I've developed a growing interest in board books over the years. They're a distinctly different genre in children's books with very groovy bindings. When done well, they can be demonstrations of absolute genius. Today I interview Natalie Marshall
, the illustrator of YOU'RE MY LITTLE CUDDLE BUG (written by Nicola Edwards for Silver Dolphin Books
e: So, Natalie, board books are a class unto themselves. What about them inspires you as a creator?
I feel very privileged to illustrate board books. For most babies and toddlers, board books are the first step towards a (hopefully) life long love of books, so to be involved in creating interesting, engaging and educational books for babies and toddlers is an amazing part of my job. I am inspired by the interaction that children have with board books and seeing babies learn from my board books is a real buzz.
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
I am not an illustrator who carried around a notebook and constantly sketches - I wish I did have the time to sit and sketch! I still have a stack of sketchbooks from my days studying art and design, but these days I am so busy with my work schedule and my two children and their schedules that my creative sketch time is usually directed at working up ideas for projects that are live. I actually get quite a buzz out of working within the framework of a client brief, I find it really challenging to solve illustrative problems. That said, I do work on my own book ideas that are not client led. So my creative process goes something like this: receive a brief, do some concept drawings, work up pretty good colour drawings (I usually draw straight into Illustrator), make sure everything fits together and makes sense, adjust anything that needs to be edited (either by client request or because I think it could be better), complete final art.
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? I’m looking for your definition of “Heart Art.”
Ooh this is a hard question!
When I draw something that I really love - I want to keep looking at it, and I will look at it again and again and every time I look at it, it makes my heart skip a beat - to me that is 'Heart Art'... so I often hope that that particular illustration that makes my heart skip a beat will work the same magic on anyone else who looks at it. In my work I really only want to publish illustrations that I honestly LOVE and feel engaged with and I hope that love is seen by the reader. I drew a little chameleon for a book project a while ago and I just loved him. So I printed out a large print of him to stick up on the wall near my desk - and I every time I look at him I feel happy - that is a successful illustration.
e: How do you advertise yourself and can you expand on creating in this genre?
I have an agent so I don't advertise for work as such - I also think that my books are my best form of advertising, each and every book I have illustrated (and / or written) is done with love, care and total dedication. I make every single book I work on the very best book it can be. I am lucky to work with some wonderful editors, art directors and designers who also work towards the same goal.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I find the most challenging part of my job is scheduling and managing my projects. I am often working on ten or more books at a time so keeping track of all the dates, emails, changes, meetings and deadline dates can be a challenge. I work on my own so I only have myself to rely on!
My absolute favourite part of my job is opening a box of brand new finished books OR seeing them on the shelf. That particular thrill will never get tired!
e: Is there something in particular about your work you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I am working on my new picture book - and it is a lot of work!
e: Can't wait to see it! Thanks for stopping by!