Paul Kidby Interview.

January 7, 2017


As part of my module this term at University I have needed to contact an Artist, Company or Organisation in which to interview, to do with career interests after University.

I have been doing a lot of research into Concept Art, specifically for the Film industry. However I am also interested in Freelance conceptual work. Such as Book illustration, franchise, sculpture etc.

One of the Artists I have contacted is Paul Kidby, one of the Illustrators to have worked with Terry Pratchett and his world famous books.

Paul Kidby's work is something I have looked at time and time again. And although he primarily works as an Illustrator, he also explores 3D with his bronzes. Something I would like to explore within my work especially throughout my creative career. I believe being able to bring drawings to life through films or sculpture is really important. To have something physical as well as conceptual ties the whole thing together. It solidifies the magic.


Here is an Interview I had with Paul, asking general questions about his profession.


1. Did you always want to be an illustrator, why did you decide to become a freelance illustrator after doing commercial work?


I always wanted to be creative – becoming freelance gave me more freedom in the type of work I produced.



2. Before your work for Terry Pratchett what sort of work did you do? 


I initially made false teeth on the YPS scheme (as creative a job as I could find at 17). Next I painted roller blinds in a factory and then moved on the painting greetings cards for a studio in London before getting work creating magazine covers.  I certainly did my time of learning my trade and working my way towards my goal of being an illustrator.



3. What was it about his work that inspired you to want to work with him?


My sister gave me Colour of Magic for my birthday in my early twenties. I imagined the characters differently to how Josh Kirby had portrayed them on the cover so I thought it would be fun to try and draw them.  I liked the way Terry’s writing was descriptive without being prescriptive.



4. Are you constantly working? What are your hours like, and how long do you have for briefs?


I work every day, usually including some hours at weekends. I don’t attend many conventions etc. as it takes me a long time to create my work and my time is therefore best spent busy with my pencils and paints. I start at about 8.30 or 9am and stop at around 5.30 or 6pm. Discipline is a big part of being self-employed – you can’t afford to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike!



5. Do you work for yourself? Do you create work for personal use or have any personal projects?


I create personal work sometimes when I have the time – I did a series of abstracts a few years ago (now all sold to a hotel), which was a fun and liberating project.



6. How do you commission yourself? Do you write up contracts, do you have agents that you work for, or people that work for you?


I don’t have an agent at this time, any contracts are checked by a lawyer.  At the moment most of my commissions are coming direct from The Pratchett Estate.  It is the publishers’ responsibility to write the contracts up and mine to check and sign them if I am happy with the terms.



7. How do you work? Do you use sketchbooks? You said you take inspiration from the natural world, do you take photographs or use collage to help with ideas?


I do have sketchbooks which I am using more these days, I also take photos and sometimes have a trawl through google images if I need a certain type of furniture or plant (for example) for reference.



8. Before you found your 'style' did you experiment a lot or was it something that came naturally to you?


My style has developed over the years but it has always been a detailed and careful approach with a focus on draughtsmanship.



9. How important do you think it is to have digital skills in this industry? (Such as using Photoshop)


These day’s digital skills are important. I don’t create my work digitally but it is all scanned and digital files are submitted rather than original art. We also can use Photoshop to strengthen or tint pencil work or make changes at the layout stage.  My wife Vanessa does more of this side of the work than I do.



10. How did sculpture first present itself to you as a choice of medium?


I started sculpting as a child – making Orks from Plasticene.  I always liked to work in 3D.



11. How do you find working between 2D and 3D? Was it something you had to learn or was it a previous hobby/skill?


I find switching between 2 & 3D fun – its always a refreshing change to switch from one to the other. I learnt the technical side of sculpting when I made the teeth in the dental lab.



12. As an illustrator you are creating a concept of another person's vision, have you had any issues or conflicts of opinion when creating pieces or is it down to you?


Terry always gave me a lot of freedom to interpret his characters.  Occasionally he had a clear idea of a character’s look and in those cases I would follow his lead, (for example he told me Ponder Stibbons looked like Bill Gates). I don’t have conflicts of opinion with colleagues because I am a professional whose job is to follow a brief where it is given, however tight or loose that might be.  Collaboration with Art Editors is a necessary part of the job so communication skills and not being ‘precious’ about your work is important in the industry.



13. Do you ever need to work in a team?


I need to work as a team a great deal.  Primarily with my wife and business partner, who assists me in the studio and runs the business side of things (and is typing this – hello!) I also work with photographers, printers, digital layout specialists, art dealers, the bronze foundry, art editors, museum curators, publishers, publicists, editorial, framers, and the stone yard. All these people are important to my work and have crucial input to the success of my business.



14. What are the best and worst aspects of your job?


The worst aspect is that I have had one week away in the last four years. The best is working from home under my own terms with my best friend and partner, (and whippet!).



15. Have you ever struggled to find work, how did you resolve with this?


I have indeed struggled to find work, especially in the early years. When I have a lull nowadays I still stay busy creating – I always have paintings and bronzes in mind waiting for the time to bring them to life.  Hopefully they will then go into the world and help me pay the bills!



16. As a starting Illustrator, what advice would you give?


My advice is to stay disciplined and focused and be willing to climb the creative ladder any way you can – false teeth and roller blinds don’t sound like logical steps in an illustration career but each stage was important in my journey. Work every day and remember you have to get it wrong before getting it right!


Image: All Rights Reserved to Paul Kidby. 

For more information about Paul Kidby please refer to his website




Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Amanda Perrin |  |  @_amandadraws