Edinburgh based Morag Hood is our Featured Illustrator for this month. As both author and illustrator, Morag specialises in printmaking techniques to create bold and colourful picture books for major publishers. See more of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

As a child I always loved reading, painting, drawing and making stories. It just took me a little while to realise that meant I should be making picture books!

Early work.

I knew I wanted to go to art college and decided to study Costume Design because it combined my love of text, character and story. After graduating, I worked for a few years backstage in theatres and began to realise it wasn’t the thing I really wanted to be doing. It dawned on me that not all adults still spent a lot of time browsing the picture book section of bookshops and that if I was going to be a creative, I might as well try for something I would really love – however unattainable that seemed!

Inspiring picture books.
I want my Hat Back by John Klassen ©WalkerBooks
Oh No, George by Chris Haughton ©WalkerBooks
The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers ©HarperCollins

A couple of short courses later and I found myself applying for the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. There I had the treat of being immersed in children’s books for 18 months, and I honed my skills as a writer and illustrator and discovered a love of print-making.

My first picture book

While on the course I entered the Macmillan Prize and was lucky enough to have both of my entries shortlisted. Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea went on to become my first published book with Two Hoots, an imprint of Macmillan. I have been working with them ever since, publishing When Grandad was a Penguin, I AM BAT and most recently The Steves. I am incredibly fortunate to be working with such a lovely imprint who takes a great deal of care in the way the actual books are printed and strives to replicate my original artwork.

Recently I have also had the opportunity to write a picture book text for Simon & Schuster UK which is illustrated by the excellent Ella Okstad. It has been such a treat to get to work with another illustrator and see what she does with my text. It is of course entirely different to what I might have done, which, for me, is the brilliant thing. And the book is sparkly!

I am very story-led in the way that I work, and really struggle to make images without a clear sense of story in place. My work always starts out as a series of tiny scribbly drawings in my sketchbook. I draw really small and fast when I am at the early stage of an idea.

From my sketchbook

I try to work with the words and the pictures at the same time because playing with the gap between the two is one of my favourite things to do. For me, that is where the real fun in picture book making lies.
A spread from When Grandad was a Penguin

From there I work up more refined drawings and structure until I am ready to start the final artwork. So far most of my work has been lino-printed. I print from home using water-based inks, without a printing press. The process can be quite laborious, but I (mostly!) enjoy the unpredictability that it brings, and the life that ‘happy’ mistakes can bring to an illustration when I am not entirely in control.

Lino printing The Steves and I AM BAT
I don’t stick strictly to one technique though – Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea is collaged from carrier bags, and I used bits of collage in The Steves and I AM BAT.

Sketchbook collage for ‘Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea’ and some beaks for ‘The Steves’.
My current work in progress combines layers of painted gouache digitally, slightly replicating a screen print but allowing me to make changes more easily and have a bit of control. I think it helps to mix things up a bit as it keeps the process feeling fresh!

For me, I find the key thing to remember is that not all hard work looks like hard work. In order to keep things fresh, it is NECESSARY for me to step back, go for a walk, have a coffee, chat with children’s book people (Yay for SCBWI!) and feed the creative brain. Keeping the sense of play in my work (both written and illustrated) is one of the things I find the most important, and difficult, to achieve.
A spread from ‘The Steves’.


See more of Morag's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.
Her personal website is here.
Follow Morag on Twitter @MoragHood, and on Instagram @Moraghood

1 comment:

  1. Morag, I loved seeing your work process and thoughts on creating! I especially got a kick out of the seeds of your ideas and your storyboard. Thank you for sharing, it is inspirational to those of us who hope we are inching towards publication. I think the British newsletter is the best of show!!! You must have some very dedicated souls working to keep this going!


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