Olia Muza has illustrated this gorgeous hardback gift edition of Kiran Millwood Hargrave's best-selling The Girl of Ink and Stars (Chicken House).
In what became a highly personal project, Olia's own experience of illustrating the book while fleeing the war in Ukraine has been featured as an article in the Bookseller (below). Click the link to read more...
We caught up with Taiwanese illustrator Cindy Wume to find out a bit more about her artwork process in creating the illustrations for My Big Book of Questions About the World (with all the Answers, too!), written by Moira Butterfield, published by Walker Books.
This was first time I'd illustrated a non-fiction picture book. I started by doodling in my sketchbook. My first goal was to create a group of kids to lead the reader through each topic in the book. When designing the characters, it was important to include kids from different cultures so that readers of all backgrounds could easily relate to the book.
The characters first came with lines in the sketchbook and then I add colours. I experimented with whether the characters should just have little black dots as the characters’ eyes or eyes with pupils against the white of the eye.
I decided to go with the latter, as I think it helped show more personality and energy.
Once I’d developed the characters I began on the book layouts, which also starts in my sketchbook.
I usually draw very rough thumbnails and doodles first to build up my visual approach. After having a general understanding of how the compositions might work, I switched to the more detailed thumbnails and sketches.
I don’t usually make colour roughs while working on artwork, but I’ve tried several in this project. I found this process helpful especially for the pages with great details.
Since this is a non-fiction project, accuracy was also important. My editor and designer, Becky and Beth, kindly offered some references for me to start this project. I also did some research within each section to make sure I understood everything the book talked about because Science wasn’t really my strongest subject back in school!
I even visited the local marine museums and the botanical garden while working on this project. It was very helpful to see some of the creatures in the real life so that I could have a better understanding of them while illustrating them. And for some scenes I could not get to see, for example the Earth viewed from space, I used Google Earth as a reference while illustrating them.
There are lots of interesting scenes to illustrate in this book, but I particularly enjoyed drawing the scenes of sea creatures and animals.
While working on the sea life pages, I first had to research all the creatures appearing on this page. To make their proportions correct, I made notes on their approximate length before illustrating them. At the time, my roommate was quite obsessed with squid and shared so many facts about them with me, so I understood how intelligent they are. Therefore, I also included this creature in the scene although it was not actually mentioned in the text!
As for the animal scene, in addition to some ‘regular’ animals, I have also draw ‘special’ animals such as wombat, Tasmanian devil, the opossum and the chameleon. I think it would be fun for kids to spot those they already know and discover some new animals.
While working on the endpapers, I wanted to create the decorative scenes covering every subject of this book.
I used the foliage to create spaces for every subject and they grew into a forest with so many things to hunt for.
The way I created the endpapers was to draw one with a black colour on the paper first and then scan it into the photoshop. So we could choose the colour to match the cover for the books in the end.
The cover was the hardest part for me of this book. At first, I wanted to create one with lots of details so we experimented several versions with this concept.
After discussing with the team, the art director suggested going with a simpler design. So we chose the composition similar to the first spread of the ‘Our World’ page. I think with this option, the colours help the book stand out more. I thought it was a pity that my favourite topic – animals – couldn’t have a major appearance on the cover so I hid them in the cover. If you look closely, you will discover that the little puppy and leopard are in the spaceship together with the kids!
Funnily enough, when I started this book project back in 2020, I was living in Taiwan and my table at the time was not big enough to fit a piece of A2 paper (the size I like to work), so I tried drawing on the floor and on a chair with funny positions kind of like Anna does in the book!
At the early storyboard stage I drew thumbnails and printed them out to make a little dummy book in order to see how the text and images looked together and to give me a feel for the pace and flow of the book.
Once I was happy, I drew them again in more detail. Sometimes I can’t help myself and draw more details than needed, but this process helps me to figure out what I should keep or remove.
For this book I didn’t do colour roughs but instead went straight into the final artworks. I ended up redrawing a lot of pages to get the colour right and because I was experimenting so much with materials to find a look I was happy with. I determined early on not to be afraid of making mistakes and use as many papers as I needed to.
For the characters I started with a lot of sketches, trying out different personalities in mind. This was actually a fairly easy process. I knew for instance that I wanted to make the Dad look gentle and warm. It didn't take me long to shape their look and personalities, but the styles of the maps was far more challenging...
How did you create all the different maps?
I collected images of all kinds of old maps from library books and from the internet. My mum’s drawings were also a great inspiration for me. She never trained to be an artist but her work is quite playful and surreal. I also found Richard Scarry's wonderful "What do people do all day?" a really useful reference. It pushed me to experiment with different perspectives and consider what kind of elements I could include in my maps.
Figuring out the individual map styles was the hardest part. Some of the maps in the story I had to re-draw several times to get it right because it had to look like a child's drawing but still maintain the right colour balance so as not to overpower the characters. Hopefully I struck the right balance!
Can you take us through the cover design?
Cover is an important one, it has to be eye-catching, leave space for the title and depict the story content. For me, a good composition will go a long way. I usually sketch as many designs as pops into my head, regardless of whether it is good or bad. It gives me space to explore all possibilities while searching for that perfect cover design.
I wanted a cover that was fun and welcoming. The essential elements for me were Anna, Zane, Whiskers and of course incorporating the theme of maps. Once the final design was chosen, I drew the three characters by hand before scanning them and finishing the map digitally.
Summer ships and sea views from Lucy in this gorgeous watercolour scene painted on coloured paper. Lucy’s seascapes are so atmospheric and detailed yet with the perfect balance of whimsy and wistfulness.
