A Day in the Life of Fraser Williamson

Fraser Williamson is a freelance artist and illustrator, whose works are frequently seen in books, early readers, magazines and art galleries. We asked him to outline a day in his life, to celebrate the publication next month of the third in his series of nature books with Gillian Candler, Whose Home is This? (Potton & Burton)

My day usually starts with a walk around the block. I’m not fond of daylight saving, as I love to see the dawn. A little quiet meditation or some bead twiddling can help my brain, which can often resemble a tree full of monkeys, quieten down.

Coffee is next… black and steaming which I drink on the little front deck of our upstairs flat, watching the birds flying in and out of the trees.

Next I get my son Antonio his breakfast and make his lunch for school. He’s 11 and likes croissants and coffee. I get disapproving looks about feeding him coffee but hey… he went to Paris with us, so what can I say. Once he is off to school I check the jar of sauerkraut which ferments in the pantry and needs ‘burping’

I then have breakfast. Green smoothies are my favourite, followed by peanut butter on sourdough toast. About this time my wife Loisi comes home from her work as a Carer. She stays overnight with old people who are still independent and in their own home but like some company and a little help. We talk, laugh, drink more coffee.

I have a cold shower, call my mother, make another coffee (recognising a predominant food group here?) and then get into the ‘studio’ – an arty name for the bedroom at the back where I do my illustrating.

My day could involve an illustration for the NZ Doctor magazine, a self portrait for Penguin Books. Perhaps a luminous octopus for Potton & Burton, or a cover showing Kawariki and Tutira for Clean Slate Press.

I mostly draw with a 0.5 fine felt tip pen and then scan the results into my Macbook where I do what I call “scratch and fill” till I get something pleasing to my eye. I’m no techo-whizz in photoshop but I do a funky airbrush, bucket and advanced squiddle on my Wacom tablet. I also do a ‘digital woodcut’ which involves bucketing a hunk of black and then cutting it away.

After some bruising graft at the art coalface Loisi and I might go to our favourite café and I’ll have a raw, gluten, sugar and dairy free mint chocolate slice and a long black.

We talk and laugh some more about Bligh of the Bounty, strange friends, my unruly psychology, how late I am with every piece of work I’m doing, shoes and socks, Japanese poke bowls and everything else.

The afternoon could consist of working on a painting. The latest one was huge… 2 x 1.5 metres. I ordered the canvas by mistake, had it delivered, was horrified by the size of it and asked the gallery I exhibit with if they wanted it for their new works exhibition. It is now adorning a brand new wall in a brand new house. I always feel it is some sort of miracle that someone sees a painting I have done, likes it enough to buy it and lives with it for years. I wonder what they think and feel about it as time passes? Folks in Spain, Sweden, Washington, Winchester, Moscow and Sydney all have one on their wall.

I always feel it is some sort of miracle that someone sees a painting I have done, likes it enough to buy itand lives with it for years. 

When painting, I work in acrylics and have an ancient hairdryer which I use to speed up the drying if I want to hurry

I am the cooker of the house, so food is always going on in some part of my brain. At 3pm, Antonio returns – often accompanied by a couple of friends or a cousin or two. Snacks must be produced so work ceases for a while. They will then vanish into the ‘gaming hole’, a.k.a the bedroom, and I will go back to the studio to try and get something done before it’s dinner prep time.

My son and my wife are an amateur chef’s dream. They will try anything… once anyway! I have sorely tested them. Whereas half of his companions will have some “I only eat canned spaghetti and peanut brownies” thing going on, he vacuum cleans salmon kedgeree, edamame bean and quinoa salad, falafels, Cajun red bean and veggie sausage mole and Moroccan chicken and prune tagines on a regular basis.

Illustration for the NZ Doctor Magazine.

In the evening I mostly read and watch stuff on my laptop. I watch many many vegan cooking videos. My favourites are the series’ by ‘The Happy Pear” and ‘Sweet Potato Soul’. Acres of yum! My chosen reading genre is the opposite of ‘romantic comedy’. I like books about the soul, death, religion, and the occasional biography.

My chosen reading genre is the opposite of ‘romantic comedy’. I like books about the soul, death, religion, and theoccasional biography.

At the end of the day, I drink some tea, read, eat some snackaballs, fast for at least twelve hours and press repeat. Oh, and a swim in the sea, sometimes! Being a freelance artist isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s unpredictable! I never know if I will have work and so am unsure of an income. Saying that I have been doing this work for over thirty years.

Still, as a friend of mine recently said to me ‘I’ve got the stuff, but you’ve got the life.’

That’ll do me.

Fraser Williamson

Fraser Williamson a.k.a "Fraz" is an artist / illustrator whose work ranges from paintings of soul and dream images to children's books, editorial and packaging icons. Life spent between Spain, Tonga and New Zealand nourishes both the heart and the work. He is the illustrator of, among other books, Whose Beak is this? and Whose Feet are These?, and Whose Home is This? is released on 2 April from Potton & Burton. Check out his work here.