How did I become a picture book illustrator?
I have been an illustrator for many years, ever since I left university, but I didn’t start off illustrating children’s books (in fact, my degree was in Printed Textile Design). When I lived in London, I was a freelance editorial illustrator, working 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.
My first book illustration jobs were for the front covers of chapter books. Picture books are much more fun, because I spend around 3 months immersing myself in each project, getting to know the characters and creating a world for the story.
Were you ever a teacher?
I’m often asked this question. I’ve never been a school teacher, as I’ve always been a professional artist but, over the years I have taught art students at both the Sheffield College and Hallam University, just part time, so I could still do my illustration.
I don’t have time for university teaching these days, but I really enjoy running one-off events of workshops, storytellings and talks. A day spent at a school or 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 my readers.
How do I create my illustrations?
My picture book illustrations are designed as linear pencil sketches, but the final artwork is drawn in chalk pastels on pink pastel paper. It’s the textured paper which gives the illustrations their distinctive, grainy appearance. I usually do them larger than the actual book size, so that I can manage the detail more easily. The printer shrinks them back down to fit the book and the publisher puts in all the words, using a computer.
What other things do I draw?
When I am not illustrating books, I enjoy sketching from life. I usually have a sketchbook somewhere in my handbag. I even carry a little paint palette and a pencil case of watercolour pencils. I love recording the everyday things that happen around me, but I also love to travel and see what I can capture in my sketchbook. I have about 200 sketchbooks on my shelves at home: they are my most precious possessions.
Take a peek inside a few…