Thursday 27 May 2021

Dance with Oti - Illustrator Q&A with Samara Hardy

Today we welcome Samara Hardy onto Picture Book Party to talk about illustrating her new picture book, Dance with Oti, written by Strictly Come Dancing star, Oti Mabuse.  

Can you tell us a little about your journey into illustration? 

I’ve always loved to draw so becoming an illustrator was always the most natural route for me to take in life. I never really considered anything else! After finishing A-Levels I did a foundation course in Art and Design, then studied Illustration at Falmouth University, which was an absolute dream! After I graduated I did various work placements within the homeware and greetings card industries, then took an in-house design position at a retailer.I never had a strong singular style, so the role suited me perfectly as it was so varied. I provided illustrations for everything from gift bags to paddling pools, and it gave me a great foundation for taking the leap into freelancing 3 years later. It was a scary step going from a secure salary to what felt like a world of uncertainty, but I haven’t looked back. 

I now work alongside my lovely agents at Plum Pudding, mainly on picture books, but I still like to dip my toe back into homewares and licensing from time to time as well!   

What is your working process?

I’m lucky enough to have a spare room which I’ve turned into my studio which is fantastic. It’s also turning into a bit of a greenhouse with the amount of plants I’m rapidly accumulating! I use Procreate for sketches and colouring but as I use a lot of layers, and Procreate can be quite limiting in this respect, I piece everything together in Photoshop afterwards. Being able to work on an Ipad has been great as it enables me to work wherever I want. I’m looking forward to traveling again to really make the most of this. Although the temptation to just work from bed some days is hard to resist! 

How did you begin illustrating Dance with Oti? 

I began by sketching out all the characters. Each child had a particular character trait to focus on which really helped me in making them unique and recognisable. Designing Mrs Oti was the biggest challenge as drawing a character based on a real-life person was something I’d never done before. It was definitely a bit nerve-wracking waiting for her approval!  

Once we had confirmed all the characters I made a start on the spreads themselves. These started off as small thumbnails before being neatened up into final roughs. Oti sent across some photos demonstrating each dance move which was super helpful. As learning the dance moves is such an integral part of the book, it was important to get them right!  

What was your favourite spread to illustrate? 

My favourite spread was probably the one where the bird comes flying into the room. It was a really fun one to do and I love how some of the kids are running away in horror and others are loving the excitement of it!  

What are your favourite picture books/illustrators? 

I have so many! I grew up captivated by the worlds created by Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake, but more recently I really admire the work of Kate Hindley, Paola Escobar, Emily Hughes and Alex T. Smith…and many more!  

Thank you, Samara, for giving an insight into your work on Dance with Oti. 

Download our Dance with Oti activity sheets here

                            Dance with Oti is available to purchase here