Last year I went to an exhibition of work by graduates who’d just completed their Masters in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. It was hugely exciting to see innovative work by so many new illustrators and reinforced how much creative talent and expertise the UK is nurturing in this field right now.
Rosie was exhibiting and I was struck by the energy and individuality of her quirky characters. I wanted to commission an illustration for this site and knew she’d be perfect for the job. I’m absolutely delighted with the outcome - I particularly like the way her cast of bookish characters leap and dance across each page – and I hope you enjoy them, too. I think my favourite has to be the flying horse, but it was a tough call!
Rosie's been very busy lately, what with getting her first picturebook ready for publication, moving house AND having her first baby, but luckily she had time to chat to us and give us a peek into her studio...
Welcome to Cast of Thousands, Rosie! it’s been great working with you, and your illustration for the site is wonderful. Can you tell us a bit about how you approached the commission? What's your creative process like?
After reading a brief I always give myself time to draw playfully on the theme, not thinking too hard whilst I do so and often experimenting with media too. This usually results in a lot of colour palettes and drawings that need to then be rejected, but it seems to be an important first stage of the process, leading to better end results and pushing my work forward generally!
What kind of media do you prefer?
I tend to return again and again to simple coloured pencils, but I love experimenting with paint, print techniques and felt tips! I think the more you experiment, the better your work, even if your final work tends to often be in the same media. Experimentation changes and develops the way I make marks and express the things I want to express in the drawing.
Tell us a bit about your sketchbooks! Do you mainly draw from life or from your imagination?
Both! I love sketchbooks. I try to keep them fun and allow myself to be spontaneous and not rulebound with sketchbooks so that I end up using them more often.
I’ve always loved being allowed to peek inside an illustrator’s sketchbook. They’re such personal spaces, aren’t they? And it’s very exciting to catch a glimpse of the creative process in action.
Do you have a special project on the go at the moment? What are your illustration hopes for the future?
I have a book coming out with Child's Play Books this year - it's called Astrid and the Sky Calf - and am due to start working on a new one for them soon. I had my baby in March so currently any drawing is very much inspired by my experience of motherhood and done in snatches of time.
Congratulations on the book - and the baby! I expect you’ll be reading to him already!
Which books were important to you in your childhood?
There were so many that it's too hard to choose. I think The Snowman by Raymond Briggs and Dogger by Shirley Hughes were important to me. The themes of loss and friendship are so touching in those stories. More generally I loved pictures with lots and lots of detail and characters and when I was quite little I remember it being important that I could easily hold the books and turn the pages by myself, so partly for this reason I enjoyed the Mr Men and Ladybird books.
My most-loved books as a three-year old were also tiny… and when my daughter was the same age I bought her a set of miniature books – I’m sure prompted by that memory!
When you were a child, did you ever feel that you had to ‘do something’ after reading a book? And if you did, what did you do? Which books prompted this reaction?
When I felt that way, mostly I wanted to write more stories and act them out. I seem to remember the books that made me want to do that were a lot of the classic adventure stories by Enid Blyton, Nina Bawden and Michelle Magorian.
I think through drawing I liked coming up with my own stories. I remember drawing things from real life such as kids playing tennis and drawing illustrations for stories I had written. They gave us a lot of time to do this at my school, luckily.
I loved them too! Which children’s books do you particularly admire now? What do you like about them?
I love Tomi Ungerer's books. The drawing is beautiful, the themes and characters wonderfully odd and the messages strong.
How were books and reading shared and promoted as you were growing up? Was there anything that was particularly successful or memorable?
I guess simply being read to a lot had a huge impact. I loved primary school because we were always being read to and my mum read to me at every bedtime.
That’s such an important thing, isn’t it? Access to lots of books and at least one enthusiastic adult to help you find out what’s inside them!
Thanks so much for talking to us, Rosie, and for creating so many great characters for the site. We wish you the very best of luck with your first picturebook!
Rosie Faragher helped publish independent comics before completing her MA in Children’s Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. She graduated in 2018 and her first picturebook Astrid and the Sky Calf is coming out soon, published by Child's Play. Find Rosie on her website at rosiefaragher.co.uk and on instagram @rosiefaragher
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