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Student Interview: Lauren Mather

When finances were tight, Futureworks student Lauren Mather reluctantly made the heartbreaking decision to give her Pet Rabbit, Bruce, to another family to care for him. Believing Bruce adopted into a caring environment, it was only a few months later that Lauren discovered her rabbit had died of abuse from the family trusted with his care. Channelling her illustrative talent and skills, Lauren decided to write a children’s book for her honours project. Immortalising her beloved Bruce amongst its many characters, Lauren’s book, Paws and Claws, reflects on Bruce’s story using a cast of furry friends and explores the cruelty animals can face in their day-to-day lives.

Futureworks caught up with Lauren for a chat following the launch of her new book via Amazon Publishing.

Futureworks: Lauren, tell us more about the moral story of your book.

Lauren: “I wanted my book to teach children about acceptance and how important it is to accept everyone in your life, despite differences, not just those you choose but those who are chosen for you.”

“It was originally intended to be a much longer and silent book with no text, similar to The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Given the time constraints and deadline for delivery of the book for my honours project, I shortened it, wrote a story to accompany the pictures and decided to aim the book at children,”

Futureworks: You mentioned Shaun Tan. Has he influenced your work?

Lauren: “Yes. Very much so. I have an autistic brother who struggles with reading, and I immediately thought of him and how great it would be to create a silent story. Shaun Tan’s silent books are inspiring, to say the least; his black borders and the frayed edges on his panels were initially what I was looking for. Given the time constraints, I focused more on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s approach, using a rhythmic poem to tell the story alongside more characterful illustrations.”

Futureworks: Your style could be an animation. Was that your original intent?

Lauren: “I’d like to animate the story. Another artist I admire is Aaron Blaise, the animator of Brother Bear. He’s created a short, animated film named Snow Bear to be released later this year, but it has taken him years to create single-handedly. So, maybe in future, but for now, I want to build up a collection of stories beforehand.”

Futureworks: I can see Aaron’s influence in your work.

“I love 2D animation; Aaron Blaise, James Baxter and Kenneth Anderson are all heroes of mine; their work is so good! I work by sketching out the animals and then simplifying them, retaining their character and form but giving them their own, individual, look and feel. For example, the fox in the story is initially introduced as a vicious predator, but following his comeuppance, he becomes softer and more loveable. I did this by making him more chubby and rounded than what you’d expect a fox to be; this allowed for his change in personality.”

Futureworks: You self-published your book through Amazon, any challenges?

Lauren: “Lots! I created all my art using ProCreate on the iPad. Amazon gives you sizes and templates, but I had to go online and watch tutorials to understand how to get my art into a publishable format. I roped in my girlfriend, Jazz, and together, we figured it out using Adobe PhotoShop. It took over a month to build all the artwork, but we did it!”

Futureworks: How much do you earn from book sales via Amazon?

Lauren: “Amazon gets the most out of the cut of the profits, but that’s more my choice than theirs. I come from a working-class background; my Mum was a single parent. She raised my autistic brother and me on her own, so I understand how costly it can be to buy books when the cost of living is so high, so I decided to keep the price as low as possible to make it more affordable for families.”

Futureworks: What was it like studying at Futureworks?

Lauren: “It was challenging, but rewarding. I love 2D animation and struggled with 3D, but Joe Darlington (Futureworks Head of Animation) helped me through the course, especially with my honours project. I’m so thankful for his support, he bolstered my confidence and determination to succeed and publish Paws and Claws.”

Futureworks: Here you are, a published author of your first book! What’s next?

Lauren: “Many things! I’m currently a freelance illustrator; you can find me on upwork, I also offer private tuition, and I’m halfway through a second book.”

Futureworks: Wow, busy then; when’s the next book due?

Lauren: “Hopefully, September, before I start my Masters in Illustration. Ultimately, I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a kid, but now I want to be a university tutor. That’s the reason I’m doing the Masters.”

Lauren is graduating from Futureworks this year, and we wish her all the best in her endeavours to become an illustration tutor, successful children’s author, renowned illustrator, and more. You can follow and support Lauren on Instagram @lossketchbook and also buy her book, Paws and Claws via Amazon, priced at £5.47

To learn more about the Futureworks BA (Hons) Digital Animation with Illustration Course, visit the course page or attend a Futureworks Open Day.