A novel way to usher in the holidays, Christmas in a Book transforms into a cheerfully decorated tree that you can display on a desk, table, or mantle.
This month we are going behind the scenes of New York Times bestselling picture book Raise Your Hand (Penguin Workshop) illustrated by our talented artist Marta Kissi and written by 11-year-old Alice Tapper.
When Alice realised the girls in her class were participating less than the boys, she worked with her parents and Girl Scout group to create a badge that girls could earn if they pledged to be more confident in school. The result was this inspiring story, encouraging others to be brave and to refuse to accept the status quo.
We spoke to Marta about how she created the beautiful artwork for this unique book, her process for bringing characters to life, and what it is she loves most about her job.
What’s your creative process when working on a book like Raise Your Hand?
When working on a book, I always start by simply reading the manuscript. It’s a very pleasant part of the job and also one of the most important ones, as I believe there is no better way to get the full feel for the characters and their journeys, other than reading it. Then I begin to design the characters. It’s not always easy but I really enjoy seeing them taking shape and somehow revealing themselves to me.
Once I know my characters, I either focus on working on the front cover or on the insides of the book. I tend to play around with the spreads and placements of the text but at the same time I also do my best to follow and respect the art direction given to me by the publisher. That said, I never shy away from suggesting some alternative solutions if I have them. Then, once I get the feedback on the roughs, I start working on the finals by finessing details and fine-tuning everything else, so it is all nice and ready to go to print.
How did you go about creating the characters?
Raise Your Hand is based on a true story of a 11-year-old Alice Paul Tapper, who wrote this book. When I was designing her as a character, I had to make sure that she was closely linked to how Alice actually looks in real life. Luckily, I was sent a selection of reference photos and videos from the publisher, which really helped me with the task. When I’m not working on a real-life character, I simply start to draw and see when it takes me.
Where do you do your best creative work?
I think my best work happens simply at my desk, where I always work. Also, as mornings are not really my cup of tea, I tend to work best when the sun goes down.
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
My favourite part of the being an illustrator is simply designing the characters. I think there’s something quite magical in seeing them taking shape as a result of the author’s words and a sprinkling of my imagination. Interestingly, villains have always been my favourite ones to design. Also, as I work digitally, the cherry on top of the whole process of making the book is being able to actually hold it my hands.
Why is being part of an agency important to you?
Being part of an agency is important to me because it helps me get involved in better and more prestigious projects, which otherwise might have been unavailable to me. Also, Bright always makes sure that all my contracts are on point and my fees are negotiated to my benefit. As a result, my career is moving into the right direction and I feel it is largely due to the very good working relationship I have with my agents.
A selection of titles illustrated by Marta
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us what to expect next?
The project I’m most excited about at the moment is a picture book I’m working on with my husband James Lancett who is also an artist. The funny thing is that although we worked next to each other for years, this is going to be our first project together and I’m really looking forward to it.
To view Marta’s portfolio, please click here.
To work with Marta, please contact Arabella Stein.
We are delighted and incredibly proud that Bright author illustrator Fiona Woodcock has won the World Illustration Awards 2019 Children’s Book Category for her children’s book LOOK, published by HarperCollins US imprint Greenwillow Books.
Fiona at Somerset House for the World Illustration Awards 2019
Told entirely in words that contain a double ‘O’, LOOK is the story of a brother and sister’s day, including a trip to the zoo, where they discover baboons, balloons and many more delights!
The engaging, interactive text is perfect for emerging readers – encouraging them to read through the blend of letters and pictures – and has captured the hearts of both children and adults with its heart-warming illustrations and fun word play.
Established over 40 years ago, the AOI’s World Illustration Awards are widely respected across the industry, offering a comprehensive insight into the ideas, trends and techniques that are at the forefront of illustration today. Previous winners of the award include Benji Davies in 2015 for Grandad’s Island (published by Simon & Schuster).
“It is such an enormous honour and a beautiful surprise for LOOK to receive this World Illustration Award. I was thrilled to be shortlisted amongst so many brilliant children’s books, so to be given this recognition from the judges really does mean a lot.
“There’s a lovely sense of things linking back up, because I first came across The Bright Agency at an AOI talk held at Somerset House six years ago. And I always visit the World Illustration Awards exhibition, so I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of it this year.
Fiona with her winning artwork, Fiona and Bright MD Vicki Willden-Lebrecht and Director Arabella Stein at Somerset House
“The concept for the book was an idea I had many years ago and when I eventually started trying to shape it into a book my personal brief was to produce a vibrant and playful story using double ‘O’ words. I incorporated the ‘OO’ letters into the illustrations to encourage children to engage with both the words and pictures together.
“The initial inspiration came from a pair of 2003 New Year’s glasses. The double zeros transformed into double ‘O’ words in my sketches and I started playing around with both the shape and sound, experimenting with words which worked well when incorporated in the image.”
“Once the difficult part of deciding on the sequence of events was resolved it was a real pleasure to focus on the artwork. I created every element of the illustration individually on paper, using stencils and rubber stamps to create varied areas of textured colour. Then I composited them together like a collage digitally, sometimes changing the size and colour if needed. This final stage came together relatively quickly after all those years of walking around with the idea knocking around in the back of my head.
“This book taught me to persevere with my ideas, even though they might not exactly fit with picture book conventions.”
“I find that publishers are often after unique individuals, so I think about what I love to draw best and let ideas grow from that. Of course, making books is a team game, so I’d like to say a big thank you to Greenwillow Books for seeing the potential in my idea.”
To see Fiona’s portfolio, please click here.
To work with Fiona, please contact Arabella Stein.
Talented illustrator Rachel McLean has been busy creating wonderful worlds for young artists to delve into with her Magic Water Colouring series which launched this year with Imagine That.
Harriet Popham combined her passion for pattern design and illustration with her family’s farming background in the beautiful artwork for this pocket-sized lifestyle book Vegetable Gardening Wisdom - Daily Advice and Inspiration for Getting the Most From Your Garden published by Storey.