Q&A Christine Berrie
Be inspired by illustrator Christine Berrie’s detailed drawings of bugs, birds and butterflies. Christine began developing an interest in industrial design as a child when her father, a draughtsman, brought technical drawings home from work. These drawings, by her own account, fascinated her. Subsequently, she turned her keen eye to the details of everyday objects. Find her detailed illustrations of bugs in Laurence King’s Bug Bingo, a fun game for all the family – Bird Bingo is also available and just as brilliant!
Did you start drawing when you were a child, and if so what did you like drawing the most?
I spent a lot of time drawing when I was a child. I can remember drawing lots of people and animals – particularly cats, dogs and rabbits! I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember. For birthdays and Christmas I would always ask for new pens, pencils and art materials.
Do you remember what one of your first drawings was of..?
I can remember a drawing I did during my first year of school. It was a pencil drawing of myself and all the other children in the class sitting at our desks. I kept the drawing in the drawer under my desk and I would add a little bit to it each day, whenever I got the chance. I can remember being very absorbed in the drawing, trying to get as much information into it as possible – all the children and objects in the classroom that I could see around me.
Why do you choose to draw everyday objects?
I enjoy drawing things that are all around us and that we see every day, particularly things that are full of intricate detail. I like trying to make them look more interesting through drawing, trying to find beauty in the ordinary.
Why do you like drawing in pencil? Do you experiment with other mediums?
I like being able to see the marks of the pencil and using these marks to depict the form of objects as I draw them. I also find that colour pencils allow me to build up colour and tone quite quickly. I do mostly use colour pencil but I like using other materials such as felt pens, chunks of graphite and charcoal and have recently started experimenting with paint pens which are great for creating solid blocks of colour. I also used to do a lot of collage work, especially when I was a student, where I would combine found images and photos with scraps of coloured paper and textures. At some point I would like to try combining collage and drawing.
When do you draw? Is it only at home, or do you take a sketchbook out with you? Any specific time of the day?
I mostly draw at home. I have young children so if I’m working on a commission I like to get up early and do some drawing before they wake up! However, the kids love making pictures too, so sometimes we all draw together at the table. I do carry a small sketchbook and pencil around with me for little sketches of things I see that might lead to bigger drawings. But mostly I use it to jot down ideas for new images that I think of when I’m out and about.
What’s your favourite drawing (of your own work) and why?
My favourite drawing is a little sketchbook piece I did of an old electricity meter, when I was a student at the Royal College of Art. It’s just a simple drawing, surrounded by other little sketches and found images within the sketchbook. But it’s special to me because when I realised how much I enjoyed drawing it, I went on to find lots of other electrical objects and paraphernalia around London. I created quite a large number of these drawings and then linked them together as a big mural which I displayed as my final show at the college. The little sketchbook image was the drawing that sparked off the whole project.
Which artist(s) do you find inspiring and why?
There are a lot of artists that I find very inspiring! As I enjoy drawing everyday objects, I love to look at the work of artists that create images of commonplace items and scenarios. However, I’m also interested in collage work, hand-drawn lettering and paintings. Some artists whose work I find inspiring: Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, Eduardo Paolozzi, David Hockney, Rachel Whiteread, Peter Blake, Gregory Blackstock, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Paula Scher, Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I find inspiration all around me. I enjoy drawing old shop fronts, buildings, faded signs and industrial structures, so I find a lot of inspiration in cities. I visit my home city of Glasgow a lot and I often find new ideas for images when I’m there.
How important is nature in your artwork?
Although I really enjoy drawing lots of industrial and electrical objects and products, I also love nature and the scenery around us as the seasons change. I particularly enjoy drawing birds, bugs and flowers. My favourite time of year is autumn because of all the autumn treasures that my kids and I like to collect and draw such as leaves, conkers and acorns.
Why do YOU think it’s important for children to draw?
I think it’s important as it helps them to interpret their feelings and interests in the world around them. With my own children I love it when they take pride in something that they’ve made, especially if they can then talk about their creation, which I think gives them confidence. It encourages them to play around with their own ideas, develop their imagination and also helps to improve concentration.
What does creativity mean to you? How do you think we can encourage it in children?
Creativity is important for us as a family as it brings us all together, sharing in the same activity. I think we can encourage it in children by making sure that we set time aside to be creative, keeping things interesting for them with a variety of activities, and allowing kids to get a bit messy with paint and different materials. Above all, I think it’s important to make sure that creative time is playful, so that it’s always enjoyable and fun and something to look forward to every day.
If there was one thing you could draw that you haven’t yet, what would it be?
My dad used to work as a draughtsman, creating drawings for pressure vessels and storage tanks. I was always fascinated with the huge diagrammatical drawings that he would be working on. I have all of his old drawing equipment from the 70s and 80s such as lovely vintage pencil tins, rulers, mechanical pencils and colourful boxes of graphite leads. My plan is to do drawings of all these items and create a visual display of the tools he used to work with.