I am so very excited and absolutely thrilled to present the inaugural Strong Belief in Wicker Interview! I wasn't particularly planning to conduct any interviews but I read Florette recently (see my review) and I was absolutely entranced. The Paris location, the charming illustrations and story. All so perfect.
I began thinking of questions that I would ask author and illustrator Anna Walker if I had the opportunity, and then I decided to make the opportunity and I contacted Anna. Anna Walker was very gracious with her time and agreed to my interview, and shared lots of wonderful images showing her creative process writing and illustrating Florette.
Is there a reason that you didn’t specifically mention Paris within the text or illustrations?
Paris is such a beautiful and evocative city that I wanted to give the reader a sense of place through the imagery. I try to use words sparingly and let the illustrations tell the story too.
Do you see Florette as a particularly Parisian story? Could it have been set in Melbourne for instance?
Paris seemed like the perfect setting as this was where the idea came from. I don’t think Florette could be set in Melbourne as we don’t have the density of city living that I needed to express. I considered other European cities along with Copenhagen but kept coming back to Paris as there is an intimacy in the layered apartments that lent itself to the surroundings I needed for Mae.
Have you travelled to Paris? Do you have any favourite gardens or other spots in Paris?
I have been to Paris a few times. Most recently I travelled with my family which became the inspiration for the story. We were on our way to the Louvre when we passed a shop window filled with plants. It was a brief moment but one that I thought about later, being fascinated by the idea of a forest in a city.
One of my favourite places to visit in Paris is the Luxembourg Gardens. We spent time there on our last trip, we loved the tiny boats and puppet show, and we all enjoyed sitting under the elm trees for afternoon tea!
As well as Paris, I'm really interested in your design process. I love it when picture books have an illustrators note, it always adds so much for me. I don't know why the publishers don't include that more often.
These small samples make it look as though the story came together quite simply but in reality there was almost two years of drafts, drawing, searching, painting and distilling ideas to become the story that is Florette! :)
|The seed of an idea scribbled|
|Thumbnail sketches of storyboard|
|Setting/Place working drawings|
|Playing with characters and colours|
|Mae in her little outfit|
|Playing with colours|
|Final city colours|
|Working on roughs|
|Rainy courtyard final illustration|
-developed from rough
Could you describe your creative process for us? As an author/illustrator do you write the text first? Or do the words and pictures come together in an organic way?
When I think of an idea for a story it is always takes the form of an image first. The words develop in an organic way as I think about how the story will be told. All I had in the beginning for Florette was a tiny scribble of a shop window and a terrarium.
What illustrative techniques/media did you use in Florette?
The illustrative techniques I used in Florette was watercolour, ink, pencil and collage. The illustrations were layered together to create the final artwork.
How long did it take you to create Florette?
Illustrating the story took approximately one year. A bit longer if you include pulling the words into shape!
Did you have a childhood love of reading, drawing and creativity?
My childhood was all about reading, drawing and making things! My mum was a librarian during my early childhood so I spent many happy hours at the library pouring over books. I drew constantly and loved making things for my doll’s house. I believed in fairies and created tiny homes for them in the garden. Illustrating children’s books is a joyful way of playing in that world that I love.
What were your favourite books as a child? Do you feel that they’ve influenced your work?
Some of my favourite books as a child were:
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans (I visited The Carlyle in NY last year to see Ludwig's paintings and hear heavenly jazz!)
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne
These books and others have become part of my personal story. I think they shape the books I make today. I am inspired by the craftsmanship, the tradition, the bravery, the clear voice that rings out in these special books that is an art form in itself.
Do you read picture books?
I do read picture books! I love them.
Who are your favourite picture book authors or illustrators?
There are so many illustrators and authors making exciting stories. It’s always hard to only name a few.
Davina Bell and Alyson Colpoy’s ‘Under the Love Umbrella’ is one of my current favourites. I am looking forward to seeing Laura Carlin’s new book 'King of the Sky'. I covet my copy of 'Du Iz Tak?' by Carson Ellis and am constantly inspired by the work of Kitty Crowther.
Thank you so much to Anna Walker for her generosity with her time, her words and her images. Florette is even more fascinating to me now. And I've added more to my TBR as I haven't read any of Anna Walker's favourite picture books, nor even heard of some of those authors and illustrators.