Illustrator Rob Hodgson is in touch with his inner child. At least he must be judging by the weird and wonderful characters that inhabit his artworks and children’s books. Out from his over-active imagination walk dinosaurs, fanged and furry monsters, and skate-boarding yetis. He’s created Scary Bingo, Monsters! trump cards, monster temporary tattoos and published the children’s book A-Z of Monsters and Magical Beings with author Aidan Onn.
Based in Bristol in the UK, Rob cut his teeth at U Studio a design company that creates stationery, greeting cards and other playful paraphernalia with a solid dose of humour and whimsy; two traits that trail into his freelance career.
Fuelled by unsweetened black coffee, a new Rob Hodgson piece starts simply: “I draw on paper with different materials, things that maybe you buy in a kid’s stationery shop or a hardware shop; big crayons or chalk,” he says. “I try to use a lot of different materials.” He then takes these drawings to the computer and uses a wacom to join it all up and colour it in. Back at the Hardware store, he’s also in the market for wood which he uses to create woodblock prints, carving the designs out and stamping them with paint or ink. His other experiments have included making textures by burning paper and when he has the time, he likes to make wooden toys. He’s also dabbled in ceramics.
If Rob had to choose a favourite project it would be his first published kids’ book The Cave as it shows the breadth of his techniques. “It’s a combination of all the ideas that I’ve been doing over the years. All the image-making stuff with different techniques, that’s all in there. Character design, that’s in there. It represents so much of what I’ve been doing.” It also demonstrates his story-telling abilities. In the tale a creature represented by just a pair of eyes hides in a cave as a wily wolf tries to lure it out with tactics like using sprinkled donuts as bait. His other kids’ books include Tony T-Rex’s Family Album, a fun illustrated guide to the pre-historic with dinosaur expert Prof. Mike Benton which has recently been translated into Korean, and The Woods, following the escapades of three comical foxes.
At art school, Rob loved learning about art theory and art history. He read as much as he could and he lived with people who made art in diverse mediums: comics, films and paintings. Looking back he’s most inspired by people with multi-talents, greats like Alexander Girard and Bruno Munari, Charles and Ray Eames. “I like people who do a range of different stuff: illustration, design, books,” he says. “People that don’t get defined by doing one thing.”
Rob’s followed his various pursuits for over a decade in the industry so far. His first five years he says were pretty hard but since then it’s been a fun ride. It takes time to make a name and to be recognised for your talents. When it comes to his books it can sometimes be two or three years between finishing the book and seeing it published. “Be patient and try to do good stuff,” he offers as advice. “Don’t do work that you’re not happy with because you think it’s going to be a shortcut somewhere.” Like the wolf waiting outside the cave in rain or shine, “it takes a long time.”
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