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Meet Faversham-based children's book illustrator Priscilla Lamont

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:00 28 March 2017

Priscilla Lamont in her Faversham studio, complete with garden gate instead of a door to let more light in

Priscilla Lamont in her Faversham studio, complete with garden gate instead of a door to let more light in

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

A combination of the frivolous and the serious defines the work of Faversham-based children's books illustrator Priscilla Lamont

A typically charming children's book illustration by Priscilla LamontA typically charming children's book illustration by Priscilla Lamont

Priscilla Lamont’s studio at Creek Creative in Faversham has a garden gate instead of a door so that the light can flood in from the top.

With friends and studios on all sides, the children’s books illustrator has been there for about six years, ever since the Art & Design community hub first opened.

Priscilla studied graphic design and illustration at Canterbury College of Art and Design (now the University for the Creative Arts and linked with Medway and Farnham), after having taken a Foundation year at Birmingham College of Art.

Priscilla's suppliesPriscilla's supplies

“Once I decided to go freelance as an illustrator in the mid 1970s, I did a variety of work for magazines and publishers,” she says. “I also did paste-up work, which was good money until computers arrived on the scene and scalpels and cow gum were a thing of the past.”

Her first picture book was The Troublesome Pig, published soon after her son’s first birthday. It was a retelling of an old nursery tale and Priscilla was thrilled to have it shortlisted for the Kurt Maschler award. She has also illustrated stories by Michael Rosen, Adrian Mitchell, Harry Secombe, Hilary MacKay and Julia Jarman: more than 40 books in total.

“Julia and I recently produced a free download of our book Will there be Polar Bears, which has been enjoyed well over 5,000 times on iTunes,” she says.

Recent books illustrated by PriscillaRecent books illustrated by Priscilla

Priscilla was also involved in producing illustrations for nine books for the Cambridge University Press reading scheme in the 1990s as well as work for American publishers, which include Secrets of the Garden and Secrets of the Seasons.

Published work, she believes, is more of a yardstick than exhibitions, but she has exhibited her work in Woodbridge, Suffolk, at the Chris Beetles Gallery in London and since moving back to Kent, at the Horsebridge in Whitstable, as well as at her studio.

Priscilla chose children’s book illustration as these books “can be funny and inventive and as subversive as any form of literature.” Also, she felt she did not have the right kind of imagination or mindset for fine art.

I ask what she feels are the specific talents required for illustration and she tells me: “They include an ability to communicate your ideas through drawing and to be able to visualise a variety of characters and scenarios. Unless you are very lucky, you will need to work to commission and deadlines, and be flexible and able to accept changes to your work. I’ve mainly worked in children’s book publishing, but I’d say those would be pretty necessary talents across other illustration fields too.”

Priscilla works in pen or pencil and watercolour, although nowadays she also uses a computer for help in developing rough drawings on screen. However, she admits: “I’ve never found it entirely satisfactory, I prefer pencil or pen and paper, which I can scan if necessary.”

Priscilla works mostly on commission and prepares herself for new projects by jotting down ideas, working up rough drawings. However, on a large project such as the Children’s Bible Stories, which needed almost 200 separate illustrations, she reveals: “I had to make myself a pretty strict schedule in order to meet the required deadlines.”

While a book may take three to six months to complete, greetings cards may be illustrated in a day. For books her preferred size of paper is A3 or less, but the shape may vary.

The most exciting work Priscilla has created was two friezes designed for a child’s bedroom, a project that sadly never got produced. However, she still has the artwork and sells prints from time to time: these are the delightful Animal Olympics and Nurseryland.

Janet Ahlberg, Maurice Sendak, Quentin Blake, Posy Simmonds and Babette Cole are a few of Priscilla’s artistic heroes. She was just off to see the Paul Nash exhibition at Tate Britain when we met, taking advantage of Kent’s proximity to London and its art galleries and museums.

She adds: “Kent is a nice place to live, as the landscape is glorious.” An enthusiastic walker, she has completed the Saxon Shore Way.

Art is “absolutely” important and in particular are the illustrations in a children’s book. “These are the first pictures a child will consciously consider. They have the potential to help that child make sense of the world.

“They might be wildly imaginative or just delightful, the educational element may be there, but the reader is just enjoying the story, the jokes, the pictures and getting the point too.

“That’s the idea anyway!”

Get in touch

See Priscilla’s work at the gallery and shop in Creek Creative Studios, 1 Abbey Road, Faversham ME13 7BE, 01795 535515 (closed on Mondays). There are books, artwork and greetings cards for sale, www.priscillalamont.com

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