Monday, 2 December 2019

An Interview with illustrator Anna Doherty, by Pippa Goodhart

I'm very proud to introduce illustrator Anna Doherty to the Picture Book Den. She illustrated by story 'Fair Shares' with wonderful colour and humour, clarity and beauty. Anna and I met this summer at the Edinburgh Book Festival, sharing doing an event based on 'Fair Shares'. She's lovely!
So I've asked her a few questions -




- Were you a child drawn (sorry!) to drawing?I loved all sorts of creative things as a child. We always had an art project on the go, whether it was making seasonal decorations, toilet roll binoculars, presents, Christmas cards, or cardboard houses and teeny clay food for our Sylvanian Families.
We had a stack of continuous paper – A4 sheets all joined together in a concertina – and I would make books and magazines out of them.
I liked drawing pictures from books I was reading, and making huge illustrations of me and my friends on magical adventures, but I also liked drawing from real life too, like plants or flowers we had in the house.


Anna's drawing, done aged five or six, of her parents', clearly very happy, wedding!


Little Anna, already painting, decorating an egg box.



- How did you train to become an illustrator? What is particular about illustration as an art form?I trained originally at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. I chose to go there because they had a foundation year where you could try out all the different art subjects before choosing which one to specialise in. I quickly discovered illustration was the one for me! We did a lot of quite varied projects, like ceramics, editorial work, screen printing, stage design, posters, which was amazing because we learnt illustration isn’t just one thing.
After I graduated, I decided I wanted to focus more on children’s books, so I went down to Cambridge School of Art and did a Children’s Book Illustration Masters.
That course set me up for the publishing world, and at the end we had a graduation show which lots of editors and art directors came to see, which is where I was lucky to meet my first publishers.
For me, the thing I love about illustration is that it’s so often narrative, and has a story to tell. I’ve loved books since I was very small, so illustrating them is a dream come true!








- Please tell us about your experience illustrating Fair Shares, illustrating somebody else’s story and words.Illustrating someone else’s text is exciting, because so often as an illustrator you are working at home alone, so it’s lovely to know someone else out there is sharing your experience.
Fair Shares was the first picture book which I’d illustrated someone else’s text rather than my own. Sometimes, illustrating a pre-existing text is more relaxing because the story is already there – but it can be challenging too, as I was very used to starting with character and building a plot around them rather than the other way around.

When I began to illustrate Fair Shares, Pippa had already more or less finished the text, so I had a clear outline of the story.
At the very beginning I was really nervous, always thinking, ‘what if this isn’t exactly what Pippa had in mind in this picture?’ so I loosened up by starting all the way from scratch and spending ages drawing bears and hares from real life, so I could learn the shape of the animals in different positions.





Once I’d drawn lots of bears and hares, they naturally began to turn into the characters who are in the book.
After I had the characters, I began layouts, thinking roughly how each page would be laid out.



I tried to have a mixture of full page and vignette, and of close up and far away illustrations, so that it’s interesting for the reader to look at. I drew ideas of what each page might look like very quickly and roughly, so there was lot of options, until I found the one that works best.
Then, it was time to draw the illustrations for real!
The very first page I drew was Bear reaching up high to try to grab some juicy pears. I originally drew it just to test out the colours and textures, but I liked it so much that it became a page in the book!



- What next for Anna Doherty, illustrator?!Lots, I hope! I’m working on some new idea nuggets at the moment, and I have the fourth book in my Fantastically Feminist series of non-fiction picture books about real life women coming out next year, which I’m very excited about!



Thank you, Anna. Maybe we’ll work together on other books in the future? I hope so!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post - great to read about the process from the POV of the illustrator. None of my picture books have turned out the way I saw them as I wrote the story. Thankfully they turned out better!

    ReplyDelete