Speaking of illustration:

Firstly, please can you tell me how ‘Inkymole’ came about?

When the time came to set up my first ever website, sarahcoleman.com was already taken, and there were far fewer domain options in those days. At school one of my nicknames was Mole, both because of chronic short-sightedness and because it rhymed with Cole (another nickname) and Colehole (yet another), and because I was always dabbling about with ink and paint, the ‘inky’ part began to stick too.

Please could you talk to us about what is it like to work as an illustrator and some of your responsibilities?

- Hard work. It’s always hard work!

What are some of the skills you need to be a successful illustrator?

- Flexibility and adaptability — both in terms of your ability to manage time, when you can / want / need to work, and in terms of your style and way of working.

Please can you tell us about some projects that you have worked on that have been really memorable and why?

There are loads, from very small projects to very large ones, and not all for clients. Here are some; they’re all on my website (apart from the one marked with a †).

What are some of the main challenges of being an illustrator?

- Staying in work — generating enough to make a living, long-term and consistently — and not only ‘a living’, but the kind of living you want, whether for you that means ‘I want a big house’ or ‘I need to be able to support loads of kids’, ‘buy a horse’, ‘have four holidays a year’ or ‘I’m happy with enough to cover my bills’.

What advice do you have for aspiring young illustrators?

- Start looking for clients and work (experience) BEFORE you leave education. When you leave, you’ll be swimming upstream with thousands of others, all trying to get work. This means making contacts, doing interviews with people in industry, writing to them, maybe working for them (work experience), inviting them to your end-of-course shows, and more.

Are there any misconceptions about illustration and what would you say to address them?

- It’s not just about kids’ books!

How has technology advanced throughout your career and do you think it has created more opportunities for illustrators?

- It’s made it easier than ever to show work publicly, and deliver it worldwide, cheaper than ever (free in a lot of cases).

What inspires you to be creative?

- Every human is creative, we all just express it and use it in different ways. I’m no more or less creative than a plumber who solves a particularly difficult piping problem, a café owner who’s found a way to carry on retailing through the lockdowns, or a coder who can’t work out a game problem!

What do you do if you are having a bit of a creative block?

- I go back to the book/brief and have another look!

~ My two favourite Student Questions ~

Have you ever had to deal with copying, infringement or plagiarism?

I have. Many times. But I need to break my answer into two parts; first, being copied or imitated.

What do you see as the future for art and illustration in relation to technology and AI?

This was a big question that I didn’t see coming. But my reply was an honest one. Since this wasn’t written down, this is a rough transcript of how I answered! (expanded on a bit).

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Sarah J Coleman

Sarah J Coleman

Artist + illustrator of over 800 books and owner of the same amount of pens. Enough to write you a picture AND paint you a story. inkymole.com / inkstagram.ink