What Are Little Girl's Made Of? by Jeanne Willis published earlier this month with Nosy Crow. Described as 'a new nursery rhyme collection with a feminist twist', it has been beautifully illustrated by Isabelle Follath.
We sat down with Isabelle to chat more about her illustration process...
What initially drew you to this project?
I loved Nursery Rhymes when I was little (and still do), but in a lot of these rhymes, girls and women play a passive or weak role. Jeanne’s new reworked rhymes are empowering, clever and have a great sense of humour, I was thrilled to be asked to illustrate a classic theme with a contemporary, feminist twist
My process usually begins with a decent amount of panic, but once I get started on some loose character sketches, I feel much more confident. I'm normally drawing tiny thumbnails first, but this time I scribbled some loose ideas directly onto the layout prints with the text already in place, I then gradually added more details, refining my sketches:
I love the unpredictability of some art materials and the variety of textures you get from watercolors, gouache or pencil. I haven’t figured out yet how to achieve the same effects digitally within a reasonable period of time. Also I’m terribly overwhelmed by the endless possibilities that digital painting programs give you. Or maybe I’m just too obsessed with granulating paint, waxy pencils and vintage nibs!
Drawing characters is my favorite thing! For this book I didn’t have to worry about consistency, as every poem features another main character. It meant I could come up with lots of different girls and boys focusing on representing diversity, something I’m really passionate about. I often go through children’s catalogues (vintage and new) to find inspiration and I create little imaginary background stories for the characters to get a feeling for how they would move and what they might wear. But in the end it’s all quite intuitive.
I particularly love the the first rhyme 'What are Little Girls Made Of?'. I've always been irritated by the sugar and spice ingredients for the girls in the original rhyme, Jeanne transformed this into 'hearts and brain' and the boys are made of 'much the same', which sets the tone for the entire book so brilliantly. I also really like the spread with Diddle Diddle Dumpling, simply because I got to draw monsters!
The first spread in the book changed a lot, it was a tricky one, because it doesn’t have a real narrative and it has to set the tone for the rest of the book.
How did you come up with the colour scheme for the book?
That was definitely the trickiest part in the process! I wanted to work with a limited set of colours and I was looking for something with a vintage vibe to mirror the classic theme, but not too vintage to feel outdated. After drawing this page several times to see what worked, I ended up with a colour palette that was inspired by some interior paint chips from the fifties.
Oh, there are so many incredible illustrators that I’m inspired by, if I would name them all, my list would be unbearably long. If I limit myself to a few, I adore Edward Gorey for his inky lines and his dark sense of humor, Miroslav Sasek for his sense of colour and composition, Richard Scarry and Maurice Sendak for their unique characters and Júlia Sardà for all that.
Thank you Isabelle! If you want to see more artwork from the book please visit Isabelle's portfolio.