat pages so that you can draw across the pages.
I believe that with art there is no right and wrong, so the activities in the books aren’t too prescriptive. Instead it’s a safe space, where you feel comfortable, encouraged and excited about creating. You are encouraged to embrace mistakes and experiment. It’s all about enjoying the process and not worrying too much about the end result.
Did you always want to be an illustrator?
Like most kids I wanted to be many things - a palaeontologist, a vet, a biologist, and later an engineer - but looking back art has definitely been a constant in my life. I was lucky enough to be encouraged to be creative by my parents when I was growing up. We have family down in Cornwall and made frequent trips which were always full of gallery visits and so I grew up really feeling like art was a valid way to earn a living. My parents don’t work as artists as jobs, but there was always an appreciation for art and I really think this gave me the confidence to pursue it as a career. I feel very grateful for this and part of my mission with my books now is to remind everyone that they are creative, whatever their job or upbringing. I want to give people a little bit of guidance and support on their journey.
Saying that, I didn’t know illustration was a ‘thing’ until after I’d started my degree in London. I really wanted to do animation - it was an animation and illustration degree - and then I learnt about this ‘illustration’ thing - and thought WOW you can be an artist, and work on books, and earn money from doing what you love, and also have lots of variety in the types of jobs you do. It was a very exciting revelation.
Pinch-me career moment?
For the past few years I have been illustrating a series of big non-fiction books about nature, written by the inspirational Nicola Davies. This was a dream come true in itself, but one of the absolute highlights of my career so far was seeing the first in the series, The Variety of Life, in the natural history museum. When I was first starting out as an illustrator I worked a number of jobs in coffee houses and shops, and also the natural history museum in London. I worked in the shop, and so it was amazing to see the books stocked there. They kindly asked me to visit and sign some copies, which felt very surreal!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?
It was making the choice to make art my career. I was torn between doing an engineering or art course at university - it really was one of those head versus heart moments. I’m so glad I took the risk and followed my heart! It may not seem like a viable career to everyone, but it really can be. There are such a breadth of jobs to do within the creative industries.
Covid-19 has affected businesses of all shapes and sizes. How has the pandemic affected your work and how have you had to adapt during these times?
I feel very grateful not to have been affected much by the pandemic. Most of my book projects are scheduled years in advance so I carried on with those. Amongst all the sadness and worry, it feels like art has become such a refuge for people, which is fantastic. Art can be such a good way to relax. We all have so much stress to contend with nowadays, and I would even say that creativity is essential. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you can switch off.
You feature Tombow in Pocket Art and often use it in your work. Which is your go to Tombow product and why?
I love the tombow dual brush pens. The variety of colours is fantastic and I always grab them when I’m heading out with my sketchbook to draw on location. I love that they are mess free, and give great coverage across a page. That means I can add a lot of colour to the page quickly, without having to wait for them to dry.
Best advice you have ever been given? Say yes to the things that take you out of your creative comfort zone.
Pen or Pencil? Oh definitely pen! Embrace ‘mistakes’ and ditch the eraser!
Favourite thing to draw? Big cats! I could draw them all day at the moment!
Favourite Gallery or Museum? I love Salts Mill in Saltaire, Yorkshire. It’s an incredible space, full of David Hockney’s inspiring work.
If you could have dinner with three artists (past or present) who would they be?
David Hockney, Lee Krasner and Alfred Wallace. We’d talk about making art on your own terms!
Find out more about Lorna and her projects:
Portrait of Lorna Scobie shot by Tom Cookson