Featured Illustrator: Anna Violet

For Featured Illustrator this month we spotlight Manchester based artist Anna Violet. A familiar presence in SCBWI and contributor to Words & Pictures, Anna's tactile and vibrant illustrations are rendered in a wide variety of materials including watercolour, ink and collage, all tied together with her own idiosyncratic style. See the Featured Illustrator Gallery for more examples of her work.

Personal path

Anna Violet - self portrait as a child
I was a child in the 1960s. I grew up with illustrations by Jean Primrose (Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, author Rumer Godden, 1961), Maurice Wilson (Fables from Aesop retold by James Reeves, 1961), Shirley Hughes (My Naughty Little Sister, author Dorothy Edwards, 1969) Alice and Martin Provensen (Iliad and the Odyssey, retold by Jane Werner Watson, 1965) and Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are, 1964).

Maurice Wilson's illustrations captivated me,
especially his foxes
This book even had instructions on how to make a
Japanese house!
Clumsy, messy and shy, I pondered on whether pigs could really fly and if fairies and harvest mice roamed wild in our garden. When I wasn't arguing with my brothers, looking after my mice or searching for dragons with my fairy wand, I had my nose in a book and my fingers in the pencils, mud and modelling clay. I was really chuffed to win a runner-up consolation prize in a Kellogg's Cornflakes competition for my drawing of a tram. I was also very proud of a Japanese doll's house I made from firelighters.

My drawing of a bus.
I didn't want to grow up, but accepted the inevitable when I hit my my teens. I trained and worked as a landscape architect for over 15 years, for three different councils. Armed with a parallel motion drawing board, a set square and stencils, I drew onto large sheets of tracing paper with technical drawing pens, scratched out mistakes with scalpel blades, and coloured-in dyeline prints with pantone pen markers. Computer-aided design was a mere speck on the horizon. Sometimes, I also had fun making models for meetings. At weekends, I made mess with clay and slip-trailers.

Paints, wobbly lines and happy accidents

When I became a mother in my thirties, I revisited childhood. My first born developed type 1 diabetes as a toddler and I became very focussed on home. It was a joy to rediscover picture books and children's fiction and share them with my children. I was impressed by Gerald Rose (Ahh Said Stork, 1977), John Burningham (Oi Get Off Our Train, 1989), Nick Butterworth (After The Storm, 1992), Margaret Bloy Graham (Harry the Dirty Dog, author Gene Zion, 1956), Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon series), Dave McKean (Varjak Paw series, author SF Said, 2003), Antony Browne (Voices in the Park, 1998), Patrick Benson (Owl Babies, author Martin Waddell, 1992), Satoshi Kitamura (Angry Arthur, author Hiawyn Oram, 1997) and Sam Lloyd (Mr Pusskins, 2006).

I love all the different marks Sam Lloyd uses in her illustrations.
One of my paintings from 1990s.
I loved messing around with paints, wobbly lines and happy accidents, without the constraints of technical drawing. I exhibited in galleries and did craft sessions with children. In 2006, I was lucky to get the chance to do a degree in illustration and get up to speed with computer technology and contemporary illustration at Stockport College, a bus-ride away. I graduated in 2009. I was introduced to the work of graphic designers and illustrators, including Paul Rand, Saul Steinberg, Christopher Corr and Beatrice Alemagna. I experimented with new toolkits (especially ink and string) and developed collage skills. I learnt the value of playfulness and I learnt the mantra, 'Less is More'. I started to sell limited edition prints of Manchester scenes and do decorative maps and commissions.

Decorative map for National Trust leaflet 2010 (Anna Violet)
Castlefield area in Manchester  (Anna Violet)


I begin my images by sketching and playing around with marks. Then I cut, scan, copy and collage. I do lots of observational drawings in my sketchbooks, and sometimes these lead to ideas.

My sketchbook pages with start of hedgehog character
My sketchbook images from Cheshire Show 2014.
Start of new goat character.
My sketchbook images from Cheshire Show 2014
In 2009, I joined SCBWI and shared stories with other illustrators and writers in crit groups, both online and in the Manchester group. In 2010, I won the Undiscovered Voices Tribute Illustration competition.
My winning entry for scbwi Undiscovered Voices
Tribute Illustration competition

I went to SCBWI masterclasses and the SCBWI conference 2011. I started to appreciate author-illustrators  Catherine Rayner (Augustus and His Smile, 2006), Alexis Deacon (Beegu, 2003), Helen Stephens (How to Hide a Lion, 2014), Lizzy Finlay (Dandylion, 2009), Sarah McIntyre (Sharks in the Bath, 2014) and Jon Klassen. In 2013, I won the SCBWI Promo Mailer competition and my prickly hedgehog image was selected for the 2013/2014 touring SCBWI Illustration Showcase.  My illustrations have been published in Oxford Reading Tree Books in 2011 (How Anansi Got His Stories, level 8) and 2014 (Big Ears and Sticky Fingers, Infact level 9) and Spider magazine (Carus Publishing) 2013.

How Anansi Got His Stories (OUP 2011)

I've been developing my writing with several picture book stories - stories with harvest mice, fledgling umbrella birds, frogs, wrens, shrews, foxes and dragons. Oh, and I've been pondering again on whether pigs can really fly...

Pig flying over Beech Road, Manchester (Anna Violet)

Check Anna's Featured Illustrator Gallery page to see many more examples of her work. Her personal website is at  www.annaviolet.co.uk
Follow Anna on her blog here


  1. Wonderful, Anna! I love your style and your story and the flying pig is magnificent!

    1. Thanks Jan! Great to meet you in person yesterday, too.

  2. I really enjoyed this feature. Brilliant Anna, lovely work. Really like the Cheshire show sketch book pages.

    1. Thanks Heather, it was a lovely day spent animal-watching.

  3. Fascinating insights Anna, love your sketchbook hedgehogs. It's interesting to learn how you came to be illustrating and writing.

    1. It's interesting developing sketchbook ideas and then, much later, looking back and remembering how you started!

  4. Brilliant. I will think of your pig now whenever I walk down Beech Rd.

    1. Ha ha, hope it makes you smile on the school run!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this! It's nice to be reminded of 'Miss Happiness and Miss Flower' and we had an Aesop's fables illustrated by the Provensons. Also i have a print of your beautiful spiky hedgehog from last year's conference.

  6. Love your work Anna. Your flying pig is brilliant!

  7. Thanks Ana and yes - love that pig too - hope that project flies too! Also love the Provensens in particular...


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