Wednesday 22 August 2012

Illustrating Anna's World

Illustrator Lauren Tobia transports us to amazing Africa, sharing with us her inspiration for illustrating the beautiful world of Anna Hibiscus.

Hello My name is Lauren and I have the fun of illustrating the world of Anna Hibiscus. Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her extended family in a compound in a large African city. The stories are written by Atinuke (who is pretty amazing herself) I have had the fun of listening to her storytelling! My “job” is to read all about Anna’s adventures, lean back in my chair and imagine! Atinuke’s stories take me to Anna’s special world in a busy African city (a bit like Lagos) full of people, taxis, scooters, shops and market stalls. Inside all this commotion is a large leafy compound where her mother and father, grandfather and aunties and uncles live and right in the middle most importantly is Anna’s mango tree. 

I have been illustrating Anna’s world for a few years now and have had loads of fun imagining Amazing Anna her family and the city she lives in. This is an early drawing of Anna’s city, it eventually became the endpapers for the book as a sort of map so that I could explain the beautiful craziness of the city she lives in.

I have a bit of an admission to make …I have never been
to this part of Africa! Atinuke comes from Nigeria so at the beginning I
thought I should do a bit of reading and found quite a lot of
inspiration from watching Nigerian pop videos and an awful lot of
imagining. Atinuke herself was also always useful for odd questions
about clothes or whether the road should have a pavement or not! But
most of it was done chewing my pencil and just staring out of the

Illustrating a book is a bit of a team effort and between me and the talented team at Walker Books who questioned me, made suggestions and had many conversations over a slice of cake and mug of tea! It must be said a lot of the tea and cake was also eaten in my studio where I sketched the pictures on big sheets of layout paper and much scribbling. My studio is in the front bedroom in my house and I can look out at what’s going on in the street, the antics of the seagulls and the occasional hot air balloon that floats by. I share my studio with my two Jack Russell’s Tilly and Poppy who when they are not barking or running after each other sleep in a box of blankets behind me. 

I draw the images in pencil so I can be as free as I can and then rub out the bits that don’t work so well or add other drawings on the computer. They eventually end up as sometimes one drawing and sometimes a huge collage of pictures that work together to make a page. I use layers of colour on the computer to build up the finished artwork and send it all by magic (or the internet ) to Julie at Walker who works her designer spells and hurrah! Anna Hibiscus is a picture book…I hope you like it! 

Join the amazing world of Anna Hibiscus with these free downloadable activity sheets.

Get your hand on a copy of the beautiful Anna Hibiscus' Song by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia here.