Monday, 22 July 2019

Interview with Augusta Kirkwood, by Pippa Goodhart

I am hugely proud to introduce debut picture book illustrator Augusta Kirkwood. Especially proud since her debut picture book, 'Daddy Frog and the Moon' was written by me. It's lovely that its been published fifty years after the first landing of man on the moon ... which I remember, but Augusta is too young to! 

Alan Windram of Little Door Books Little Door Books likes to use new illustrators for Little Door's picture books, and I think the result looks absolutely beautiful.  So I asked Augusta how she created that beauty ...

How did you become an illustrator?

Growing up I always loved drawing and storytelling and was encouraged to be creative and interested in everything. I seemed to have a flare for art which I kept developing and experimenting with. After the wonderful Bridge House Art course in Ullapool I studied Illustration at the Edinburgh College of Art where I truly explored the form and art of children’s picture books. I have very fond memories of picture books from my childhood so felt a real purpose in creating stories and illustrations to engage and comfort children. My first picture book with Pippa Goodhart is Daddy Frog and the Moon published by Little Door Books. I was very fortunate that my work was found and selected from my degree show and I am extremely thankful to all involved who gave me this amazing opportunity.

What are your thoughts when faced with a text to illustrate? How do you make the story yours as well as the writer’s?

When faced with a text I find it best to separate the story out into the set amount of pages to help visualise the book from the very beginning stages of creation. This helps shape the pace of the story and allows me to see how I want the illustrations to differ and flow from page to page. It is a privilege to work with another’s story as it is really inspiring to bring a writer’s words to life with your illustrations and collaborate on the book in ways that are exciting and sometimes unexpected.

Like with any collaboration there is an essence of each individual in the final outcome, and it is that partnership which makes them pretty special. To make the story mine as well, I found it fun to add in a little extra storyline that was not mentioned in the text. In Daddy Frog and the Moon I had fun creating a little sub-storyline with two snails who pop up throughout the book. As the illustrator, how you interpret the characters and setting really shapes the book so it is important to find the perfect match for the text.

Can you tell us what your process is in creating your wonderful illustrations?

My process is rather lengthy and has many different stages to it. I begin with sketching ideas for characters and the setting, getting my inspiration observation. photos, books and documentaries. I like to figure out how the characters look and move at this stage, taking moments from the story. 

I then read the story many times, roughly sketching small scenes that come to mind and understanding where the important moments sit in the book. I then create a storyboard that determines where the illustrations and text sit on the page and how the story flows across those pages.

Once I have all that in place I then start creating the illustrations. I have developed a style and process which combines a variety of drawing techniques. I create my illustrations by digitally collaging hand drawn and painted elements, with relief and mono-printed textures. What I love about this process is the flexibility and the trial and error that comes with it. 

It can be really exciting when through experimenting you get an illustration that is not what you expected and often far better than you had planned. My illustration is a refreshing mixture of tactile creating and digital manipulation that keeps the creative process interesting for me.

Have you other books that you’re working on now? Are you tempted to write your own texts, or do you prefer to work with other writers?

I am currently mulling over ideas and figuring out what I want to work on next. I have a few picture books I made whilst studying that I would like to revisit and polish up and apply all that I have learnt since. I also have other little projects I am planning, like another illustrated alphabet!

Having worked with an author on Daddy Frog and the Moon I would be delighted to work with another as I loved the collaboration and support you get by working in a partnership. I am still so excited about our new book and cannot wait to see where it takes me!

So, all you publishers out there, take note!

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