Emma Lazell's BIG CAT

People think that learning how to draw really well is really hard. But I'm here to tell you that keeping the naive joy of childhood art in your work as you grow is one of the hardest things to do of all. So, I flipped when I saw Emma Lazell's BIG CAT and it's raw joyous style. How did she do that!? Happily, she's here today to talk about it!
e: What was your creative process/medium for Big Cat, can you walk us through it?
The characters and the illustrations came first, and then the words afterwards. I think this is how I keep the important word-and-image relationship balanced and organic. My illustrations are a combination of traditional methods and digital brushes. Once I have perfected the characters, I create linear roughs of the composition, and then use dip pen and ink to draw different elements and use watercolour and inks to create different textures to use in the image - the messier the better. I then compile the line drawings and the textures digitally, and use digital brushes to finish.

e: What was your path to publication?
I was spotted at the Cambridge school of Art MA in Children's Book Illustration graduate show, by Neil, the senior editor at Pavilion Children's Books. I think it was my huge, life size cut out of Big Cat in the flowers that drew Neil in.
e: There is an obvious nod to Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came to Tea in Big Cat - can you tell us more about that?
The Tiger Who Came to Tea was my all time favourite book growing up, and - writing a story about a tiger - I thought it only right to put a few nods to the classic in. My publishers loved the hints, and we decided to push it as much as we could. My illustration of Big Cat and Isobel reading The Tiger Who Came for Coffee and The Humans Who Came to Tea isn't vital to the narrative, however I love the idea that my illustrations can encourage the joy of reading while celebrating a children's literary hero.
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?
For me, it's the hidden details that readers may only notice on their third or fourth read. Ridiculous newspaper headlines, cats with billboards, and familiar-feline-wall-art are my devices to keep readers, child and adult alike, entertained many reads later. Magical illustration, I think, needs an excellent and poignant colour palette, and an environment that summons emotions, and something a little bit extra as well. -I love trying to work out how an illustrator creates their images, but I also love the excitement created by telltale textures, brush strokes, ink-splots and messiness, that show the illustrators' method. My “Heart Artists" would be Isabelle Arsenault, Beatrice Allemagna, Maisie Paradise-Shearring and Sam Boughton.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I try to be as active as I can on Instagram and Twitter, although sometimes that just means posting photos of my cats strolling across the desk in my studio. I love doing literary festivals, bookshop events, and schools visits. And I am represented by Alice Sutherland-Hawes of Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I think ironically, my favourite and my most challenging part of being a creator are both the same: the freedom to do what I love everyday, and to follow and break my own set of creative rules. This is both the dream and a challenge - the challenge being to keep motivated under my own steam, and to overcome the disappointment when an image just won't work. Occasionally starting again is the only solution, but often perseverance is the answer.
e: Is there something in particular about Big Cat you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Put simply, Big Cat is a story about acceptance and friendship with lots of laughs, but the illustrations, through character interactions, share and encourage a love of reading, and drawing, and the outside, and of course tea parties. I hope to delight children through these simple pursuits, and I also hope that there are details hidden in the illustrations, to continue to be spotted, and giggled at for many reads.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Well if you quite liked Big Cat but are more of a dog person then my next book, That Dog, will be the book for you. That Dog will be out in Spring 2020. ~ There's a team of dognappers on the loose! They've stolen lots of pooches, but this time they're up against a very clever dog. And that dog is a very smart woofer. He's a bit of a detective in his spare time, and he might just have worked out who's behind the dastardly crimes. Will he avoid getting caught himself and rescue his fellow creatures?
Have really enjoyed answering this interview, thanks for the opportunity.

e: Thank you, Emma! I can't wait to see That Dog - please visit again!

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