Congratulations on Yellow Kayak, your second book with author Nina Laden and publishers Paula Wiseman Books. Can you tell us a bit about how your illustrative process works?
Using the imagery to frame and play with the text is a really important initial stage for me. I often start by taking elements of the text, visually elaborating them and looking at objects with interesting shapes to try and make the imagery and text work both together. I often use negative space to do this, or I use vignettes or the illustrations to frame the text.
The character development is always the part of the process that I am least comfortable with, perhaps because I feel it is my weakest area. Because Yellow Kayak is kind of the follow up book to If I Had a Little Dream, my art director, Lizzy Bromley, suggested it would be a nice idea to have a boy protagonist in Yellow Kayak, as the main character in Little Dream was a girl.
I think the most surprising spread for me and one that was a happy accident was the sunset spread where the boy is bailing out the kayak.
I knew I had to have a lull in the story somewhere and a spread that was more serene with less action. By chanceI had been looking through my huge stack of sketchbooks in preparation for a day helping students at the school of art here in Cambridge and I happened across a coloured pencil study of some rolling hills. I thought 'AHA!' that would be perfect for the rolling waves. Luckily it worked out just right and it is now one of my favourite spreads.
Thank you for noticing this about my work! I find that exploring negative space and interesting compositions is one of my favourite parts of the development process. I adore lots of older children's book illustrators and textile designers such as Roger Duvoisin and Joseph Frank. The limitations of colour printing and process back then seemed to bring out a stronger sense of design, which I really admire. Other more modern day illustrators whom I love for their amazing use of colour, composition and design are Joohee Yoon, Iconori, Eleanor Davis and Joelle Jolivet.
Choosing the colour palette is so important for me, it ties everything together and breathes life into the whole book. Colour is always something I start thinking about from the beginning. Sometimes the colour comes straight away but most of the time I have the palette at the back of my mind and takes a bit longer to prise it out.
I'll always work in a limited colour palette and no more than 5 colours. I feel like a lot of my work is detailed so I need that reserved colour palette to restrain the imagery and stop it from become to overwhelming. It creates a balance I suppose. I thought I'd never work with black, but in the current book I’m working on, my debut as author and illustrator, there is a chance that black will come into the fray as one of the 5. I guess never say never!
I’m so glad you love it! I’m so blessed to have the support of Simon & Schuster and Paula Wiseman Books to make the bling become a reality! On our first book If I Had a Little Dream, it was my idea for foiling under the jacket. It was gold foiling on a beautiful blue back round and I wanted to do that same for Yellow Kayak. However, once again, it as Lizzy Bromley my amazing art director who had the genius idea for the bluey-green foiling. I was reluctant at first, but she hit the nail on the head and it makes the book look even more magical!