The Wonder Tree is the first book I’ve illustrated and the first book of mine to be released, and it’s incredibly exciting to see it out in the world. Since illustrating The Wonder Tree, and further books, I’ve realised that I’ve brought with me my filmmaker mindset to publishing.
Summer 2019, when I went freelance, was when I started illustrating The Wonder Tree, before that I was working in-house at an animation studio as a Director and Concept Artist. Now I juggle my animation work as a freelance director with my work as an illustrator – it keeps the work fresh and exciting.
But with that animation mindset comes seeing spreads as shots, thinking of composition as camera angles, the wish to use colour and atmosphere to tell a story. It’s been exciting to think about how I pace things with limited pages, when normally I have frames and frames and music and motion to carefully orchestrate a story … Now I have page turns, and vignettes and full immersive spreads. There are similarities and there are differences, but I definitely think having a background in animation has really benefited how I approach illustrating a book. I’ve found this weird middle ground where people say my animated short films are very illustrative and that my illustrations are very cinematic, and I kind of like that!
For the characters I chose the mummy owl’s design to be more angular and square so she would contrast nicely with her round and fluffy baby. I kept my roughs very loose so that I could fill my final art with energy and looseness and not be too confined by perfect sketches.
Teresa’s words for the book are quite poetic, even though there are moments of science running through them and I wanted the illustrations to have that same poetic nature. I studied the colours of sunsets as they progress throughout the evening and used this as reference for my spreads as the night draws in. But I pushed the colours further – I made them more vibrant, more unusual so that there’s a dreamlike, magical feel to everything, as I believe there should be with children’s books.
Emily Bornoff and the team at Egmont really directed me well to get the best out of the book and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out, and I couldn’t have really hoped for a better first book to put out into the world! It’s a very “me” book – nature and woodlands and animals. I hope you enjoy it.