Children's Book Illustrator
Ever since I was a tiny sprout I pretty much always wanted to write and illustrate books... oh, that and be a farmer too, of course!
On rainy days I'd sit at my grandfather's old, sturdy typewriter and pound away at the keys (the ribbon was old so it was quite the work-out) to make up what I thought was THE BEST STORY EVER... usually about a small animal that somehow needed to be rescued... then it was time for the best bit - THE DRAWINGS!!
Fast forward quite a few years and a couple of qualifications and I'm now doing a very similar thing... although it's my 2 little girls who are pounding away on my grandfather's typewriter (and you have to use even more strength as we still haven't had the ribbon changed).
The first thing I do when I get a brief is to create a rough illustration. This can be as sketchy as a few squiggles to give me an idea of the composition I'm going for there.
I also need to think about whether the illustration needs to have space for any text and where the page fold is going to lie, if it's going to be an illustration that goes across a spread.
I later work up the rough lines to give it a bit more detail to make it more recognisable. It's sometimes really helpful to get the colours sorted at the rough stage too as it can save time when working the final illustration.
If it's a piece of art for a client I'll send the rough illustration to them to get approval before I go on and start the final.
rough illustration from a page in Betty the Blue Whale written by Reece May
Once the rough has been approved I can get started on the final illustration. I start from scratch but use the rough as reference and draw out the lines with a 2B pencil onto smooth catridge paper.
pencil sketching the final line drawings
I then scan the line drawing into Adobe Photoshop and colour. My work is like a collage, really. It's built of lots of layers of different colours, textures and patterns.
My day involves a lot of mouse-clicking. I select the area I want, then either add a complete colour with the paint bucket, or grab a texture/pattern to add to that area. I have a bank of previously scanned in textures, patterns and interesting bits which range from one of my favourite fluffy winter hats to crumpled up wrapping papers.
Some pictures can take quite a while to complete, and halfway through they don't always look like they're going to turn out very well, but with a bit of time and effort I'm generally happy with the outcome.
adding the colour and textures to get the final outcome.
I want my illustrations to look beautiful and have a sense of quality, but I also hope that they evoke an emotional response from the viewer. I try to make my characters expressive and love the use of subtle hints of sensitivity within a picture, whether that's with a lean of a head, from a larger animal toward a smaller animal, or a simple eyes-closed-smile. I completely believe that children's book illustrations are where kids start to learn to love stories and reading and I feel that's a pretty important job to get right.