I first began the illustration challenge in 2014. I watched for a few weeks, worried that I wouldn’t be good enough but finally jumped in for the week of 'cross hatching'. I can honestly say I am embarrassed to look at that piece now but it was the start of everything so I have to give it some credit.
|Magnolia by Suzy Houghton|
I spent the remainder of that year improving my skills and by the end had confirmed what I already knew, that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
During the Christmas break, I made a plan of what I wanted to achieve the following year (a huge part of that came after reading Tania McCartney's brilliant E-Workshop Fantastical Flying Creator). The 2015 challenge would be used to create a portfolio of work that could be sent to a publisher, which meant approaching each week’s theme as more of a book idea rather than drawing the first thing I thought of.
Week one was 'fairy tale' and my illustration of the ugly duckling sold the day I posted it. My first Challenge sale. Then came week two which changed everything.
|Ugly Duckling by Suzy Houghton|
The theme was 'Italy'. I had lots of ideas but I decided to use one of my favorite places from my travels, Venice. Two things came to mind, the beautiful masks and the pigeons. I decided to combine them.
|Fairy tale by Suzy Houghton|
It was one of my best illustrations up to this point and because of all the challenge support, I decided to enter it in my first illustration competition. I was shortlisted. I came runner up to the amazing Heidi Cooper Smith (a fellow challenge member). I was over the moon and once again, this confirmed I was on the right track.
Just to go on a tangent for a moment, the previous year Tania had announced a side challenge to illustrate an alphabet book, which later got scrapped. I had created two food-related images for this and decided that I would continue this challenge in my own time. I did a letter whenever I could fit it in, and suddenly towards the middle of the year, I realised I was actually going to finish it. So I made the decision to self-publish my own book.
I also entered my challenge piece 'summer' in a local art show and won viewer’s choice.
|Summer by Suzy Houghton|
During this time, I was made aware through the Challenge of another illustration competition with The Five Mile Press. I thought why not give it a crack. Heidi was in the process of illustrating her first book which meant she couldn’t enter, so my chance of winning had greatly improved!
I looked through all the illustrations I had done but kept coming back to my pigeons. For the competition, they needed to show a bit more context, so the original image was slightly adjusted.
|Suzy's entry for The Five Mile Press illustrator competition|
November 2015 came around and things panned out like this:
3rd: I pick up my self-published book Eat Your Words from the printers.
10th: Get a phone call to say I have won the Five Mile Press Illustration Competition.
11th: Get a call to see if I will be the artist in residence for the local art show I had previously entered.
29th: Have a skype meeting with The Five Mile Press to discuss my book deal that was part of the prize. It’s here I discover I will also be writing it! My cheeky pigeons will be appearing in a store near you later this year.
I can honestly say not one of these things would have happened if I had not joined the Challenge. Taking the first step to join this group of amazing and talented people has truly changed my life.
|Suzy Houghton wins The Five Mile Press Illustrator Prize 2015|
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