Tuesday 15 October 2019

Illustrating 'Madame Badobedah' - with Lauren O'Hara

Sophie Dahl's first picture book, Madame Badobedah, has been out in the world for just over a week now, and illustrator Lauren O'Hara joins us to talk about bringing curious Mabel, mysterious Madame Badobedah, and The Mermaid Hotel to life on the page:

What was it like to illustrate Madame Badobedah?

Madame Badobedah was a delight of a book to illustrate. Sophie created a world so full of joy, humour and tenderness I was hooked from the first page. I was itching to bring her world into full and colourful life.

How did you come up with the designs for the main characters? 

From the first sketches, Mabel seemed to spring to life fully formed. Her grumpy little face and suspicious glances often made me laugh as I sketched. Madame B was more challenging.  After a lot of attempts, she ended up looking rather like my grandmother who was an elegant and formidable redhead with a passion for antique jewellery and Bichons. Sophie described Madame Badobedah's flamboyance and I had great fun designing costumes by watching old Marlene Dietrich and Gloria Swanson movies and sketching feather boas and gold lame leggings.

And what about the Mermaid Hotel, and the many fabulous locations imagined by Mabel?

The world of the book is gorgeous. I enjoyed switching between Mabel's home in a little English Bed and Breakfast by the sea, and Madame Badobedah's past as an emigre and later a young ballerina in New York. I used two colour palettes to show these worlds: Buttercup yellow, cadmium blue and peppermint green for Mabel's world and a darker, more subdued palette of maroon, navy and gold for Madame B."

To celebrate the publication of Madame Badobedah, Lauren painted a beautiful window for London-based independent bookshop, Ottie and the Bea: