Interview with April Milne

Apart from having Brandy Byhoffer’s paintings up these next two months, we are lucky enough to also have April’s illustrations on our walls! She is a freelance illustrator that works both traditionally and digitally, mainly using a mixture of gouache, ink, and colored pencils. It’s been so delightful to work surrounded by such amazing pieces.

Tell me a bit about yourself!

I was born in Montreal but my family moved to Vancouver when I was a baby, so I’ve lived here my whole life! I also grew up in a family that was part Filipino, part Canadian, so that’s a big part of who I am. Other than that…I love to eat, and I love movies.

How did you get started as an illustrator?

I was in the Fine Arts program at Langara College before I transferred to Emily Carr University, ultimately getting into the Illustration program. I started doing freelance illustration work here and there after graduating. Even though I graduated a few years ago I feel like I’m still just getting started!

Best and/or worst advice you’ve ever received?

I had an instructor in second year once tell me that my work was strongest in black and white. It’s echoed in my head as a challenge ever since and I think it’s pushed me to really think about colour when I lay it down.

How did you develop your style? Are you exploring new ones?

To be honest I don’t think of my work as having a style, or at least I don’t consciously try to continue it. I think with how popular illustration has become now, especially through Instagram, a lot of illustrators are very focused on having a style. Which, to be fair, can be very important in the industry. But I think focusing too much on your style can limit you in your artistic practice — you get myopic and stop exploring, and I think exploring is really important. It sounds corny but I never want to stop learning and playing.

Where do your ideas for new pieces come from?

I used to get a lot of ideas from dreams that I had. Nowadays I work off poetry that I’ve written or that others have written, or from stories in my head that I want to see become real. I also think a lot about equality and representation and what that looks like in art.

All your illustrations are absolutely outstanding. But this one with the three women and buildings on their back caught my eye. Will you tell me a bit about it?

I call that piece ‘the Feminine Burden’. When I made it I was thinking about the expectations that society has for women and that women have for themselves to look a certain way. Expectations that are present throughout all cultures in different ways. For myself, I’m kind of a ‘girly-girl’, even though I hate that term. But it’s important to remember that I don’t make my decisions in a vacuum — I mean, I really like doing my makeup and wearing high heels, but why do I like it? We carry around these invisible burdens of weighing a certain amount, of dressing to appeal and look attractive, all the time.

Do you ever have a “creative block”? How do you deal with it?

I definitely do! It helps me to get outside into nature or go for a run. Sometimes it’s best to just start drawing anyway, even if I don’t know what I’m doing.

Where do you see your career being in the next 5–10 years?

Aaaahh! The future! I’d like to be able to support myself from just illustration. And I’d like to have illustrated a children’s book and/or graphic novel in that time. That’s what I’d love to ultimately be doing.

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