Kelly Thompson has felt the creative pull for as long as she can remember.
I always had to be making something,” she recalls. “When I was a kid my granddad taught me how to draw. My brother and I used to draw heaps.”
And although the humble pencil and paper were the tools used for honing her early creative talents, these days the sought-after illustrator, creative director and public speaker does half of her work traditionally by hand and half digitally.
I think technology almost plays more of a role than I want it to these days,” she says laughing. When she gets a creative brief, she first spends ample time researching online, then builds up a reference using Photoshop, prints it, does a hand-drawn sketch, scans it and colours it in digitally.
"All of my work now wouldn’t look like it does at all without the computer because all of the finishing and colouring at the end is added with the computer.”
The last time she had a PC was in high school but her involvement with Microsoft’s launch of its Surface Studio product has changed all that. Working on a project, she can be fully involved with the screen; tilting the monitor and adjusting the height to find the perfect angles to work from, spinning a dial to sweep through colour palettes or using the pen to draw directly onto the screen.
"I really enjoy that process,” says Thompson. “Because sometimes if I’m drawing digitally I feel quite a lot of disconnect between the feeling that I have when I’m actually drawing on paper and the screen, so actually having a pen to draw on the screen kind-of bridges that gap. I quite like how it’s technology but it still has an element of the old to it.”
The digital components of her creative process also save valuable time for Thompson, especially working with clients. If they don’t like something, she explains, it can be changed quickly to a different option rather than having to redo the whole thing if it was, for example, presented in watercolour.
"I never really planned for it to become my job,” she says, on being an illustrator. “It was just something I enjoyed doing.”
Drawing was clearly something she couldn’t stop herself doing, picking up a pencil again about two years after she graduated because she was too poor to go out and do anything else, she laughs. As her friends went out partying, she stayed home drawing. “It was bound to come out eventually, I just put it on the shelf for a little bit.”