Tim Beaumont – A motorcycle anorak and proud of it!

Tim Beaumont is motorcycle mad! He also happens to be one of the UK’s leading childrens illustrators. He’s a busy man, but we managed to drag him away from his studio for this interview. He’s this months featured artist. So into first, release the clutch and hit the throttle Tim….

How long have you been a professional illustrator and when did you first realise that that was you wanted to be?
At first thought it seems such a long time ago but when I start to think it only appears like yesterday. However the truth is that I took the plunge as a freelance in 1987. I had previously worked at a small design studio and before that I got a lucky break working for a printing company who had a small design team. They were very encouraging and helped me so, so much. From this point I realized that I could possibly make a living doing something I loved, as up to this point my working life had taken a couple of false starts. I left school without much direction and stumbled into a couple of dead end jobs which stopped my creativity and gave me no chance to express myself through art. This was not how I had imagined my life to pan out . But the lucky break did come in the form of that printing company.

2. Are you self-taught or did you go to college/university to study?
I am self -taught, I go back to around 4 years old in the days of black and white TV’S , watching , Thunderbirds, The Flintstones ,sitting on the living room floor with a few coloured pencils scattered around me and attempting to draw the characters from these shows on scrappy bits of paper. I would like to think I did get better although some may tend to disagree .

3. What was your first commission and for whom?
Gosh ! My first commission was when I was seventeen and I was asked to illustrate all the Halifax Speedway team. I illustrated each rider in black and white and over 7 weeks each rider appeared
in the match programme. For this I received a lap around the Halifax Speedway track sat on the back of their top riders bike. I do remember recalling to myself as we flew around the track that
money would have been far more sensible but I was so excited to have my work published and that is all that mattered to me at that time.

4. Do you work traditionally, on the computer or a combination of both?
I work in both formats, I could not just work via computer, I have to be able to draw, paint and doodle, traditionally for my own sanity !

5. Do you prefer to work on your own or in the company of others?
I like the peace and quiet but don’t get me wrong, I can talk and have been known to be sociable on at least one occasion in the past twelve months.
It works for me to have no distractions as I like to think it helps my creative juices, if you know what I mean !

6. You obviously love what you do. How long does it take to produce one of your busy scenes form concept sketch to final artwork?
A busy piece from initial sketch to full blown colour such as the NOAH’ AND ANIMALS art could take up to 2 to three days but obviously simpler art can be done in my sleep ( just kidding )

7. If you hadn’t been an illustrator, what other career might you have chosen?
I don’t have to think long about this but when I was a teenager I wanted to be a motorcycle racer. My boyhood hero was Barry Sheene I got the chance to design his racing leathers and talk to him. I still have the telegram ( yes, this was long before e-mail ) asking if I could telephone him immediately. So you can imagine what that meant to me at the time.

8. What would be the ‘perfect’ commission for you?
A best selling children’s picture book which I would have written and illustrated. I’m working on it !!! So maybe one day.

9. Do you prefer clients to give you a detailed brief or a ‘blank’ sheet?
A blank sheet is marvelous. It gives me total freedom to use my creativity.

10. What are your interests outside illustration?
Apart from my family I am a bit of an anorak over motorcycles. I know it’s a man type of thing but it all started in the crib or to be more accurate the sidecar that was attached to my dad’s Triumph motorcycle. Mum and dad could not afford a car when I was a baby so our only form of transportation was the Triumph and sidecar. I loved driving around in that red sidecar a bit like Wallace and Gromit in a Close Shave (My dad won’t thank me for saying that ! ) So the seed was planted hence my love of motorcycles, old and new.
We are fortunate to live in a wonderful part of Yorkshire just at the foot of the Pennine Hills and I love to get up and out into the countryside on my bicycle where I can take in the breathtaking views and become a little closer to nature. It may be because I am getting older but appreciation of what is around me matters more these days. Music plays a big part in my life as I like it in the background whilst I’m working, Sinatra in the 1950’s, Ella Fitzgerald, Kings of Leon, Journey, Van Halen to classical such as Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and big band swing plus anything that makes my feet tap and my spine tingle .

11. Are there any other illustrators you admire and why?
Mary Blair was and still is a fantastic inspiration.In my opinion, her design and use of colour was way ahead of the time in the 1940’s and 50’s.
Tibor Gergely was a tremendous illustrator I loved his style especially THE GREAT BIG FIRE ENGINE BOOK (Golden Books ) and his work on THE MERRY SHIPWRECK.
Richard Scarry also I love. He seemed to illustrate animals with such flair and tremendous design sense.
Alice and Martin Provensen produced some fantastic work together for kids picture books, such as THE COLOR KITTENS and THE LITTLE FAT POLICEMAN
I also like BOB STAAKE, very , graphic, stylized and cool ! I could go on but I want you to read to the end !

12. The Desert Island Discs question! You’re stuck on a desert island. There’s a plentiful supply of food and water, but what other three items couldn’t you live without?
I would have to have music so something like an ipod with all my favorites (I have not got one of these so perhaps now is the right time). My collection of Motocourse annuals dating back to 1976 which covers the motorcycle racing year. I have everyone up to 2010 so if I had not been rescued after reading them all I would set about building a more permanent dwelling using them as building bricks. Finally I would need an endless supply of paper, paint and brushes ( I hope this counts as one? ) because I cannot live without my art. I would paint and draw until my ship comes in !

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