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Interview with Freelance Illustrator: Tara Phillips

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Tara Phillips is a freelance illustrator from Sydney, Australia. I had the pleasure of bumping into this supremely talented artist on Twitter. The minute I saw Tara's work, I knew she was the one to bring my characters from my novel to life.

Tara kindly granted me this interview and as you will see, her artwork speaks for itself.

Why did you become a graphic designer/illustrator?

I’ve always been a creative person and drawing was a passion of mine from an early age. When it came to deciding my career path, it really was an easy choice!

Lieutenant Seamus Alexander Fitzwilliam. Character created by author Emma Lombard. Illustrated by Tara Phillips

How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?

My style has evolved a great deal over the years (and still continues!). A lot of my childhood consisted of watching and drawing cartoons. When I was a teen I was crazy about The Lord of the Rings, so my work then progressed to a lot of fantastical pencil portraits.

I made the switch to digital art during my studies at University around 11 years ago. It’s been a hard slog to my current style, but definitely worth it!

Digital illustration. A contemporary spin on Brunhild: a shield maiden from Germanic Mythology. Illustrated by Tara Phillips

What is the worst piece of advice you have ever received from someone in the industry?

That you won’t make it in the Arts unless you work yourself to the bone. Sure, hard work pays off, but you’re absolutely not going to achieve your best work when you’re tired and miserable.

What five things can’t you live without during your working process?

  1. Coffee!

  2. My creative process is mostly digital, so my computer and Wacom graphics tablet are a must for painting.

  3. Picture references and mood boards are pretty important to my work and help me plan for the work ahead.

  4. My external hard drives. Gotta back that work up regularly!

  5. Podcasts/soundtracks to listen to in the background.

Cover Illustration for E.K Johnston and Disney-Lucasfilm Press. Illustrated by Tara Phillips

What’s your number one art tip?

Practice whenever you can, but also don’t forget to rest and recharge! Being creative can be exhausting sometimes.

Digital illustration based on HBO television series Game of Thrones + George. R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books. Illustrated by Tara Phillips

Do you ever experience creative slumps? How do you overcome them?

I get slumps ALL of the time! Sometimes taking a break from creative work and venturing outside helps. Other times, you just need to push through and try not to be overly critical of yourself and your process.

Portraiture. Illustrated by Tara Phillips

What is the best part of your job?

Having the company of my cat while I work. <3

The Harbinger. Illustrated by Tara Phillips

What advice would you give to someone just starting out as a freelance illustrator?

Know that your talent is unique and has tremendous worth — don’t undervalue it!

Also, always have a contract ready for each job that clearly outlines cost, rights, time frames and usage. This will save you and your client from any confusion and set a clear business tone from the get go.

Cover Illustration for Steve Cohen’s Graphic novel: The Millionaires' Magician. Illustrated by Tara Phillips

Tara in Action

Here is an incredible time-lapse of Tara's creative process in action as she created my main character, Grace Baxter, for my latest novel.


Tara Phillps a freelance illustrator based in Sydney, Australia. She likes to play with themes of Natural Supernaturalism in her work, taking inspiration from imagery that evokes a sense of mystery, nostalgia and reflection. As an artist, her tools of the trade consist of a MacBook Pro, a Wacom Intuos pro tablet, and a Mobile Studio pro. More often than not, you’ll find her hunched at her desk, working on a book cover or two, drinking tea, and listening to a good audiobook or soundtrack. For more information see her website, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.


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