Illustrator Interview: PIERRE THE FRENCH BULLDOG RECYCLES with Bethany Straker

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Introducing Bethany Straker, illustrator of my second picture book, Pierre the French Bulldog Recycles, published in March 2015 with Sky Pony Press…

Kate Louise: Hi Bethany! Thanks for stopping by. First can you share with us what techniques and materials you used for the Pierre art?
Bethany Straker: Hi Kate! Thanks for having me. So, for this book, I wanted to use a lot of detail as the subject matter deals with a lot of rubbish, dirt and fur! I incorporate a lot of objects and types of dogs, so I thought I would use a selection of drawing pens and pencils, which would then be scanned and coloured in photoshop. I selected a colour palette that I felt matched the theme and feel of the book. This is often one of my favourite parts, as choosing colours can really alter the outcome of how the book finishes up.

KL: Why picture books? What do you love about them?
BS: I love working on picture books both for children and adults, and I think the reason for that is that often they can be comical, which is what this style I’ve worked with suits. I’ve worked on more serious projects before but I do enjoy putting some visual jokes in there. With Pierre the French Bulldog Recycles I loved the image of Pierre building up an enthusiastic following of dogs chasing him across the page, stopping to look at sausages, jumping up excitedly and falling into ponds along the way – just a nice little extra to help tell the story.

KL: What do you enjoy most about collaborating on a project?
BS: When I got my first book deal for something I’ve both written and illustrated, which was for ‘The Funny Bunny Fly’, I was over the moon – but suddenly felt a bit strange about not running my ideas past an author as I did them. I was the author, so suddenly there was a huge amount of pressure. I could only ask friends what they thought, and they might just be being nice! I really enjoy bouncing ideas off someone who is invested in the project, who cares as much as I do if it succeeds. I could feel your enthusiasm as we worked together, and it inspired me and encouraged me.

KL: What was your favourite thing about working on Pierre the French Bulldog Recycles?
BS: Initially I found working on the illustrations quite difficult, as I struggled with Pierre’s profile (French Bulldogs are really flat from the side!) and getting across his character. I think that once I was happy with his ‘personality’, it was once of the most satisfying and enjoyable parts of working on the book. The other favourite thing was getting to meet and work with you, of course, too!🙂

KL: Finally, your process – how does the artwork go from an idea/sketch to a final spread?
BS: I am one of the most impatient and rule breaking illustrators I know! Many artists have reams of sketches, ideas and thumbnails before they begin, but with me, I often get frustrated when my roughs are better than my final drawings. Therefore I get stuck in quite early on after just a few very rough thumbnails, and if I’m not happy, I throw it away. Therefore every piece of work is potentially a ‘final’ piece, it just depends if I like it or not!

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