The blog of Hannah Robinson, artist, illustrator and graphic designer.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Interview - 12th September 2011

Welcome Michele Webber
I'm really excited this week to be interviewing Michele Webber, artist and illustrator from Suffolk. Michele has shops on Folksy and Zazzle where you can buy her prints. She is also a world class blogger, showcasing her formidable talent and offering advice for artists, with wit and wisdom aplenty. To people like me who seek to develop their art further, it's a very valuable resource.
     Last night I was trawling Michelle's various sites for images to use for this interview, and I had a hard time choosing from all the beautiful work. Her mastery of her medium is enviable, and her talents don't stop at painting. Enjoy reading about how she started, her workspace, and what inspires her. So without further ado...

Michele, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 44 and live with my partner, 16 year old daughter and an adopted serial killer cat called Gimlet in Sudbury, Suffolk. I grew up in London, and the only thing I cared about as a child was reading books and drawing pictures. When I abandoned school at 16 I had vague ideas about becoming an artist, but was firmly talked out of it by people who knew better. In the early '80s, unless you were really academic girls were just channelled into caring professions or secretarial work. For years I gave up my art dreams, worked in offices and a selection of boring jobs. Although I gave up drawing, I was still very artistic, making clothes, jewellery and trying an enormous amount of different crafts. At age 34 I became overnight a single parent to a seven year old and found myself with no money, property or career. Something just snapped and I literally had nothing to lose. I was going to be an artist, and wasn't going to listen to anyone who said I couldn't do it (which was rather a lot of people).

As well as art, you also do commercial illustration. How did you get into that?
When I first went back into art, I attended one of those free seminars run by the council, where you could get advice from a practising artist. She told me straight away my style suited illustration work and encouraged me to go down this route. Years later, the first company I illustrated for contacted me out of the blue, they just phoned me up (which sounds like luck, and it was to some extent, but I like to think we make our own luck). This led to occasional projects for a design company. It has been great to do illustration work and I enjoy it, but I would never do it exclusively. People have romantic ideas about doing illustration work but the reality can mean long hours, ridiculously tight deadlines, loss of copyright and of course there is far less artistic freedom involved when working to someone else's criteria. I am very happy to include it in as a part of what I do.

What inspires you and why?

Artistically I am inspired by lots of different things. Natural subjects, birds, flowers, seashells and simple things that make me happy to look at. I love folk art and patterns too, these often find their way into my mosaic and printmaking practice. Although artists are supposed to ban all thoughts of commerciality, I am afraid in the real world I need to make money, so its a balance between what sells, and what I like to paint, I aim to combine the two quite happily. I teach others to paint, and am often inspired by the work they produce. I give them a subject, and they just knock me out with their take on it, and I go home thinking "Wow, I want to paint that subject now too." 

Those of us who follow your blog have marvelled at your lovely new studio. How's it going in there?

I am pleased to say it is absolutely fabulous and has far exceeded my expectations. When we built it I was sad that I couldn't afford brick, worried that wood wouldn't be warm enough, dry enough to store my works on paper or cold (I detest cold). But now I literally would not change it, there is not an ounce of damp, it is a lovely warm, organic place to work. Unfortunately I spend far too little time in it producing artwork, but the reality of a job in art is a whole lot of admin, the classes I teach take up a particularly large amount of time. Its still a billion times better than working in a stuffy office though, and after years of struggling on the dining room table, I am incredibly grateful to my boyfriend who built it for me. His faith in me as a person is unwavering and every day I seek to live up to it.

What's lined up for the near future? 
I am currently working on some large paintings for a local exhibition, some prints for a printmakers exhibition and organising a first joint exhibition in October for myself and my frankly terrified Saturday class students. Having reached the point where I have so little time to produce new work, I am now starting to market prints hence my latest venture, my shop on Folksy. I intend to find new venues to market prints and cards over the next year. Doing the illustration work has opened my eyes to the possibility of marketing more illustrative products too, and I hope to do more stuff aimed at children. I am also working on a line of prints which will fit into standard ready-made frames, which I hope will lead to more sales. I am also hopeful of teaching a once a year painting holiday in the Mediterranean sometime in the near future. Plus world domination obviously.

And finally... Rich Tea or HobNob?
I am afraid I am slightly wheat intolerant so I will have to abstain :-)

Thank you Michele Webber for such an great interview. Once again I encourage you all to visit her shop and her blog. Please do comment, follow, and get in touch if you would like to be interviewed.
Copyright for all images in this interview belongs to Michele Webber, and images have been used with her permission.


  1. Thank you Hannah, for a lovely interview, and your kind, generous comments which I probably don't deserve. I am looking forward to reading all your future interviews, because it is fascinating to read about other artists and crafters. Michele x

  2. A great interview, I admire lots of Michelle's work, I love reading interviews.

    Jan x

  3. Wonderful interview. ♥

    Great to meet you through the Blogging Buddies Etsy Team...
    I am your newest blog follower! :)

    I invite you to check out my blog, too!
    Mary C. Nasser