My First Cook Book by David Atherton, illustrated by Rachel Stubbs
Today we welcome award-winning illustrator Rachel Stubbs to Picture Book Party to tell us a little more about illustrating My First Cook Book, the brand new first guide to cooking for kids from the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2019, David Atherton.
1. How did the book come about?
David got in touch with me shortly after winning The Great British Bake Off in 2019 about collaborating on a project for children together. We already knew each other prior to this, and had lived together whilst I was studying for my MA, so he knew my work well and the kind of things I liked to draw. I’d always wanted to work on a food-related project for children, so the idea of getting to work on something together was very appealing as I trusted his taste and knew he was an incredible cook! We both felt strongly that combining the cookery element with a sense of community was important, and played around with various ideas before finally settling on the idea of an illustrated cook book.
2. How do you and David know each other?
My husband Jonathan met David when they were teenagers, and introduced me to him when we were at university. Much later, we all ended up living together for a couple of years in London and as you can imagine, he was the ideal housemate! Very clean, a great cook and an avid gardener. We had a lot of fun and the house was always full of David’s various craft projects and delicious food. We would often dream of doing some sort of creative project in the future, so it felt really surreal (in a good way) to see him win Bake Off and to then go on to make this book together.
3. You’ve just published your first picture book with Walker, how did you find the transition to food illustration?
I did find drawing so much food difficult at first, as I am so much more used to drawing people! People exude personality so I found it challenging to inject the same amount of life into inanimate objects. But I soon found ways to make it work, like adding in small details such as utensils, cutlery, chopping boards and napkins - and actually really enjoyed creating these small still lives. Once I’d found a way of illustrating the food that worked for me, the next challenge was to get all the other elements to work together visually; the illustrated ingredients, the step by step illustrations, and the drawings of the different families cooking.
4. How did you decide on the look of the book?
I’d worked with a very limited palette for my first book with Walker (My Red Hat, published in May 2020) and we were both keen to try and keep a similar look for this project. However, we soon realised that sticking to the same limitations within the context of a cook book would be tricky, as the food and ingredients needed to look recognisable. Especially as it was for children, who might be cooking for the first time! So, in the end, we decided to just keep red and blue as the base colours throughout the book and added in different colours where necessary - which helped bring a sense of clarity and cohesion to the book as a whole. Having illustrated step by step instructions did mean that the layouts were quite restricted, but thankfully our excellent design team at Walker had a clear idea of how they wanted it all to fit together.
5. What made you decide to include lots of illustrations of families, rather than focusing solely on the food?
We were both keen for it to be more than just a recipe book and felt that having illustrations of families cooking and eating together would add a sense of fun, community and inclusivity - as well as giving it more of a picture book feel. There are so many different characters to follow and stories to invent, that hopefully even the most reluctant of young cooks will find something to amuse themselves within its pages.