Wednesday 17 July 2013

SPLASH, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke & Lauren Tobia

This month we went behind the scenes with illustrator Lauren Tobia to find out all about the making of Lauren and Atinuke's latest picture book, Splash, Anna Hibiscus!
What do you enjoy most about being an illustrator? 
I suppose it is the moment when a new text arrives as just the words. It's then I have my first go at scribbling ideas all over the page. I get to look at it, explore it and see what it does.  I feel it’s a massive privilege to get to play with an authors words and their world. Oh and the fact I get to go to work in my slippers!
In Splash, Anna Hibiscus! , Anna and her family go to the beach, is there anywhere that you would like Anna Hibiscus and her family to go to next? 
Anna’s world is so rich and fun I think she can go wherever Atinuke wants to take her, but I will say I love to draw big crazy imagined city’s full of tall buildings markets and people and gardens..
Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa with her family, have you ever been to Africa? 
I think Anna’s world is a bright sunny amazing world of Atunuke’s and now my imagination and that’s a place I visit all the time. Real Africa is such a huge continent with so many different people and cultures in it that I would probably never see it all in a lifetime. I have been to the very top of Africa on my holidays once but as for Anna’s world of West Africa no, but I would love to one day.

How do you go about creating your characters? 
Atinuke's stories create such a full world that I just read the text, had a cup of tea with a pencil in my hand and she came to me so quickly it was like she just waved at me out of the paper! Mind you she has evolved a bit over the years and in Splash she even gets to wear a sunny swimsuit.
Where do you get your inspiration for your illustrations?  
I get most of my inspiration from looking.. it's filling your visual world with new things.  The way plants cast shadows on walls, children in the park, views out of windows the writing on a cereal packet, films, traveling, the internet. I got a lot of ideas for Anna’s city from watching Nigerian pop videos.  I also have a big collection of picture books that I have always loved looking at. There are so many illustrators working now who I admire its very difficult to just say one or two. I think we are in a golden age of beautiful books. I would like to say that some of my favourite illustrators are still ones from my childhood such as Edward Ardizone, Jennie Corbett and the fabulous Gerald Rose.

What was your favourite picture book growing up?
I had so many to choose from my mum took me to the big city library every week and so I always had different books to look at, the wonderful thing about libraries is that you get a pile of new books every week! I suppose it had to be anything Illustrated by Gerald Rose..but in particular  “The Great Jelly of London” I would get that book out week after week.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I expect I would still be an intensive care nurse or if not I would have continued working for a lovely landscape gardener. We had lots of fun whizzing round country lanes in a white van drinking tea out of flasks and I love being scruffy.
How long does it usually take you to make each illustration for the picture book? 
That’s a very difficult question as I work in so many stages...It starts with a rough drawing that maybe only takes a few hours but it gradually evolves over time and its maybe months before the drawings become colored and tweaked into finished artwork. I work with advice from Atinuke and a very talented team at Walker Books that help nurture the book on its way.
Do you have any tips for aspiring illustrators?
Yes.. Draw and look! I would also say that the most wonderful thing you can do is go to university and study illustration with an open mind, experiment and enjoy it, learn as much as you can ...then leave and do your own thing! 

Get your hands on a copy of Splash, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia at your local bookshop