I have been an illustrator for well over 20 years, but I didnít start off illustrating childrenís books (in fact, I originally did my degree in Printed Textile Design). For many years, I was an editorial illustrator, working freelance for a very diverse range of magazines and newspapers: everything from The Sunday Times, down to the most obscure trade magazines (Cement Monthly...). This was when I first began drawing with pastels.
These days, I specialise in illustrating picture books. I love the fact that I can spend around 3 months immersing myself in each project, getting to know the characters, rather than just having a few days to produce an illustration for a magazine.
I truly love the fact that I regularly get invited into schools and libraries to work with children, and show them how I do my illustrations. Iím often asked if I used to be a school teacher. I did once teach college students, lecturing part time in Illustration at the Sheffield College. I also spent two years supporting a young people's literacy project, Need To Read, both as a personal literacy tutor and running a weekly art club. More recently, I taught life drawing as a visiting lecturer at Hallam University.
I don't have time for regular teaching these days, but I really enjoy running one-off workshops, storytellings and talks. A day spent in a school or at a festival fits nicely around my illustration work and gives me the opportunity to get out of the studio and have a bit of fun with some of my readers!
How do I create my illustrations?
My picture book illustrations are drawn in soft chalk pastels on pink pastel paper, as in the photograph above. It's the textured paper that gives the illustrations their distinctive, grainy appearance. I usually do them quite a bit larger than the finished book size, so that I can manage the detail more easily.
My book cover illustrations, like Spooks Away! for example, are quite different. They start as linear, pen and ink drawings, which I then scan into my computer and colour up digitally. Itís rather fun to have the ability to Ďundoí when Iím illustrating on a computer: it means I can try things out without fear of ruining my work!
What else do I like to do?
When I'm not working, I love to jive (for photos, see my Picture Gallery). I enjoy watching films, getting lost in a novel, eating Thai food, or walking with my husband, John, in the spectacular Peak District near our home. I also meet with a group of friends (called The Electric Tomatoes) one night each week, to spend a couple of hours writing for fun.
My other major passion is travel: the more exotic the better, and always with my pocket sketchbook. These little books are my most treasured possessions. Each sketch is not simply a visual record, but will forever contain everything that happened while I was drawing: each person who came to look, any smells, sounds or anything happening around me at the time.
You can look inside many of my sketchbooks: those from my various travels, as well as those illustrating more every day things at home, right here on my website.