This Book Has Alpacas, Bears, an Emma, a Ness, an Alice and a Rikin!
When I got the email from my agent about “This Book Has Alpacas and Bears” I was a little scared. Scared because this was the first ever picture book I would be illustrating in a LONG time AND that is was for a pretty big publisher that I had read about and even shelved their books when I worked as a bookseller, many years ago!
My agent and I had to deal with submitting a sample to Art Director Ness Wood and Editor Alice Corrie, both who are LEGENDS and such a joy to work with. It was a really nervous moment as I supposed to get this right. But, like all good things, it took some time.
Initially, Alfonso look REALLY different from what he finally became known to be.
Although this was good, it wasn’t ALFONSO GOOD! I had to tweak it more and this in itself was such a wonderful experience for me as an Illustrator as I was allowed to create a character who would literally take on a life off the page as he (and Colin) soon did, as their voices became so clear in the narrative and thus through the illustrations. Illustrating can be a lot like playing with a lump of clay and reworking it, squashing it, watering it down, restarting and refining until you come up with something that is perfect, even simple but hold so much power and complexity it looks like it took a lot less time to create than it actually did.
The creative process was SUCH a HUGE learning curve for me as an Illustrator and I was so humbled and grateful to have two wonderful people to help me, Art Director Ness Wood and Editor Alice Corrie. We went through many storyboards and character ideas and all three of us (and including Emma!), we managed to streamline the balance between meaningful and strong imagery to dance with Emma’s text in the most harmonious way.
During the illustrating process, I really wanted to make sure Emma was in the illustrations somehow and this is something I’ve been doing since I began to illustrate; I’d add small things in the illustrations here and there that refer to the Author. It could be their name scribbled somewhere, or something similar hidden in the illustration. I made sure I did this for this book too…(also, the black cat paperweight is something I actually own and use!)
To conclude, illustrating, “This Book Has Alpacas and Bears” was such a joy, looking back I see how much love, attention and dedication went into creating this story and how much both Emma, Ness and Alice poured into it. Working on a picture book like this is an illustrator’s dream_you have an author who is open to your ideas and someone you can instantly connect with, be it with the narrative or getting into the shoes and heads of the characters. Working with such an amazing Art Director in Ness and Editor in Alice who taught me so much and had so many amazing ideas with composition and narrative.
It’s a weird feeling when you REALLY love to do something and see it materialised and that is what happened when I illustrated Emma’s story and I am forever grateful for that.
Thanks also to my AMAZING agent, Claire Cartey of Holroyde Cartey for the opportunity to work with Emma, Ness, Alice and the DFB team.