Illustrator Interview: Catherine Rayner

From much-loved author Vivian French and award-winning illustrator Catherine Rayner comes a charming new Nature Storybook about horses – Hello, Horse. Catherine Rayner, author and illustrator of picture books such as Abigail, has popped into My Book Corner to give us a wonderful insight into her process AND her sketchbook!!

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

My name is Catherine Rayner and I write and illustrate children’s picture books. I work from a small studio in our house and I love drawing animals!

Your latest collaboration is Hello, Horse with Vivian French, can you tell us how it came to be?

One day my lovely friend, Vivian (French) and I were talking about a non-fiction picture book she was writing. We then somehow came up with the idea to write a non-fiction about my horse, Shannon! This seemed perfect as I love Vivian’s writing, I got to draw Shannon in a way that would teach people about horses and she could be her own character! (In real life she is quite a character!!). Vivian drafted a text, I did some more drawings and work on our book ‘Hello Horse’ began! (with a long break in the middle when I had my second baby!). Shannon is a very old lady now and I’m so pleased I’ll always have this book about her.


The illustrations in the book were made using ink, pencil, watercolour pencils, charcoal and silk-screen printing.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up early and sort out my children. Once the house is quiet I go to my desk and begin to work. I tend to start by checking emails. (In an ideal world I would just start drawing and painting straight away!) Once I’ve replied to anything urgent I get on with paperwork. This is a rather dull but necessary part of my day. Once I’ve sorted out all of the serious stuff I can begin to work on the creative stuff! Depending on what I’m working on I’ll then get some fresh water to wash my brushes and sharpen my pencils – and start to draw, paint or write! If I’m working towards an exhibition I’ll be working on larger paintings – but if I’m working on a book I’ll be drawing and creating smaller pictures, or designing the book. I work until it’s time to go and collect the children… then I do a bit more after they have gone to sleep!

What makes you happy?

Things that make me happy, in no particular order:
New pencil crayons
The smell of books
A hot cappuccino (they are often cold by the time I get to them!)
Singing along to songs in the car
Dancing in the kitchen

Where is your favourite place to illustrate?

My favourite place to illustrate is in my little studio. I have three large desks and I generally have different projects on the go on each one! There is a huge fireplace on one wall and lots of shelves on the others – full of books and art equipment. My main desk has my computer on it and lots of bits of bobs to draw and paint with in a jumbled pile – but I always know what’s what and where to find it! My studio is ‘creatively messy’. I always have fresh flowers in it.


What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?

I am I am I am – Maggie O’Farrell

What’s your worst habit?

My worst habit is worrying about everything! It’s exhausting!

Your favourite word(s)?

I’m not sure that I have a favorite word –but I do have words that I love!
‘Cuddle’ is one of them. It just sounds like it feels and saying it makes me smile.

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

I wrote and illustrated Augustus and his Smile whilst I was still studying illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. After I graduated I was in an exhibition in London for art graduates. There were quite a few pubvlishers scouting around and two publishers asked me if they could talk to me about publishing Augustus. I could hardly believe it! 18 months later the book was out In the shops (I did have to re-do parts of it and re-work the story a little bit). I had to work very hard and it was not all plain sailing – but in short – that was the start of my career as an illustrator and author.

What are your top tips for budding picture book creators?

To practice drawing as much as they possibly can and to keep ALL of your doodles. Sometimes the best ideas come from the tiniest little sketch!

Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)

. I would get in a lot of trouble if I showed you what I was working on right now, I’m so sorry! But I can tell you that there are 6 beaks involved and lots of feathers!!!! But don’t tell ANYONE!

Just for fun

Tea or coffee?


Paper books or e-books?


Cake or chocolate?


Write or type?


Poetry or prose?


Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin?


Hot or cold?

Hot – definitely!! (I hate being cold!)


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