Monday 16 August 2021

Ten Delicious Teachers - Q&A with illustrator Sarah Warburton

Today we welcome Sarah Warburton onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new picture book, Ten Delicious Teachers written by Ross Montgomery.  

Ten silly teachers have missed the last bus home. But LOOK – a shortcut through the forest! They'll be back in time for tea! Off they skip, unaware that in the woods a hungry horde of mischievous and hilariously goofy monsters is waiting… An irreverent and zany count

Q&A with Sarah Warburton

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

I’ve been illustrating for a long time. I studied illustration at college back in 1994. When I left, most of my real learning started! I began working mainly in educational publishing – textbooks, reading schemes. This taught me how to draw in a more appealing way, stick to a deadline, and speak to clients. I had a good agent. When I felt I needed a change and wanted to illustrate more picture books, I was lucky to find a new agent, who I have now. There’s been many ups and a few downs along the way, but she has been a huge key in any success I’ve had.

How did you begin illustrating Ten Delicious Teachers?

I always start by getting a gut feeling about any text I’m asked to look at. A good sign is when I genuinely laugh at it. Ten Delicious Teachers was definitely one of these! I immediately imagined a mischievous group of monsters in my head. The original monster sketches haven’t really changed that much to those in the final book.

The ideas for the teachers themselves came much later with help from Ross. I have to say, from the start I was rooting for the monsters! At one point, I wanted to illustrate each teacher inside each monster’s tummy – just sat inside, unharmed, bewildered or annoyed at being eaten. Some maybe marking a book or two? Unfortunately, I just couldn’t make it work.

Can you tell us more about your artistic process?

I work from home in a garden office. I start the day by walking my dog and then begin work around 11am. I often work nights and weekends if I need to. My office is very messy!

I work with a pencil drawing and then scan that into Photoshop to colour. I like to bring in textures I’ve created from ink, or different pencil textures. I hate doing lots of rough sketches. I like the freshness. More recently, I’ve been doing roughs as thumbnail sketches. I find this makes me feel a bit freer and less daunted by an expanse of blank paper. Often great ideas come to me in the final artwork. Working digitally is great because I can put in or take out anything that doesn’t work.

I’ve always loved dark and 'edgy' illustrations, but as soon as I started working professionally, I realised that I had to re-think my colour palette and the way I drew. It was a long learning process, and it still is. I still love the dark and atmospheric artwork, but these days I’ve managed to learn how to use rich colours, shadows and light instead. You’ll often find long shadows and dense forests in my work!

What was your favourite spread to illustrate in Ten Delicious Teachers?

This is hard to answer as I have lots. However, I think I’d have to go with the ones that make me chuckle every time. One of these would be the spread in a grassy meadow where Teacher number 6 is happily wading through the long grass, waving his stick completely oblivious to the monsters closing in. The theme music for JAWS plays in my head when I see this spread!

The other one I love is of the dark caves, where a teacher happily lights up a match to light her way and then just illuminates the monsters surrounding her. Poor teacher, but I find it very funny.

What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent?

I read so much as a child in the 70's and 80's, but I honestly can’t remember many classic picture books from that time. The books I devoured the most were the Ladybird books, classic fairy tales. My favourite was Cinderella. In the ladybird version, she went to 3 balls and had 3 different dresses! Also, in the illustrations, one of the dresses just seemed to ‘glow’.

When my children were small, one picture book became our family favourite, and that was Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins. It was perfect for fun language, and we still use some phrases like ‘Grumpy fish’ even now.

I’ve recently found older illustrators like M.Sasek and Mary Blair, who I love.

I have to admire the original Oi Frog by Kes Gray and Jim Field. I also really loved Lights on Cotton Rock by David Litchfield. The shadows, forests and lights in that book are amazing! 


A special thanks to our guest this week, Sarah Warburton!
Ten Delicious Teachers is now available in paperback from all good booksellers.