Hiba Noor Khan’s timely non-fiction book, One Home (Macmilllan Children’s Books) tells the inspiring stories of 18 young activists from around the world. With stunning full colour illustrations throughout by Rachael. Also check out this vibrant cover for The Blackthorn Branch written by Carnegie nominated author Elen Caldecott (Andersen Press)
We love these gorgeous new pieces from Cindy which showcase the energy of her line and quirky joy of her characters. Cindy is currently working on her second author/illustrated project with Macmillan Children’s Books, which we can’t wait share with you soon. But she’s also looking ahead to picking her next illustration project, so do get in touch if you have a text that you think Cindy’s style would suit.
Comic artist and graphic novel author Phil has been busy. His second Kitty Quest adventure hits the shelves in the UK and US this July AND his second collaboration with author Tom Allen sees The Cartoons That Saved the World coming from Chicken House in August. Looks like 2022 is the Summer of comics fun from Phil.
Some excellent teen and YA novels hit bookshelves in June and July from our author. Don’t miss the new series from Jo Simmons – The Reluctant Vampire Queen (Hot Key Books) and it’s a joy to see readers return to Julia Tuffs’ characters with Twice Hexed, the sequel to her debut novel Hexed, (Orion Children’s Books).
We are delighted to welcome two new artists to the Pickled ink portfolio!
Bruno Valasse and Coralie Muce each bring incredible artwork and a distinctive style to the list. We are excited to share a snapshot of their work below.
Bruno is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Cambridge. He was born in Mexico City, where he also studied graphic design. He graduated from the Children's Book Illustration MA at the Cambridge School of Arts in 2022.
He is passionate about printmaking, handcrafts, mid-century graphics and the power of a limited colour palette, which often feature in his work, combined with childhood memories and daily observations.
Coralie is a French illustrator and concept artist who grew up in Paris and graduated from the Émile Cohl art school in Lyon. She now divides her time between Paris and Lyon.
Coralie has a strong eye for colour and is fascinated by folklore. Inspired by the quirky illustrations of Ronald Searle and the poetry of Eyvind Earle, you'll often find imagined worlds and magical elements within her work.
For queries regarding availability please contact Amy Kitcherside at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sònia's illustrations bring to life Varsha's characters with this striking cover and interior artwork for Ajay and the Mumbai Sun by Varsha Shah, published with Chicken House.
Lastly, congratulations to our author Annaliese Avery whose second middle grade novel - The Doomfire Secret - published this April (Scholastic, cover art by Natalie Smilie). Continuing Paisley’s epic adventure this sequel to The Nightsilver Promise is packed with adventure, incredible world-building, fierce dragon walkers and floating boroughs.
Paola's eye-catching cover for The Mapmakers, the follow up to last years The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant, is out now with Puffin.
Last month also saw the publication of picture book Beauty Woke by NoNieqa Ramos (Versify), a joyful celebration of culture, community and family and has been receiving some wonderful reviews:Booklist writes “Escobar… uses influences from graffiti and mural art in this book’s illustrations, a perfect nod to the story’s urban landscape. Her use of color taps into the story’s emotions, and the Puerto Rican flag is woven throughout much of the artwork. An authentic and affirming celebration of culture, community, and self-acceptance.”
From @kirkus_reviews “Ramos’ poetic ode to identity and validation winds itself through evocative imagery in both English and Spanish, connecting the strength of community with self-acceptance….Escobar’s powerful panorama of diversity is a blazing exclamation point to Beauty’s triumphant journey.”
Wobbling weathervanes, Laura’s bestselling second book in the Rainbow Grey trilogy, Rainbow Grey: Eye of the Storm (Farshore) soared onto shelves this World Book Day. With the fate of the Weatherlands at risk from a hidden danger, Ray and her friends must summon their magic to find the missing cloud companions. This magical author-illustrated series continues to enchant readers, with 2,260 copies sold (TCM) in the first week in the UK alone.
Good news my submission have reopened. Bad news I’m really, really, REALLY picky. I probably only take on one new author every six-nine months. I want to be able to give all my authors enough of my time and for their books to all feel distinct and different across my small list.
First things first, I’m pinning this bit up front – please read: .
Things I’m NOT looking for at present:
PICTURE BOOK TEXTS - (if you're an illustrator who writes, then you can submit to my colleagues as detailed on the Artists submissions section of this page )
BOOKS FOR ADULTS (I am a children’s book specialist)
What am I looking for and how would I best describe my taste?
I have a small clutch of authors, so the books I represent all have to feel different enough to sit alongside each other in our agency stable.
I represent Laura Ellen Anderson (Amelia Fang) Dominque Valente (Starfell) Angela Woolfe (Roxy & Jones) amongst others, so my taste is definitely commercial with an element of quirk.
Having worked in house in publishing (as a commissioning editor) and then as a foreign rights scout I’m always thinking about who the reader is, how I will pitch the book to a publisher, why the story matters and how will it stand out in a crowded market.
I love epic, inventive yet seemingly effortless worldbuilding – whether in MG or YA. I’m drawn to big concept with quirk and originality – whether that’s in the voice, the world, or the way the story is told.
I already represent a fair amount of magical, middle grade fantasy so any submissions in that vein have to feel fresh, unique and surprising, to really stand out for me.
I’m always open to graphic novel proposals and author/illustrated fiction. Or ideas from illustrators who want to expand their writing – if I think there’s something original in the idea and I love the style of art, I’m happy to help illustrators find and develop that story.
I am actively looking to open doors in publishing to more authors from under-represented voices. We need more diversity and diverse voices in all books and I want to help your voices and stories be heard.
So here's my current MSWL:
Please read my submissions guidelines here about how to submit your work. And I look forward to hearing from you!