That’s illustrator Leila Rudge. She’s eagerly awaiting the breakfast we’re going to have this morning. “As it’s a special occasion,” she said, “I’ll have fat, fluffy pancakes with crispy bacon and a fried banana. Pile ‘em up!” I’m in!
Droll. Charming. Understated. These are all adjectives that have been used to describe her illustrations. Rudge was born in England and currently makes her home in Australia, but some of her illustrated books, such as Meg McKinlay’s No Bears (Candlewick, 2012), have been published here in the States. Her newest book, Ted, which she both wrote and illustrated, is currently only available in Australia but will be out in the UK and U.S. early next year.
Leila shares lots of art today, including all kinds of peeks into her sketchbooks, which I very much enjoy, given that—as you’ll see below—she’s not committed to just one style of drawing, the one style we end up seeing in her published illustrations. As an art-lover, I find this fascinating to see.
I thank her for sharing, and let’s get right to it.
Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?
Leila: Illustrator with a few stories up my sleeves.
Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?
Jules: What is your usual medium?
Leila: I like to use a mixed-up medley of pencils, inks, paper and glue. My studio floor is a sea of tiny magazine trimmings.
Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?
Leila: Early readers don’t necessary need illustrations, so it’s a bit like joining up the dots. Illustrations in picture books, however, should tell at least 50% of the story and add a whole new adventure.
Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?
Leila: Newcastle, Australia. It’s a secret, seaside city about two hours north of Sydney.
Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?
Leila: Dogged determination and then a sprinkling of luck.
Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?
Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.
Leila: It’s always lots of fun visiting schools. Children are so keen to tell you stories. One time when I was five, and my brother was two, and he had a pet hamster called Jeffrey, and Jeffrey ran away, but then I found him in my dad’s shoe and…
7-Imp: If you teach illustration, by chance, tell me how that influences your work as an illustrator.
Leila: Is it wrong to take story ideas from a five-year-old?!
Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?
Leila: This week I’ve been finishing off some illustrations for a book about a funky skunk. It should be out early next year. But there are always new characters popping up in my sketchbooks and demanding attention.
Okay, we’ve got our tea (yes, tea, not coffee, given the tattoo that Leila reveals below), and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven(ish) questions over breakfast. I thank Leila again for visiting 7-Imp.
1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?
Leila: Planning is essential for me. I always start with teeny tiny thumbnail ideas that eventually make their way into a storyboard. I then work (very messily) on full-size layout paper until I’m happy with each page layout. I trace the roughs onto heavy watercolour paper, using a lightbox, and then it’s just a case of colouring inside the lines.
2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.
Leila: I’m very lucky that my studio is set up at home. There are shelves heavy with picture books. Boxes full of magazines. And two separate desks. Computers and inks are not a match made in heaven.
3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?
4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)
5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?
Leila: Funnily enough, I find music quite distracting. However, radio is essential. Radio National is my daily hum.
6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Leila: I have a tattoo of a cup of tea. Yep.
Jules: What is your favorite word?
Jules: What is your least favorite word?
Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Jules: What turns you off?
7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)
Jules: What sound or noise do you love?
Leila: My kettle whistling.
Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?
Leila: Paper jammed in my printer.
Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Leila: Something that involves food.
Jules: What profession would you not like to do?
Leila: Something that involves creepy crawlies.
Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Leila: “Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.”
All artwork and images are used with permission of Leila Rudge.
The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, © 2009 Matt Phelan.