I’m going to cheat here! Both ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak and ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle have always been firm favourites. I adored my first Richard Scarry book, which was a Christmas present, and I couldn’t possibly leave out The Mr Men!
What was your favourite children’s book as a child?
I read a lot of fiction - ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Phillipa Pearce and other tales by Alan Garner and Ursula LeGuin. Living with a library at the end of my road really helped.
What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?Again, I could never choose one favourite but two of my picture book heroes are John Burningham and David McKee who both have a wonderful, witty perspective on childhood experience. I’m a big fan of Sara Fanelli, too. For older children, Eva Ibbotson is just magical and Patrick Ness is completely enthralling.
What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?I think that reading a good book inspires a feeling of belonging - a sort of empathy. We’re invited into a world and to experience it alongside real characters. We aren’t passive onlookers - reading is a two-way conversation. These adventures can be as exhilarating as a real life.
Did you always want to be an illustrator?Yes! I still have a book of poems that I wrote and aged 9. They are all illustrated and bound, complete with decorative cover. I entered a lot of art competitions as a child, too, which was a great way to find out what other people thought about my pictures.
How did you become an illustrator?I’ve always drawn a lot, ever since I was tiny. So, after a Foundation course, I trained in illustration up to Masters level. During my final year, I began working for BBC Education as an illustrator for their online educational games site. This led me into becoming a web and print designer for many years, then later into animation and filmmaking. But I never stopped drawing.
It was only after I’d had my own children and began reading the books I’d always loved, that my real passion was reignited. I was taken on by The Bright Agency in 2013, who expertly guided me into the world of publishing. It’s great to have experienced two very different career paths to get to this point.
What is it like visualising other people’s characters?It’s great fun. It’s a bit like being a detective, with no right answer! Sometimes there are clues in the story, which suggest ideas for a character. Certain texts just throw up an immediate image and sometimes a publisher or author might have their own ideas or starting point. Either way, imagination always plays a big part. In many ways, fresh eyes make it a lot easier than working with a text I’ve written.
Well, every project is different. For me, there’s a lot of emphasis on the characters, as I want them to be believable. So, I think of them as puppets in a theatre and have certain questions as I draw them; how do they move, dance, sleep etc. Then I have to create the scenery, the props and so on, until it becomes a small stage; a little world.
Can you please explain a bit about your process of illustration?
Drawing is central. The more I draw something, the more familiar it becomes - which gives the line more energy and fun. I use a variety of media but I try to infuse the illustrations with as much spontaneity and life as I can, regardless of the final look and feel.