Sunday 7 July 2013

Introducing Catherine Rayner and her brand new creation Abigail...

I have long been a fan of Catherine Rayner's menagerie, It's always a treat to discover which type of creature the new addition will be and this time it happens to be Abigail the Giraffe (about whom I will tell you more shortly). 

Each creature in the Catherine Rayner collection is crafted so deftly and with such flair that they almost hop, crawl and tumble out of the pages of her books. 
Every single animal adopting a very individual and utterly charming personality.

Catherine's clever use of colour to evoke an atmosphere instantly transports the reader to  Africa where we meet Abigail, a gentle story about friendship and the shared pleasure of counting things . 

Abigail the Giraffe has a passion for counting much like my passion for book sniffing, she counts leaves, the spots on a ladybird and a flock of tropical butterflies but thing start to get tricky when she tries to count the stripes on a herd of Zebra and the spots on a particularly speedy Cheetah! 

Growing increasingly impatient she decides to share her love of numbers and teach her errant chums how to count. This wonderful story culminates in a gorgeous gate-fold spread revealing a myriad of stars scattered across the night sky. A triumph which young readers will adore. 

We are lucky enough to have dearest Catherine with us at Book Sniffer Towers to tell us more about the creation of Abigail and some other very exciting projects.    

 Firstly CONGRATULATIONS  on the publication of Abigail - Can you tell us a bit about how Abigail came to be and the process you go through to create a new character...

Thank you!Creating a new character is a really random process. I usually start obsessing about a creature for a while before I start to draw it. I never really know where or when an obsession will start, it just grows, from a small seed, inside my mind. Some creatures grow in to fully fledged characters, other stay in sketchbooks for years. Iris and Isaac were in a notebook for seven years, I think Abigail was scrawled on a page in my diary for five. 

I first drew her in a Pizza Express, in Ilkley whilst waiting for my lunch! She is named after my sister, Abigail, because I’ve always loved her name, she loves my books, and I thought she deserved a giraffe to be named after her. Most importantly though,Abigail just looked like an Abigail! Anyway, I start with a sketch which eventually turns in to a character (if it’s any good). The character and the story develop together. For example – Augustus the tiger always looked sad when I started to draw him, and he cheered up along the way, so I created a story around the idea of him finding his smile. Abigial was a giraffe and they are very tall, so it made sense for her to count something very high up (not to give the ending away!). I have always wanted to do a counting book, but I didn’t want the counting aspect to be too heavy. I hope I achieved a nice balance between learning and story time in the book.

Which of the character in Abigail is most like you? 

I think I’m most like Zebra. I’d eat all the leaves if I could…

Does your work involve a lot of observational drawing? Where is your favorite place to sit and sketch? 

I do a lot of observational sketching. I spend a lot of time in my horse, Shannon’s field drawing her. It’s my favorite thing to do in the summer.

How has your workchanged? 

I’ve become a little more confident about what I’ve drawn. I used to re-draw things ten or sometimes twenty times before I was happy. Now I know when something kind of works. Although I’m never confident enough to think it really, really works. I still doubt everything I do and always wish I had more time or energy to do it again.

Who will the next addition to the Rayner menagerie be? I'm assuming not a pug.. .(sadly)

Not a pug (I’m sorry). I’m hankering after a guinea pig – I love them. I’ll pretend it’s for my son, but really it’ll be for me. I’ll have to wait until he’s a bit bigger though or no one will believe me.

Can you introduce us to your real life collection of animal friends, You have a wonderful equine companion don't you? 

I DO! She’s called Shannon! I love my horse, she’s a big thoroughbred who I’ve owned for 16years. She’s beautiful, loyal and one of my oldest friends. I first got her when I lived in a small village in Yorkshire – I had her all through my teenage years and now she lives with us in Edinburgh. We’ve been on many adventures together. When she first met my little boy Finlay, she licked him on his cheek– it was so touching. She’s old now, 22, but I still ride her on the hills outside Edinburgh most days and she’s really well. She’s a huge huge source of inspiration. She’s amazing.

We have a catcalled Ena, she’s very small and grey. She’s a very pretty little cat and she often contributes to my pictures with a slightly unwanted paw print or two…She is 9 years old now and sits on my desk under my lamp all day.

We also have a gold fish called Richard. He was called Rod but our Polish friend Eva, said Richard was a better name and changed it so that was that!

Exhibiting work - 

You've exhibited your beautiful work at several locations reccently - Is that something you enjoy doing and how does it feel when you sell a piece of original artwork,is it sad to see it go? Where can people see your work in the future?

The best thing about selling a piece of work, is that somebody liked it enough to want to look at it on their wall, in their home, every day. What an a honour!

I do get sad when people buy work directly form me. I’m sad to see it go out the front door,I don’t know why, I’m soft. I don’t get that feeling when a piece goes from a gallery as I think I’m happy it’ll be in somebody’s home.

I exhibit regularly across the UK. I currently have a big exhibition on at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle and I have an exhibition coming up in Touchstones,Rochdale. This exhibition will be full of my original illustrations from the books. It’s in a museum and there will be lots of children’s activities, as well as books to read. You’ll be able to see inside my sketchbooks and look at my drawing equipment too. It opens on the 6th July 2013.

You can find out more on my website or facebook or twitter.

Bear With Me - 

You were lucky enough to be the very first artist involved in the Bear With Me Book project - I imagine that being faced with a blank page at the very  start of such an amazing project was a slightly overwhelming! tell us a bit about that? 

Being first is difficult! Where on earth do you start!? A whole blank book with so many other lovely and talented illustrators to follow. How much detail will the others put in, will they fill the page? Do I write something – backgrounds, fonts, names,scale? Will mine look rubbish next to theirs? You’ve got literally nothing to go on. So I just did what I felt comfortable with – and drew a BIG bear … and I think it does look a bit pants compared to the sneaky peeks I’ve seen of the others drawings. Oh well, somebody had to start…

Whats Next - 

Can you tell us what you are currently working on and weather you have a dream project in mind which you would like to see realised. 

I’m currently working on a book about a smelly dog called Louie, he makes me laugh every day.Lets just say he stinks… ! I have so many dream projects I wouldn’t know whereto start writing them down. I have always really wanted to design a stamp though…


If you could go to tea with three characters from other children's books who would you choose? 

The Tiger (Who Came to Tea, of course!)

The BFG (wouldn’t that be AMAZING!?)

And the granny from Jack and the flum flum tree. I’d love a wise old Granny!

Ah – and I’d have to say Thomas the Tank Engine if I was allowed a fourth, my little boy Finlay would like to meet him and I wouldn’t be forgiven if I didn’t mention him…not sure if Thomas likes tea though…

Which essential tool of your trade could you not do without? 

FW liquid acrylic inks. I could not live without them.

What was the last book you brought? 

Another little Thomas the tank engine book, yesterday. I keep one in my handbag for emergencies…

Have you spotted any hot new illustrative talent lately who should we keep an eye out for?

Hmm – loads! But I love Gemma O’Neill – and she loves giraffes too – I think we could be friends!

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview for all the fans of Catherine Rayner (there're a lots in Taiwan :)


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