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Craft Journeys: Leigh Hodgkinson

To celebrate National Careers Week we ask makers about their career path. 

What I Do

I illustrate and write children’s books. I also art direct animation for children’s TV.

It generally takes about three months to illustrate a picture book. I illustrate with a mixture of loose ink drawing, collage and digital. I scan my real artwork into the computer and then play with composition, colour and scale.

Sometimes I work on bigger projects like the CBeebies animated series that I co-created called ‘Olobob Top’. I write the storylines for the episodes, which are then given to our team of writers to write into scripts. I am also Art Director, which means that I design how the series looks. So I spend my time designing characters and the environments. There is always a lot to do when you work in animation!

Jobs in Illustration and Animation

In publishing, you could write or illustrate– you can do this from your own home. Or you might want to work ‘in house’ in a publishing company as an editor or a designer who work with different authors and illustrators. The editor works with the
author and illustrator on the story and flow of the book, while the designer works with the illustrator to get everything visually right. Together, they help the author and illustrator make the book the best it can be.”

In animation, the team is bigger as it takes more time and is much more involved. There is the producer, the director, the writers, the art director, the storyboarder, the editor, the designers, the animators, the music composer, the sound designers and many more involved with the actual hands on animation process.

Why Craft? 

It feels instinctual and natural for me to work as a creative. I figure that you spend a lot of your adult life working, so if you are lucky enough to have a choice– you should choose a job that you enjoy. The great thing about working as a creative is that your job is neverboring. Each  project is different in some way and you are always learning, progressing, moving forward.

My mother worked as a secondary school teacher but was always making things at home, including clothes, cakes, jewellery, quilts, and could knit and crochet too. I grew up just making and doing lots of different things and never being afraid to give something new a try. Maybe this is why I find it hard to just do one thing–I just like playing!

What I Studied?

GCSE: English Literature, English Language, French,
Double Science, Geography. Art, Design & Communication and Music

A level: Art, History and French

At A level, I regret taking History and French. I wish I’d chosen Textiles and Drama instead. I think you need to be true to yourself and follow your heart.

Further Education

After A level I did an Art and Design Foundation Diploma which was the best thing I could have done as it gave me an opportunity to try so many different techniques and ways of being creative.

After my foundation year, I did a degree in Graphic Design with a view to specialising in illustration. This was great as we were able to explore other mediums and ways of being creative... printmaking, textiles, photography, sculpture. This is where I was introduced to animation which I loved. I ended up specialising in Animation and after I graduated I went to the National Film and Television School to study Animation Direction.

This was a real shift from an art school mentality of doing it all yourself to a more professional way of making films. I got to work with amazing creative people in other disciplines–in sound design, music composition, production, editing. Some of these people I still work with today.

My Career Path

The really lovely and magical thing about a creative career is that you don’t follow a boring road, you explore off road and make your own path. It can feel scary and unknown, but it will be much more interesting.

I was working as an animation director at a small company where I made my own short films and other stuff for TV when I got asked by a bigger company if I wanted to come to an interview to art direct a TV show called Charlie and Lola’ based on Lauren Child’s books. It wasn’t anything I had even thought about doing, but I went along and got the job. It was an amazing experience working with a big team. Not only that, but I ended up meeting Lauren Child’s literary agent and showed her stories and illustrations I had been working on. She liked them and became my agent.

If I had said no to this curveball opportunity, I might not have ever had the opportunity to make and publish my books. Have an open mind and go for it.

Important Decision

I always find it hard that as a person working in the creative industries you are pigeon holed and put into a category as being one thing. It’s best to make the most of any unexpected creative opportunities and try to jump in and give it a try—whilst at the same time being honest  with both yourself and other people.

You just have to realise that you are you, don’t pretend to be something you are not, it will not make you happy, it will not make you do good work. When you realise and embrace who you are–you will be amazed at what can happen!


Having opposition at 16 from my father about wanting to study art full time

• Feeling different from other people so not fitting neatly in one category
• Not having the money to go to study at film school so having to take out a loan
• Worrying about what people think of me and finding the strength to get back up after being rejected
• Having to get the confidence in the early days to cold call companies to try and get work
• The business side of being a creative professional can be challenging–dealing with money and contracts. I have learnt to surround myself with people who I trust and can help like my literary agent, and my partner

My Advice to You

Listen to advice from people you trust and not from everyone who has an opinion. If you try to please everyone then it just won’t work. Believe in yourself and be resilient. The creative world is very competitive, you need to find your own way and not be put off by rejections (which is all part of the journey).

I would say to parents and guardians to support your child, feel happy that they have found something they feel passionate about. This passion and drive will help shape their identity and have a positive effect on them living a happy and fulfilling life.

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