A relative newcomer to the world of children's book illustration, Rachel Quarry has already received attention in SCBWI's Undiscovered Voices and other media. Words and Pictures welcomes her as this month's Featured Illustrator, check the Featured Illustrator Gallery to see a range of her work.

Banner Art

In my house we love tea parties and picnics, so they seem to feature a lot in my work.  These patchwork characters are from a current project.  They have been working hard and deserve a break and a slice of cake.
Self portrait

Personal Path

I have always been ‘arty’ but have taken a roundabout route to illustration.  I studied languages for my first degree at Cambridge and then worked in organisations where I was able to speak French and German all day long.  Then I went to Middlesex Uni on a BA Fine Art course, and after that took a diploma in Children’s Book Illustration at the London College of Art.

An assignment for the children’s book diploma

In 2012 a friend tipped me off about the new SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Illustrators competition, so I joined SCBWI, sent off my entry and forgot all about it.  A few months later, to my enormous surprise, I found out that I was a winner!  I saw my work printed in a book and went to a lovely party where I met real illustrators and writers and art directors and agents and publishers.

My lucky entry for the Undiscovered Voices competition 2012.

I have remained a member of SCBWI, which has been a wonderful source of information and inspiration.  I have been to some excellent masterclasses and workshops where professionals have given feedback and encouragement, and where I have met lots of lovely and talented people.


I work from home and am a big fan of ‘multimedia’.  I draw my line with a brush pen, and then use a collage of watercolour, acrylics, fabrics and natural materials to provide the colour.  These days I use Adobe Photoshop a lot but I do love using real scissors and glue.
I am inspired by other illustrators who use collage techniques and fabrics in their work:  Mini Grey, Lauren Child, Charlotte Middleton, Lydia Monks, Eric Carle, Matisse to name a few.

Fabrics featured prominently in Matisse’s paintings.
Turner Prize winner Yinka Shonibare makes political statements with gorgeous African fabrics.

I have got to the point where I am always working on several projects at once.  At the moment I am working on a book about beekeeping, one about a girl with an invisible friend, and one set in a patchwork world.  The latter lends itself perfectly to collaging fabrics together – hurrah!

Patchwork Fields


I am always listening out for good tips.  Here are some I try to adhere to:
  • Don’t be discouraged by rejection letters.  A rejection letter with a comment should be considered an ‘A-grade’ and make you feel positive about your work. (I’ve had lots of these!)
  • Get regular feedback on your work from people outside of your family.  And listen to it.
  • Have more than one project on the go at any time.
  • Go to bookshops (not libraries) to see what is currently selling in the picture book market. (But do still go to libraries to borrow books!)
  • Try to establish a style which makes your work distinct from other contemporary illustrators.
  • Give your characters character and make them interact with each other on the page.

Check out the Featured Illustrator Gallery for more examples of Rachel's work. Her official website is currently under construction, in the meantime her portfolio can be accessed here.


  1. This is lovely, Rachel - your self portrait is perfect!
    I'm a fabric fan too and love your patchwork world.

  2. Beautiful and fun illustrations! Thank you!

  3. Interesting Rachel how you have an initial experience of foreign languages in common with quite a few other kids book illustrators. In Elzbieta's biography L'Enfance de L'Art she suggests that having spoken several languages as a WW2 child, she found that pictures attracted her as they could communicate something different and more 'stable'. Intrigued by the 'invisible friend' story in your pic in the portfolio Showcase gallery. Best of luck with all your projects


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