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Sussex Artist Hannah George On Illustrating For Mrs Hinch

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The Bosham artist Hannah George talks to Rebecca Pitcairn about her chaotic family home-life and being chosen to illustrate Mrs Hinch’s first children’s book

You’re a born and bred West Sussex girl, what was it like growing up in the county?

I grew up in Bosham and Chichester. A lot of it was spent in Bosham, running around wild with my cousins in the oak woods where my family have a home. It was magical, and pretty bonkers at the same time. The house didn’t have central heating for a long time and I have memories of waking up to frost on the inside of my bedroom window and my brother and I getting dressed in the kitchen next to the Rayburn, where mum would put our school uniforms to warm up. I went to Northgate House School in Chichester (which has since closed) and remember all the mums and dads were terrified of the Headmistress as she was not dissimilar to miss Trunchbull from Matilda. I have vivid, happy memories of soggy cabbage served with every meal and the sloped classroom floor – if I dropped my pencil it would roll all the way to the other side of the room. I then went to Bishop Luffa School, Brighton College to do my art foundation, then Falmouth University to study illustration. I now live back in my family home, in Bosham, with my husband Alan (a tree surgeon so very handy for living in a woodland), my two amazing children – Rory, 2, and Sunny, 5 – and our Cocker Spaniel called Ruben. I’m so lucky to have come full circle and to live in the place I love more than anywhere. 

Hannahgeorge
Hannah George

Did you always want to be an illustrator and how did you develop your style?

I definitely knew I always wanted to do something creative (my mother tells me I was drawing constantly from the age of two), but I guess it wasn’t until I got to art foundation that I realised illustration was for me, I just loved working with a narrative. I have worked predominantly with watercolour throughout my career, I love the challenge of the medium. I have had to diversify though to be able to make a living out of being a full-time illustrator. So, I use watercolour for food, portrait and lifestyle illustrations for magazines and packaging clients, and then for children’s books I use a combination of hand-drawn and digital processes. I’m working more and more digitally now (with my Ipad Pro) and really enjoy learning how to create the lively looseness that I love about watercolour, in a digital way. Most of all I strive to create a sense of energy, joy and humour in my illustrations. 

What’s your studio space like? 

I work in my brother’s old bedroom at my parent’s house just five minutes from home. Not very glamorous, but it’s perfect for me, and brilliant to be able to leave the chaos of home life behind and go out to work. Ruben comes with me and faithfully sleeps by my feet until we go for a lunch-time walk. I treasure my walks with ‘Roobs’ as I call him. If I’m having a tricky day, just getting out with him never fails to bring a smile to my face and re-set my brain.

How did the commission to illustrate Mrs Hinch’s first children’s book, Welcome to Hinch Farm, published in February, come about? 

My lovely agent, Claire Meiklejohn, put me forward for the job almost two years ago now. It was quite a lengthy process of creating samples and going back and forth with the publishers, Puffin, to develop and refine the characters, but eventually I got down to the final few illustrators and I feel very happy to say they chose me! I haven’t met Sophie Hinchcliffe (aka Mrs Hinch), but we have exchanged messages and she was a delight to work with, alongside Puffin who were fabulous too. They were particularly kind when I got the flu halfway through doing the final artworks and had to miss almost two weeks of work!

Mrs Hinch
One of Hannah’s illustrations for Mrs Hinch

What are you working on now? 

Two more picture books and a young fiction book, which are all super fun. I recently illustrated the first in a series of books for the equestrian Instagram hit, Esme Higgs. It’s called the Starlight Stables Gang and is a great read for any horse-loving young person. I loved doing the book, although I have to say, horses are not easy to illustrate! 

Where do you find inspiration?

All the books I read with my children and I guess my chaotic family home life is a pretty constant inspiration for me. Little things that happen every day involving the kids and the animals – for example, we recently caught our last standing chicken on the kitchen table, pecking at some hot sausages! Ruben was waiting under the table, joyfully scoffing the sausages one by one as they fell and was promptly sick 10 minutes later. I keep thinking I must illustrate the scene as it was so silly. Instagram is inspirational too, although overwhelming at times.

Hannahgeorge
Hard at work (with Ruben by her side)

What do you love about living in Sussex and where are your favourite places to hang out?

The sea because every day it’s different; some days brown, murky, choppy and cold, and other days calm and crystal clear. Those days are just heaven. I like going to the Crown & Anchor, in Dell Quay, because it serves fabulous seafood, has such a lovely cosy atmosphere and glorious views over Chichester Harbour. West Wittering beach is also high on the list of my favourite places in Sussex – it’s perfect for walking the dog and the children adore it too.
To view Hannah’s work, visit hannahgeorge.co.uk or follow @hannahgeorge_draws on Instagram

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