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04 August 2016

Bethan Woollvin's LITTLE RED

I've been quite excited Bethan Woollvin's LITTLE RED from Peachtree Publishers - Bethan Woollvin's LITTLE RED. It's become a great companion piece for teaching alongside Molly Bang's PICTURE THIS. So I am thrilled to have Bethan here today...

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
Bethan:
My creative process can vary depending on what project I’m working on. With picture books I usually start by generating ideas. I try to do an exercise where I think of as many ideas as I can in three minutes which brings out all sorts of wild ideas.
      When I have an idea, I then begin to work on loose sketches which is my favourite part of the process. At this stage, I’m probably still working in a sketchbook creating my characters and their world. I would then move out of my sketchbook and onto larger paper where I would start to experiment with different materials and book dimensions. Its not long before the idea then begins to take shape, and starts to feel like a book.
     Once my characters are just right, I then begin thinking about colour which is such an important part of my work. I usually work with around three colours, for example - with Little Red I used red, black and grey. When I have drawn out rough sketches of all my spreads which often takes a great deal of planning, I can jump into my final artwork. This is then one of the quickest parts of my creative process. I actually generate the final artwork quite quickly as the looseness and bold line are key in my artwork. Then the final stage of my artwork is scanning it, and cleaning it up on photoshop.
e: What was your path to publication?
Bethan:
My path to publication started on my illustration (BA) course at the Cambridge School of Art. My class were given a 6 week book project in the second year of our degree. The brief was quite loose, so we were encouraged to find a text, or a competition to give it some structure. I chose to make a book for the Macmillan Childrens Book Competition. I only had six weeks, so I didn’t have enough time to create my own story from scratch, so I used a pre-existing text, Little Red Riding Hood. I had never illustrated a story, nor illustrated for children, but I really enjoyed it! I submitted my picture book to the prize, and a little while later I was told that I had won the prize! I worked on Little Red with Macmillan on its journey to being published, which it finally was on the 24th March.
e: What is your favourite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Bethan:
I think the most challenging part of being a creator is having an ‘off’ day. As an illustrator you rely on your mind and hands to work together to create artwork, but sometimes that doesn't happen. It can be really frustrating to set aside time to illustrate and you just aren’t feeling very inspired! If I am ever suffering from a creative block like this, I have found the best thing is to go get inspired. Inspiration can come in all forms, but I like to go to museums or new exhibitions, as it really helps to go and learn about something new. Having enough ‘me’ time is important too, a lot of creatives juggle freelancing with other part time work. Although it’s really tempting to spend all of your spare time making things, you’ll run out of creative juice if you don’t have a movie day every once in a while!
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Bethan:
I think my definition of ‘Heart Art’ is about the relationship between the text and illustrations. The text gives us the story, but the images can be used to tell us more of the story and in a really exciting way. An example of this would be from Little Red:
      The text reads ‘And he made a plan’, but the illustration tells you more.
      I think this makes it more exciting for the reader, encouraging them to engage with the story and pick up the visual clues that complete the story. Sometimes these cues aren’t noticed at first, so the reader finds something new when they come back to read it again.

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