Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Hannah Russell
Features Writer
4:07 PM 18th September 2017

Working With Illustrators...

Book covers are incredibly important as they are there to capture your audiences and to engage people in your story. One single book cover can tell a thousand words in just one glance and the idea is for people to connect with your story and yourself as an author!

Recently I redesigned my Little Alf books. It's always good to revamp your brand or business but I felt my Little Alf books needed a cover re-design.

The books used to have photos of Alfie on the front which people thought where very sweet but often lead to believe these books where 'true' stories about Alfie and included information and facts about him, when actually they are fictional stories for children which contain lots of magic and different creatures and tell the story of Hannah and Alfie visiting one very mysterious enchanted forest...

I work with an amazing illustrator called 'Helen Braid' who is a freelance illustrator and designer.

I have worked with Helen in the past for my Christmas book 'Little Alf the magic helper' and knew she was perfect to make my covers come to life...

A few emails later and Helen was on her way to re-designing the books and once they arrived I was just in love with them and knew it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

This week I thought it would be good to do an 'interview' style post with Helen so you can find out what life is like as an illustrator...

Why did you become an illustrator?

I'd worked as a graphic designer for 14 years and always enjoyed the more illustrative part of any projects I was working on. I wrote a blog at the time and started including illustrations to compliment the stuff I was writing about. I gradually started being approached by other bloggers to create bits and pieces of illustration for them, and it all really grew from there!

What qualifications do you need to become an illustrator?

I have a BA in media studies which actually only featured one art subject as part of the course - however a final year work placement at a graphic design studio lead to a full time junior graphic design post. That set me off on a creative path that has eventually ended up with me working for myself. So I guess it goes to show that the exact subject nature of your qualifications doesn't always determine where you end up!

What is your most favourite illustration so far with your work?

I adore working on the Little Alf illustrations! I think my favourite to date is 'The Secrets in the Wood' - I love the sense of movement in the image, with Hannah charging along on the black horse and the wild horses in the background. For me this illustration has so much energy.

How did you create the Little Alf book covers?

I always start by chatting to Hannah about the main topics within the story. It's always useful to read some chapters to give a real flavour of the book. Now that I've worked on several of the Little Alf covers I feel comfortable with the look and feel of the illustrations and it's such a pleasure to create each subsequent cover as Hannah and Little Alf grow and the bond between the 2 becomes ever stronger. They have such fun adventures! Once I have an idea that I'm happy with I start on pencil sketches, and then complete the sketches in pen. The mono image is then taken onto my computer where I bring it to life with colour!

How long does it take you to create and complete a Little Alf cover?

I like to give myself around a week to work on a single cover. Although I won't spend a full week drawing and colouring, I like to have plenty of time to try sketching different ideas and let options rattle around in my head. With 'The Secrets in the Wood' I spent a lot of time looking at real life photographs of running horses as I wanted the movement of the wild horses in the background to look natural.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to become an illustrator one day?

Work hard and put in the time to create a portfolio you are happy with. This will be such a help to you when it comes to applying for art courses or interviewing for jobs or pitching to clients. My own portfolio is my website which shows the best of my recent work. I update it regularly - a fresh and professional website gives clients a real flavour of the style of your work, and also the confidence that you will understand their brief and do a great job!

There we go! You now know what life is like being an illustrator and some steps and advice if you would like to one day become a designer!