It’s time for the next interview in our ‘Spotlight On’ series and this week we’re speaking to the incredibly talented Bethan Woollvin! Bethan is represented by Helen Mackenzie Smith and her debut picture book Little Red won the coveted Macmillan Prize in 2014 and is due for publication next year.
1) What inspired you to start drawing and writing for children?
My inspirations are my brothers and sisters – we make funny characters and stories all the time. I think what actually got me making children’s books was university. I found that I was interested in illustrating narratives, and then the link to children’s books went from there. It’s such great fun, and it’s really nice that my siblings will grow up with my books.
2) What comes first: the drawing, the character or the story?
I think this really depends on what inspires you first. It can happen both ways for me: I can build a story around a character, or a character can form from a story. Little Red obviously came from a pre-existing fairy tale – so there, the character formed from the story.
3) What artist’s tool could you not work without?/ What is your usual medium, or––if you use a variety—your preferred one?
I absolutely could not work without gouache, but I’m quite messy when it gets down to painting, so tubes of paint are not an option! But Caran d’Ache do a variety of gouache in pans, which I work a lot better with. They also have a really high pigment which is great for making super bright artwork.
4) If you weren’t an illustrator/author what would you like to be?
If I wasn’t an illustrator/author, I’m not sure what I’d do. I’d possibly work within the creative industry still, but probably not in anything that’s as much fun as illustrating picture books is!
5) If you could collaborate with any other picture book writer/illustrator, past or present who would it be and why?
I have to say if I could choose anyone to collaborate with, I think it would be Jon Scieszka. Me and my family read his books over and over again, and still haven’t got over The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales. I think making a book with him would make me the coolest sister ever. Jon Scieszka, with the slim chance you’re reading this: let’s make a book together…
6) Who is your favourite fairy tale character?
It’s got to be Little Red Riding Hood. She’s the sassiest fairy tale character of all time – at least that’s how I see her!
7) What’s your favourite word/colour?
My favourite word is mischievous, and my favourite colour is red.
8) What was your favourite book when you were growing up?
I had a few favourites:
Moles Can Dance by Richard Edwards & Caroline Anstey
It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny by Marilyn Sadler & Roger Bollen
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
I still have all of these books too!
9) What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know, that I’m actually left-handed – it took me a while to figure out how not to smudge my artwork.
10) What has been your career highlight so far?
My career highlight has definitely been winning the Macmillan Children’s Book Prize in 2014!
Bonus question: what classic book of any genre would you most like to illustrate?
I have always wanted to illustrate The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. It’s such a great book!