Friday, 5 February 2016

challenge success story : Suzy Houghton

Suzy Houghton

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.

It was around this time I decided to teach myself to use watercolour paint and the challenge was the perfect outlet for that. Several months into the challenge, I got up the courage to enter my first show and was shocked to win the watercolour section. A direct result from being in the group.

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

Suzy Houghton wins The Five Mile Press Illustrator Prize 2015

You can follow Suzy online:

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