Illustrator Interview: TOUGH COOKIE with Grace Sandford

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Introducing Grace Sandford, illustrator of my third picture book release, Tough Cookie, published in November 2015 with Sky Pony Press…

Kate Louise: Hi Grace! Thanks for stopping by. First can you share with us what techniques and materials you used for the Tough Cookie art?
Grace Sandford: The artwork for Tough Cookie is mixed media and involves a variety of different techniques. Many spreads were separated into different layers, for example, the background and the foreground and drawn separately then composed together digitally afterwards. I ink the lines for the artwork first, scan the lines and then work on top of them with acrylic, colour pencil and ink. Once this is finished, I scan the paintings in and place the previously scanned line work over the top of the paintings to add definition and to complete the artwork. 

KL: Why picture books? What do you love about them?
GS: I’ve always been drawn (no pun intended!) to picture books and they have been a source of inspiration from an early age. There is so much creativity and brilliant storytelling in picture books that adults might possibly overlook. As an illustrator I fully support an art form where drawing and visual media is equally as important (and in some examples even more important) than written word to tell a story.

KL: What do you enjoy most about collaborating on a project?
GS: I enjoy illustrating other writer’s stories more than I do my own! It is because you can jump into the author’s world with a fresh and open mind and give their character a visual identity that is unique yet still embodies their written character. The great thing about picture books is that you can create narrative through pictures and draw small details in a spread that the author hasn’t written about for the reader to spot!

KL: What was your favourite thing about working on Tough Cookie?
GS: Tough Cookie was a complete joy to work on for so many reasons! It was my first book deal with my agent, Isabel Atherton. She put Kate and I together on this project which has worked out incredibly well. Working with Kate is a joy and I really hope we work together again (hint, hint, Kate!). The gingerbread man and the world around him was such fun to illustrate and I think that is down to Kate’s brilliant way of creating a fictional world that people want to be teleported to – I mean who doesn’t want to live in that bakery sliding on sprinkles with the gingerbread man? And finally, It was wonderful working with Julie Matysik who is a superstar editor!

KL: Finally, your process – how does the artwork go from an idea/sketch to a final spread?
GS: The artwork starts from very rough A4 sketches, A lot of illustrators like to have their roughs smaller but I am rubbish at working on a small scale! These roughs help decide compositions and important visuals that need to be significant enough to compliment the story. Once they have been approved, I work on a light box to draw over the characters to add detail and movement in their posing. When creating the final artwork I like to draw in different layers, One spread might consist of several pieces of A3 watercolour paper or Bristol board! I like to paint the backgrounds separately to the characters if I can and draw the characters on separate pages to get greater detail. When all of the traditional media has been completed, I scan them in and resize, edit and tweak the spreads digitally to finish.