Rosie Harbottle is an illustrator ( a delightful one) based in Devon. I first encountered her though an on line session she was doing for Psychologies magazine and her drawings made me smile. So much so, in fact, that I commissioned her to do a cartoon for the cover of Speak Up! I was intrigued as to how one becomes an illustrator and when her ‘obsession’ as she calls it on her website, with creating began.
Jane: Rosie, many thanks for taking the time out to be interviewed; I really appreciate it.
Before you entered the field of illustrating, did you actually know any illustrators? When you were at school was it offered as a career choice?
Rosie: From a very early age I loved drawing. At Primary school my favourite point in the whole week was on a friday afternoon when our teacher would read us a poem and we had to illustrate it. My dad was (and still is) a fantastic storyteller and so was exposed to a lot of brilliant books, I loved Quentin Blake and Maurice Sendak but it wasn’t until after College that considered it as a career choice.
What was your path to becoming an illustrator? Was it an easy route? Did you have to take lots of ‘proper’ jobs (not to imply that your job is improper!)
After college I quite fancied being a Primary School teacher and so started a Teaching Degree with Art and Design. I quickly realised that I didn’t feel ready to become a Teacher and I knew that I wanted to focus more on my art. I took a year out and went travelling and upon my return I applied for a Graphic Design degree as I thought it was the sensible art option. I found it far too sterile and kept being drawn to the Illustration studios there and that’s when I realised that Illustration was what I was supposed to be doing. I ended up graduating when I was 25 with a First Class Honours Degree and have never looked back.
I found such a passion for it which has really helped me turn it into a viable career. I managed to land a job at Paper & Cloth Design Studio in Northampton shortly after graduating who now act as my agent. I sell my designs through them at Trade Shows in New York and Paris and I also work on a freelance basis for various other companies too. I feel very lucky!
You’re relatively young to be running your own business, (says the woman who didn’t do it until she was in her late forties) and it can be quite a risky proposition. What helped you make the decision to go freelance?
I wanted a work-life balance! I realised that after living by the sea and countryside in Devon for a lot of my life, moving to Northampton just wasn’t for me. I made a rather drastic decision to move back to Devon and I had to take a Graphic Design position at a Printers’ which wasn’t ideal as I was supposed to be following my dream of being an Illustrator. I was made redundant and was living back at home but I decided it was the best opportunity that I would ever get to work for myself and build a business.
A year later and a lot of hard work I realised that I was making enough of a stable income to move out and stand on my own two feet. So in answer to the question, it can be risky but I owe a lot to my parents support.
What is the best thing about running your own business?
The flexibility! I work better in spurts of energy and at different times of the day. I can work non stop for a few weeks then take a week off if needs be. I feel like I’m achieving the work/life balance that I dreamed of.
What is the most challenging thing about it?
Cash flow can sometimes be an issue and some days I just don’t feel particularly creative, which is not ideal if I have a deadline.
When are you at your most creative?
I would say late afternoons and evenings I can really get into the flow of things…
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Be brave, work hard and fight for what you believe in!
And what advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Make sure you have passion! Work hard, be aware of the competition and draw, draw, draw – explore your practice as much as you can and build a professional profile online. Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter can really help get your work noticed.
Rosie, you’re illustrating the cover of the on line version of Speak Up (below) which is about giving a woman a voice at work. Have you ever had any issues of making yourself heard in the business world or has it been relatively plain sailing? Any tips or advice you’d care to share?
Yes, I’m delighted you’ve asked me Illustrate the cover of Speak Up! So far, I haven’t really experienced any issues of being heard in the business world. Although if I’m chasing invoices sometimes that can be tricky. I think the main thing is to have confidence, even if you don’t feel particularly so.
What was the younger Rosie Harbottle’s idea of a dream job?
I’m the type of person that wants to try everything, as you may have gathered. I adore animals so I wanted to be a vet for a while or a Zoologist. I think that ultimately my dream job has always been to run away to the circus…
Do you have a role model, someone who has inspired you?
This may sound a little cheesy but my friends and family inspire me. I have an amazing family, my younger brother has never been afraid to go for what he wants and has such an inspiring way of looking at the world. My older brother is a fantastic musician and has always stayed true to his art. Many of my friends work for themselves and travel which makes for an inspiring group!
Not cheesy at all, but lovely to hear. What is your ultimate career dream/ambition? For example, would you like to publish a book, or illustrate a children’s programme? Or do a series of travel pictures? Run your own company?
Fellow creative and friend Grace May and I are in talks about collaborating on a business idea next year. I would love to have my own ‘brand’ and line of homeware and stationery. I just want to keep enjoying what I’m doing whilst exploring different creative outlets 🙂
If you could be a guest of Dr Who for a day which period in time would you ask him to take you to, and why?
Ooooh, good question! I’ve always been fascinated by the Inca’s and ancient Egypt so either period in time would be great thank you. The mystery, the headdresses, the art, it’s all so interesting!
Rosie, thank you so much, for sharing your thoughts with us.
You can see more about Rosie here on her website, and even commission her for your own book cover. Be quick though; I have a feeling she’s going to get booked up very quickly.
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Posted on January 13th, 2015 by Jane