Briony May Smith: Illustrator Interview

Briony May SmithHave you spied Tooth Fairy in Training on the bookshelves yet? It’s glorious!! So much so, that we couldn’t wait to invite the illustrator – Briony May Smith – to answer My Book Corner’s questions…

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

I grew up in Sandhurst, Berkshire, and now live in Devon. My favourite colour is yellow and I love dogs and sea shanties.

Your latest picture book, Tooth Fairy in Training with Michelle Robinson, features your stunning work. Can you tell us a little about how you approach a book such as this one, so rich in detail? 

The first thing is the character design, and a few drawings to explore their world. The character leads the reader through the story so I like to focus on this to start with. I sent Walker a few different designs and together we took elements from a few designs to make the main character, Tate.

When working on a project I keep a reference folder in my project folder. This is filled with images I have found that will be useful. For instance, the globe at night, anaconda scale patterns, baby kangaroos, hippos, crocodile and alligator scales. I like to make sure the flora and fauna is accurate to the location, and Tate and May travel all over the globe, so there were a lot of photos I saved for this one! Sometimes I need to find something a little tricky, like in this book I needed to find a photo of the inside of a snakes mouth! Or a view point of an animal from the sky!

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up, have breakfast (can’t do anything until I’ve had breakfast) I then go on the broken cross trainer I have (I can’t stand in the middle because the foot pads have holes in them) and then I get to work. If it’s sunny, and I’m at the sketching stage of a project, I will do this outside. The neighbours cat sometimes joins me. I like to go for a walk everyday in the countryside. I love watching the hedgerows change throughout the year. Right now the honeysuckle and elderflower are out and smell amazing. And then I see friends in the evening, maybe at the pub next door!

What makes you happy?

Walking, I love walking and would go a bit bananas if I didn’t take myself off everyday. Reading, writing and drawing – I feel very lucky that my job is also my hobby. I enjoy shopping, I have to admit I could go for hours and hours. I recently moved and I have discovered I enjoy gardening too! And baking. And eating.

Where is your favourite place to illustrate? 

When I’m illustrating for books, on a deadline, I can’t illustrate anywhere except at home in my studio. But I love sketching and taking my sketchbook with me everywhere. I love drawing in the garden if the sun’s out. Or another thing I love to do is take it to County Shows and draw the animals!

What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?

I’m working on my own picture book at the moment, the first since ‘Imelda and the Goblin King’, which is really exciting.

What’s your worst habit?

I bite my nails

Your favourite word(s) and why

Eejit – Half my family are Irish and there’s something lovely about that one

Yarg – A great cheese, and named after its creator, spelt backwards – Gray

Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

I have always loved drawing since I was a child. I knew I wanted to do something in art. I did a foundation degree and then went to study illustration at Falmouth University. I explored lots of areas of illustration but always knew that my main passion was children’s books but wanted to explore all the different areas before making a final decision. After the degree course ended I sent my portfolio out to different publishers and met with people in the industry. Working on different kinds of projects along the way helped me to develop as an illustrator and now I feel confident going into a project about the process that suits me.

What are your top tips for budding picture book creators?

Keep a sketchbook and observe what’s around you. Don’t be afraid to draw the things that are difficult to draw- horses, hands and bicycles! Look at what you’re drawing more than your piece of paper.

Just for fun

Tea or coffee?


Paper books or e-books?

Ebooks for grown up books, Paper Books for children’s books

Cake or chocolate?


Write or type?


Poetry or prose?


Hot or cold?


Thanks so much Briony! You can find out more about her latest picture book with Michelle Robinson, over here. 

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