Interview with Claire Powell [1st part]

I was running from work as usual, and had just enough time to switch from my day job clothes in my clients cramped bathroom to something less…day jobby, and head to Nottinghill.

Claire and I had tried to meet up for this interview many times, but our crazy schedules just wouldn’t permit it. I’d first met her at the Yasmeen Ismail picture book workshop, as I’ve mentioned before in a prior post. I just remember sitting down at her table, and as soon as we were let loose on a task we seem to hit it off straight away, I felt like I’d known her for forever, cheesy but true, it was really weird. There was definitely something different about this girl, her sketches were brief and confident, her answers were short, well informed, and more noticeably she looked incredibly relaxed, as if in a way she’d heard it all before.

So why was she there with us lesser mortals I asked her, trying my best not to offend, she looked at me with a slight squint of disbelief at my question. ‘It’s really interesting….Because I can see why after you doing your research that it might look like I know what I’m doing, but I suppose I’ve had Ten years working in T.V, and I guess you present yourself in a certain way that comes across more established than you really are…With the children’s book stuff, I’ve only recently been signed with Darley Anderson but I’ve got nothing published, yet’ the squint has been transferred to my own eyes as I look down at my phone trying to figure her out.‘I guess I went to that talk, because Yasmeen seemed to pop up from nowhere, and I was interested in her because of her animation background.’

Claire completed a short hand drawn animated film called ‘Scapegoat’ which took her four years to make. It’s dark, rich, filled with intrigue and itching to be watched, here’s the trailer.

‘I had this light bulb moment….Because when I started it I thought I really want to do animation, but then I got half way through and I thought, no, no I don’t… I went and visited a couple of animation studios in London and instantly walked in and thought, this doesn’t feel like the environment I want to be in, and actually, I think I’m really enjoying the drawing side of things, and it all kicked off from there…Then all of a sudden it was like, this is what I want to do.’

She looks at me with an air of defiance and we smile at each other knowingly, I ask if it feels like a natural pathway ‘Yeah, totally it just feels like all the pieces fit together, from traditional graphic design, to typography, layouts, to all the stuff that I do in my day job’ Claire works in channel re-branding for channels such as Nickelodeon, CBBC, BBC 1 and the Beeb in general. ‘Which is all about narrative, storyboarding, and telling a story through illustration…’ Ok so now I’m curious, and I have to ask what it’s like working for the big fat BEEB, it’s time to dish the dirt Claire. ‘Erm…’ We both giggle, as she chooses her words carefully ‘You know what? They have the most amazing projects, they’re so famous, a massive organisation, and I’ve just finished refreshing their brand this year’ I have a sudden weak vision of the heads of the BBC being caught up in a sort of nightmare; with a speech bubble, screaming at the top of their heads ‘Standards, reputation, tradition, Peppa pig!’

But I can tell Claire’s got a lot of respect for this colossal institution. ‘We just put loads of illustration stuff on  BBC 1,  we never thought they’d go for that, but they do take risks.’

I wonder if there is any correlation with the children’s books she’s working on now, and her work as a channel re-brander ‘Yes, I think there is, I mean I often think of my characters as moving, I see picture books as being a snapshot of an animated film, and I find it much easier to get things down in 2D, occasionally I do struggle at work to imagine how you’re going to film it, but I can imagine how I think a character should move and just take a screen grab of it so to speak. There are loads of cross overs with work, design and colour palettes…It all kind of feeds in. I draw everything by hand first to get the flow…’ she pauses and thinks.‘At the moment I’m researching a few artists who get that fluidity into their drawings even though it might be digital, things can get lost in translation, especially when taking a hand drawn sketch and putting it onto the computer.

I find it terrifying to think you’ve just done this beautiful sketch and then you’ve got to paint it, because if you make one mistake, just one wrong brush stroke you’re like oh -she mouths a word which sounds awfully like duck- ‘there’s no computer un-do, un-do!’ we burst into laughter.

It’s been great talking to Claire and as the title suggests there will be a 2nd part of this interview next week, where I’ll be asking her about agents, her inspirations and a mouse that has a very smelly habit. Can’t wait, see you there x


Write now. Worry later.


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