This month's Featured Illustrator is Wiltshire based Annaliese Stoney. Inspired by the great tradition of pen and ink art, her drawings are packed full of humour and energy.  See the Featured Illustrator Gallery for a full range of her work.

As a child, I decided that when I grew up I was either going to be a milkman (I liked the idea of driving a milk float) or an artist of some kind. I loved reading The Beano, and I‘m pretty sure this formed my love of characters and sequential narrative.

It wasn’t until I was around about 14 and reading Roald Dahl’s Matilda for the umpteenth time however, that I had a lightbulb moment and realised that I could become a children’s book illustrator.

Some of my main artistic inspirations

I did an art foundation at Swansea Institute back in 2007 and then graduated from the BA illustration degree at Falmouth in 2011. This was immensely hard work, but my style was really honed with weekly crits and life drawing and culminated in us taking a business trip to New York in our final year to show publishers our portfolios and dummy books, which was a great experience. We exhibited our degree show at New Designers and New Blood that year and it was fantastic for making contacts in the industry.

After uni, I moved to leafy Wiltshire, where I took on a couple of part-time jobs to help pay the bills as I tried to pave my way as a freelance illustrator. I was incredibly lucky that these jobs were in the children’s section at Waterstones and the local library, giving me a 3-dimensional view of the industry and experience as someone who made, lent and sold books. More recently, I’ve worked as an arts playworker at an afterschool club with 4-11-year-olds. It’s given me hands-on experience with my target audience, as well as providing a great source of inspiration!

I wrote and illustrated my first picture book It’s Not Just a Blanket in my final year, which got published a little later in 2014 by Bonney Press (an imprint of Hinkler).

I kept developing and playing with new ideas, but it wasn’t until a chance meeting at Bologna book fair with a publisher a few years later that things started picking up pace. I have since illustrated 6 books for Salariya, all middle-grade. This has been a pleasant surprise, as although I still love picture books, I've discovered that I really enjoy illustrating for a slightly older audience and particularly the challenge of making learning fun; these latest books have been about the lives of famous scientists and involved illustrating comic-strip style snippets of their life, which has taken me right back to my early love of The Beano!

Having just completed the artwork for the latest book, I am about to embark on a new creative phase as I am expecting our first baby at the end of this month! I still intend to draw and create through the sleep deprivation though, so feel free to follow me on social media to track my journey...


I work at a studio at home (the glorified name for ‘spare room’). It’s taken me several years to work out a rhythm that makes me most productive. I do my composition and drawing work first thing in the morning, usually in silence so I can concentrate fully. I’ll do some pencil roughs, then I’ll put them on a lightbox and go over them in dip pen and ink whilst standing up (I learnt this trick from Quentin Blake- it helps creates a more energetic line).

Studio pic, where I do my inking-standing up, usually using a lightbox
I almost always use a dip pen

I’ll then either colour them traditionally, or digitally colour them. Regardless of how it’s coloured, I’ll always finish by editing them in Photoshop as I tend to get blobs everywhere!


Top Tips and Advice

1) Keep playing and sharing your work
Things I’ve found really helpful recently are Instagram challenges, like ‘inktober’, ‘drawing a day’ and ‘walk to see’ - a hashtag set up by illustrator Helen Stephens, encouraging the use of sketching on your daily walks. They have enabled me to play around and ensure I make time for developmental work. The Instagram community can be a really lovely way of spurring you on- as long as it remains about development, and not comparing yourself to others!

Instagram challenge - 'walktosee' hashtag created by Helen Stephens, encourages taking a sketchbook with you on your daily walks

2) Find a rhythm that works for you
There was a great book called Daily Rituals by Mason Currey that I came across when I worked in Waterstones that detailed various great creatives and their daily patterns/routines that helped them work- it was a very interesting and entertaining read (Dickens would stare out of a window for hours watching people before he’d sit down to write, another creative drank 7 cups of coffee with sugar and then would splurge write as fast as he could) but ultimately it showed that everyone is different and you’ve just got to find what works for you. I’ve found that I work best in the morning for some reason, but as soon as I have lunch it goes a bit downhill, so it’s best if I get out of the house for a walk, or work another job and be around people for a few hours in the afternoon. Afterwards, I can go back to work for a little bit, but then I try to make time for proper rest and play in the evening.

I try to make quick sketches of people I see-they may later inform a character idea for a book

3) Take time to be inspired
As a freelancer, it can also be really hard to allow yourself time to go and get inspired, because you can feel guilty for not being ‘productive’ with your time, and it feels like an unnecessary luxury. But it can also be a slog if you’re constantly producing work without feeding your creativity. I’ve come to view this ‘artist date’ time as really important, and more like an investment in my work, to keep it fresh - whether that’s visiting a gallery, people watching in a cafe, browsing through books at your local library or playing around with some new materials, do it - it will help keep your work fun and exciting.

Always carry a sketchbook-you never know when you'll meet a great character

Other artistic influences: Ronald Searle, Sempé, Hoffnung and Michael Dudok de Wit.


See more of Annaliese's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.

Her personal website is here.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter 

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