Monday, 31 December 2018

Q and A with illustrator, Paula Bowles

      Paula Bowles studied illlustration at Falmouth College of Arts.  She now lives in Bristol, where she has worked as an illustrator for over 10 years.  She is currently working on books with Nosy Crow and Simon & Schuster.  'Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat' (mine and Paula's first picture book together) was published by Nosy Crow this year. I am delighted that Paula has agreed to share some of her illustration wisdom with us and answer a few questions today.  Paula, welcome to the Picture Book Den!   

1)      We love hearing about people’s paths into publishing. You’ve worked as an illustrator for over 10 years now.  Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

I studied a 3-year Illustration degree at Falmouth College of Arts (now University College Falmouth). But, upon graduating in 2005, my portfolio was very different to what it is now! I phoned, wrote to and visited many different art directors and  started getting work in editorial publications, but I never quite felt quite happy doing this, and really wanted to illustrate children’s books (lesson: be true to yourself!)

So, I went back to my drawing board and developed a portfolio of watercolour children’s book work, then I visited the Bologna book fair in 2007, and met Mark Mills (who worked at Meadowside publisher at the time). He then set up an agency called Plum Pudding Illustration and asked if I wanted to join; I said yes and am still represented by them 11 years later!

Mark, and now Hannah, have supported and helped me to develop my portfolio during that time, which has now changed considerably since working for many years in watercolour. My taste developed over time in to something different, until watercolour didn’t quite do what I wanted to express. So, once again, I developed a new portfolio. This time, whilst retaining a pencil and paper feel, I use digital media which allows me to play with bright punchy colours; this is how I work now and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been!

2)      You’ve had experience of writing and illustrating your own books as well as illustrating texts by other authors. Which projects do you generally prefer to work on?

      It’s hard to say which I prefer, I like doing both for different reasons! I really enjoy illustrating my own stories; I like the process of ‘discovering’ the story in a sketchbook, with words and pictures appearing together. But working on other authors stories is a dream too, because their writing is so different to mine, their stories are fresh and exciting. I feel I learn a lot from illustrating for other authors, and draw things I might not normally choose to draw! It’s also fun to have another person in the mix to celebrate and collaborate with when the book is published!

3)      If you are collaborating on a book, what is it about a text that makes you want to illustrate it? Was there anything in particular about ‘Sammy Claws, The Christmas Cat’ that made you want to take it on?

      I love a good story! If it starts conjuring images in my mind as I read it, or it makes me chuckle or think or bring out different emotions, I know that’s a good thing and a good reason to illustrate it. When Nosy Crow sent me Lucy Rowland’s ‘Sammy Claws’ text, I just LOVED the story and the rhyme, and the story was fun and exciting, plus I love drawing cats! (And, it was my first book with Nosy Crow - and I just love their books! I was over the moon to be invited onboard the Crow’s nest!)

4)      In the lead up to Christmas, you’ve been sharing all the different spreads from Sammy Claws.  Which was your favourite spread to work on? Which is your favourite now? And were there any that you found particularly difficult?

I think my favourite spread to work on was Spread 10, “Now, at a big castle (somewhere south of France)”. I like the composition flowing from left to right across the roof, all the snowy rooftops and turrets, as well as drawing all the different reindeer characters (I imagined Rudolph to be like a dog ‘pointing’, always alert and looking out for his boss, Santa, who I liked to imagine climbing the tall chimneys with climbing equipment!). I think that’s still my favourite spread, although it’s a close contender with Spread 4, the elves workshop, which was also probably the trickiest spread to do because of all the detail! Those elves took a long time to do, but they are good fun and I loved inventing the wrapping machine - the ‘i.WRAP.5000’!

5)      How you approach designing your characters? Do you read the text and automatically have an idea of what they look like or is there lots of trial and error?
      I usually go through a process of sketching ideas for each characters, and they do change a fair bit during this process. Although, I felt certain that Sammy Claws should be a silver tabby from the moment I read the text, although there was a moment he could have been ginger! I love this stage of character development, sort of ‘getting to know’ the characters

6)      Could you tell us a bit about your typical working day as an illustrator?
      I work from a shared studio which is a 30 min walk from my home. I usually arrive at the studio about 9.30am, make a cup of tea and settle down, answer emails, make a to-do list for the day, and catch up with my studio buddies. Then I put my headphones on and work until lunch, when I might pop out to the shops or, recently, I’ve joined’ so I might go and borrow a local dog for a lunch time walk! I usually stay at the studio until about 6 or 7, or later if there’s a deadline! Lately I’ve been working at least one day of the weekend too..because there’s just so much to get done… deadlines!! I definitely need to learn to take more breaks. 

7)      What is your top tip for budding illustrators who want to break into the publishing industry?
      Keep drawing and developing your work! Keep visiting bookshops and seeing what’s new and learn about the area of publishing you are interested in. Share and show your work with friends, and to publishing people - no one will know you exist unless you show your work/contact publishers/agents/network. You will need patience, persistence and passion.

8)      What is next on the horizon for you?
      I have a picture book called Superkitty being published with Simon & Schuster in Febuary 2019, written by my agent Hannah Whitty! And I’m currently working on my second book with Lucy Rowland and Nosy Crow, as well as my second book with Simon & Schuster.

And just because it’s Christmas:

Mulled wine or Eggnog?
Mulled Wine! (I have an aversion to eggs..)

Mince pie or Christmas pudding?
Mince pies (served hot with a dollop of brandy butter)

Cracker jokes or Cracker hats?
Cracker jokes.. love bad jokes!

Lazy Christmas morning lie-in or ‘up and opening presents at 6 am’?
When I was a child I would be up at 5am! Now I’m a lazy so-and-so and enjoy a lie in.

Lots of little presents or one VERY BIG one?
I prefer to give just one or two meaningful presents.

‘Christmas jumpers should be banned’ or ‘Is it even Christmas if you’re not wearing a Christmas jumper?’
Haha! I love a good bit of knitwear! But am not really a fan of comedy Christmas jumpers… I love fair-isle pattern knitwear (as you can maybe tell from some of the patterns in Sammy Claws the Christmas Cat! I want Santa’s socks…and a blanket made out of the end-papers!)

You can find out more about Paula's work here:
Agent: Plum Pudding Illustration
Twitter: @Paula_Bowles
Instagram: @PaulaBowles_Illustrator  

or visit her website 

1 comment:

Paeony Lewis said...

Thanks, Paula and Lucy, I adore discovering more about the illustration side of picture books.