In conversation: Author, Andrew Hammond

Andrew Hammond

Author and illustrator Andrew Hammond tells us more about his work, creative inspiration, and the most important business lessons he’s learned.

What would you say your stories are about, thematically?

I write stories about characters who feel alone, and afraid, but discover their power by connecting with others. I show them discovering the courage to make their own choices, and what it is that inspires these acts of bravery. I also think it’s important that we review what those choices should be. What are the most constructive decisions that a person can make to not only empower themselves in the best way possible, but others also.

You have always been attracted to mythology in your work. What is the value of mythology, and why do you feel it is important to incorporate it into your storytelling?

I love how myths take relatable, everyday stories and make them feel epic, because that’s what each of our own stories are. We are all the centre of our own universes, but the paths that we tread have been trodden many times before. By not focusing on the details of modern life and instead using elements of fantasy to create relatable symbols, myths offer experiences that not only connect us with others, but also act as a guide. From a young age, I used mythology to provide myself with insights into how people behave, which behaviours are constructive and which are destructive.

As a creative, what keeps you motivated?

I find that the most useful thing is to not focus on the goal or the outcome, but to enjoy the process. An essential component of creativity is that what you are creating hasn’t existed before. Not knowing what the outcome will be—or how it will be received—is a scary prospect, so I focus on the immediate challenges, one at a time. I’m guided by my intention; what I want to communicate, not how it will look in the end. This gives me the freedom to enjoy myself and that usually creates better work.

What have been your most valuable learning experiences, both as a creative and as a business professional?

Writing stories has taught me a lot. It’s a great way to process how you see the world and develop confidence in your perspective. You unconsciously assign motivations that you didn’t even know you had to your characters and unknowingly build plot lines which contain all the assumptions and beliefs you maintain. It helps you to question everything and discover what you care about most.

As a freelancer I have worked with many different companies and directors. I have seen there is no one way of doing things. It has given me an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. Working with different directors, I remember those I enjoyed working with the most, those who got the best out of me, and how they did it. I recall those lessons now when briefing other creatives. Simple things like giving people autonomy and showing appreciation for a job well done.

You are in the early stages of talks with TV and film production companies. Why do you think that the Spacekid iLK series would work well in these mediums?

When creating the graphic novel I develop plot lines, moments, and scenes that will translate well on the page. But as a comedy sci-fi that depicts the adolescent experience, an animated format offers so many fun opportunities. The idea of creating action packed, sci-fi scenes, with these funny, relatable characters, is very exciting.

Do you have any other concepts that you think will work for TV?

I have been developing something called the ‘Mythed Anthology’, with a host of other stories I want to tell. There is one about a robot that employs death (the Grim Reaper) to teach them how to live. They travel the universe unintentionally ruining peoples’ lives. I think it could make a great adult comedy series.

You have a school outreach programme, teaching creativity. Why do you feel it is important to provide this service?

Many schools are judged on how students perform in the core subjects, like English, maths and science, meaning that less emphasis is placed on the value of creative subjects in schools. Given how much having the opportunity to be creative has helped me, I now want to help communicate its value to others. Creative subjects empower students to educate themselves in service of their own intentions. They need to process things in a different way. They can learn about communication and how to create value for other people. They discover how to practice empathy and experience ways they can connect with each other also. When they are given this opportunity for self-expression, it is also a show of trust, which helps to develop students’ confidence and courage to try new things.

For many years you worked on a freelance basis. What were the biggest advantages, and biggest challenges, of this way of working?

The greatest advantage was the freedom it gave me to choose how I used my time and to explore a variety of opportunities. I developed a pattern of work that provided me the time to try new things, without needing them to deliver a particular result, and it was these experiences that were the most valuable.

As you would expect, one of the challenges of being self-employed was always the fear. The fear of where the next paycheque was coming from and where my career was going. But this was the thing that probably taught me the most. I learned I could rely on myself to creatively problem-solve. I learned how to work with and keep clients. I learned about managing my finances and accounting. I also learned how supportive my friends and family around me could be and how important that was.

Who are your biggest creative inspirations, and how have they inspired/influenced you?

Joseph Campbell, who wrote The Hero with A Thousand Faces, a book that studies the symbols used in mythology throughout history, has been a big influence. When listening to conversations with him, his approach to life places great value on individuals learning to take their own path. Ken Robinson’s philosophy on education and creativity has also been an incredibly encouraging influence.

I’ve also always admired the work of Pixar and when I read Ed Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc., in which he describes his role managing a creative company like Pixar, it helped clarify what I wanted my own role and ambitions to be. He details how he worked to foster a constructive, creative culture at the company, solving problems and aiding communication— ultimately so that the creatives felt empowered to do great work.

What has been your proudest professional achievement to date, and why?

I am currently working with a group of brilliant creatives, directing animations for big international brands. It is the kind of job I want to go back in time and tell my younger self that he’ll be doing one day. He would be thrilled.

Beyond the actual work I am doing, I think it’s the experience of working with other creatives that I enjoy the most. I am most proud when I brief someone and see them get excited about an idea, and then they return with incredible work that I couldn’t have even imagined that they clearly enjoyed making. Seeing others grow and feel proud of what they have accomplished is what inspires me the most to continue on this path.