Guest Post: Kimberley Burrows, Young Illustrator 2014
May 8, 2014

I’m Kimberley Burrows, I’m 25 and I live in Salford in Manchester. I’ve kindly been asked by Living Paintings to submit a blog post about my illustrations, as the RNIB’s Young Illustrator for 2014, and thought I would share with you how I create my drawings as a severely visually impaired person.

ipad illustration by Kimberley Burrows

I have always been enthusiastic about drawing since being in primary school, and it has remained my favourite subject and hobby throughout my teenage and young adult life. When I visited Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London during my childhood, for various operations and procedures on both of my eyes, there was always paper and crayons in the waiting rooms for me to doodle and have fun with. I have always been particularly inspired and influenced by children’s illustrations, having always loved the print print versions, especially in the Paddington Bear and Roald Dahl books.

I took art for my GCSE’s in 2005 and received an A* for my compositions and coursework created over the 2 years of the course. I am now the RNIB’s ‘Young Illustrator of the Year’ for their Insight Magazine after winning the competition in December, and produce an illustration for each issue. I’m currently working on a composition for John Lewis at the Trafford Centre, to celebrate their 150th birthday.

I work primarily in my kitchen, due to the open space and natural light that pours in from the main window. I use a Daylight lamp to help further illuminate the piece I’m working on, and will use a magnifier to focus on a certain area that needs extra attention and detail.

Time and patience are very important elements. I can only focus on my drawings for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, due to the strain it can place on the remaining useful vision in my left eye, so I need to equip myself with plenty of time in the knowledge that the piece will be completed before the deadline. Patience is also valuable, as it can be quite frustrating not being able to complete as much as I’d like to in a day – but I know that if I persevere, I can accomplish my set goal.

Organisation is key! I arrange my coloured pencils, paints and pastels in a certain way for easy access to colours and mediums, from light to dark shades, and store them in different patterned tins with large print labels that I can identify and differentiate between. My brushes are stored and arranged from thickest to finest, from acrylics to watercolours.

Kimberley's workspace, a table, with colourful drawing materials neatly laid out, daylight and 3 cacti in terracottapots

Before starting a piece I like to sketch some ideas on scrap paper, research images on my iPad that I will be incorporating and then select colour palettes. I always keep an extra piece of paper nearby so that, if I am uncertain of the shade of a particular pencil crayon or paint, I can quickly swatch it to ensure the desired shade is being used.

I always use black fine liners rather than a pencil to outline my basic ideas, so that I am able to see roughly where the designs and shapes are. For painting or shading inside the image, I place the fingers of my free hand towards the edges of the outlined drawing so that the pencil or brush comes into contact with my hand rather than going over the edges!

Kimberley's illustration in progress, with pencils and daylight lamp

I tend to work on one piece at a time, rather than several at once, so that my focus and attention are fixed on the current drawing after researching and sketching ideas. I can then move forward with something else after the previous project has reached completion.

When it’s time for one of my regular breaks I usually snack on fruit or nuts that are high in antioxidants and vitamins, to aid in motivation and concentration. I also like to enjoy an iced coffee, smoothie or fruit juice. When I resume my work, I tend to listen to my local talking news or an audiobook on my iPod and am enveloped in the story as I’m working.

I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when an illustration or piece of artwork reaches completion. It is one of the hardest tasks for me to do, but I enjoy planning a piece, dedicating a lot of time and effort and seeing it through to the final stages.

A selection of Kimberley's finished illustrations dispalyed on her table, where she works

After I’ve finished a project, I usually share it in the digital world through my blog, Twitter and Facebook pages. The online landscape is an excellent way to reach a new audience, and it is made easy for me through accessibility functions on devices such as my iPad. It has opened up a whole new world of possibilities and I can be creative without limits.

I’m a strong believer that just because you have a disability, that doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to achieve your goals and follow your dreams!


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