Stepping Into Spring by Pauline Tait (Novelist & Children’s Author)
In Scotland, we are about to step, rather eagerly, into spring. It is a time of rejuvenation, internal growth, and positive energy as our surroundings are brought back to life after the winter months. The dreary browns slowly dissipate, replaced with fresh greens and pastel colours, as spring lifts our spirits and propels us towards summer.
And, speaking of being brought to life. As a children’s author, I am vehemently aware that no matter what I write, the front cover will initially draw attention to my books. The blurb will then battle with the internal illustrations for the second billing.
Illustrators play a crucial role in the production of picture books. They bring our stories to life. Giving our characters quirks and characteristics that feed our stories and transform our written words into visual worlds children will adore.
And to tell us a little about life as an illustrator, please welcome Helen Morrish to the Kids Carousel.
Helen, please tell us a little about yourself and your writing/illustrating career.
After studying Fashion Illustration, I got a job as a designer for a magazine, I absolutely loved it, designing and illustrating all day! My dream was to have my own magazine, so in my spare time a friend and I edited a fanzine. We photocopied it on an old xerox machine, gave it to friends, and out at festivals and nightclubs. This was the 1990s so, in a way, it was my first venture into self-publishing!
I eventually worked my way up to Art Director for a big selling Women’s magazine, it was a fantastic job, but as you get higher up the ladder your responsibilities change, and it started to get a bit uncreative. So, after thirty years working for various publishing houses, I decided to leave and pursue my dream of being an artist, spend more time with my husband and generally have a slower pace of life away from London working.
Then unexpectedly, my husband sadly passed away and I was thrown into that awful cycle of grief where you can’t concentrate on anything. My creativity was at an all-time low, and I desperately needed to get it back. The only thing I could concentrate on however, was the mundane scrolling on Instagram and this had its uses and I came across an art challenge- to draw the everyday, every day, and decided to give it a go. I started slowly drawing things around my house including my dog, Rupert. I added little speech bubbles to his pictures and began to wonder how he, as a dog might be processing the loss of his beloved owner. And so, Rupert’s book was born.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It comes from a variety of sources, I’ll go to an exhibition, and something will spark an idea, or I’ll see a film and love the colours in a particular scene, or I’ll hear a conversation or anecdote and turn that into an idea for an illustration. My house is a huge inspiration too, I collect all things retro and kitsch, and most of it appears in my work.
Do you have a preferred technique or medium?
My favourite pen is a Sharpie and I always carry an A6 sketch book with me. I’ll then redraw my sketches using a light box to trace over them until I’m happy and then scan them into Photoshop, it’s brilliant for adding more detail or manipulating an image. If I want a change of perspective, I can do this without redrawing the whole image. If I can’t draw from life, then I’ll do some picture research and hand draw from that. I have two styles: a graphic style where Photoshop plays a big part, and a lighter hand drawn style using pencil and watercolour.
Is there a favourite illustration/piece in your portfolio?
For my final Art College project, I did my own version of Time Out Magazine. I used illustration, photography and writing to re-create the amazing characters that lived and worked along the Portobello Road. I found it recently in the loft and posted it on Instagram, I was then asked to illustrate a map for our local area. It’s wonderful to think that a thirty-year-old project could lead to a commission now, I’m also using it as inspiration for a future book.
Where can readers find out more about you?
Instagram and TikTok @helenmbooks
For behind-the-scenes Instagram @ladycrimplene
And, so, in keeping with the theme of internal growth, the Kids Carousel is reviewing a newly released picture book that combines stunning illustrations with a powerful message about facing our fears.
The Kids Carousel Book Review
Written by Molly Ruttan
Art Design by Suki Boynton
Published By Nancy Paulson Books, February 2023
For ages 3 to 7 years
Something Wild By Molly Ruttan
Today is Hannah’s violin recital, and the day she has been dreading.
From the music she creates to the way it makes her feel, Hannah loves playing her violin. But the thought of playing in front of an audience terrifies her.
She spends the day wishing something wild would happen. Imaging a raging storm, rabbits burrowing into her kitchen, or dolphins spilling from a waterfall, all so she would miss her recital.
But nothing wild happens. At least, not until she steps onto the stage with wobbly legs and nervous jitters. Hannah begins to play her violin and, as she does so, she realises that her hands remember what to do. Her love for playing her violin takes hold and she performs beautifully. Hannah soon discovers that her performance is a wild and enrapturing experience.
While Something Wild is simply written, it undoubtedly sends a powerful message in encouraging children who may become anxious in certain situations. It is about supporting and nurturing children as they face and overcome their fears. And when I say that it is simply written, I mean that as a compliment. It gets straight to the point. Allowing the message to be delivered quickly if a child is anxious.
Stunning illustrations accompany this simple story, bringing Hannah’s imagination to life in a whirlwind of colour.
By Pauline Tait, Novelist & Children’s Author