Thursday 4 July 2013

Ballet Cat by Fiona Ross

No alley cat can ever be a ballet least, that's what the Crazy Cat Crew think. But when Arthur finds a pair of ballet shoes, he twirls and whirls his friends right off their feet...

Author-illustrator Fiona Ross tells us about story behind the book in this exclusive blog post about the making of Ballet Cat.

Much of the inspiration for Ballet Cat comes from my childhood - I grew up watching old musicals like An American in Paris, West Side Story and Singing in the Rain, so a world in which anyone could loose themselves in music and dance really appealed. Arthur (the ballet cat) unexpectedly finds a pair of ballet shoes, tries them on and starts to dance. Even though he’s ridiculed by his friends Arthur is determined to keep on his dancing. He loves it you see! He shows the other cats how to break the mould and through Arthur’s love of ballet the others learn about acceptance, saying sorry and the importance of friendship. They also learn a new dance step or two!

I wanted to have a mixture of five characters that would make up the Crazy Cat Crew. I used the endpapers as a tool to introduce the reader to each of the cats, thinking this would make Arthur (the outsider) an equal part of the gang and give all the characters equal importance. I wanted each cat to have it’s own personality and potential backstory.

I really like to focus on composition in my illustrations, leading the readers eyes into or right across the page. I also enjoy experimenting with type, exploring different ways in which a book can be read, challenging the traditional layout. There are some characters who don’t make it into the final book, and one of them is Madam PomPom Arthur’s ballet tutor. She is based on my mum who used to teach a keep fit class when I was growing up. It’s fun to base your characters on people you know or perhaps someone you simply spot on the the bus. People watching has become an integral part of my research!

My favourite part of making Ballet Cat was the development stage, finding the right
story to tell alongside drawing numerous ideas. At this early phase I always start to
place text even though it’s not been finalised. This helps me see the book as a final object and look at how both type and image work together.  

From early on I wanted to define the different spaces and environment within the book. I felt the alley cats could be ‘living it up’ down the alley ways and street corners, whilst Arthur’s adventures would take place on the nighttime rooftops amongst the stars.
The alley represents routine and reality and the night sky is the stuff full of dreams. Arthur shows the gang how these two elements can come together, allowing the best of both worlds. The final illustrations are a combination of line drawing, painting and digital textures.

I love experimenting with different media as it’s important to keep on developing. I like to see my illustrations and stories adapting and growing into something new and
unexpected. I’m excited for what comes next.

Get hold of a copy of Ballet Cat by Fiona Ross at your local bookshop