This month's Featured Illustrator is Stockport based Carly Gledhill. Developing her quirky book style from experience in children's apparel, Carly's books reflect a playful and decorative sense of design. 

I was meant to be a children’s book illustrator, It just took me a while to get there, looking back at my school work and the time I spent as a child drawing and colouring in, it was obvious! If someone had just told me earlier then this tale could have been a little shorter….

My design career began with a stint designing children’s clothing, I studied textile design at degree level and the mixture of graphics and garment design seemed like a good place to start working life. At the same time I undertook a part time Masters degree in Children’s book illustration at the University of Central Lancashire. I gained a lot from the course, given the time and space to find my own style. My final project was a collection of tactile, interactive children’s books and toys.

On completion of my MA I wanted to find a more creative role, less corporate and restricted design wise. I began working part time for Paper & Cloth design studio, creating illustration for children’s products and also started my own children’s brand called Corby Tindersticks. My brand allowed me free rein to design a collection in my style without too much commercial consideration.

I finally took the plunge to become self employed in 2016 and took on an illustration agent specialising in children’s books. Since then my first author/illustrated book Monty + Sylvester, a Tale of Everyday Superheroes (Orchard Books) has been published with the sequel coming this year. I have illustrated titles for Little Tiger, Penguin, and Elephant and Bird books.

My illustration techniques are either to hand draw/ paint and finish in Photoshop for a soft playful look or draw into Photoshop using my Wacom tablet for a really crisp and bold visual. I also like to hand draw lettering for use in my picture books and think this adds more character to spreads.

My advice for getting into book illustration would be develop your own style. A look that is personal to you is your strongest selling point. Art directors see a lot of work so it’s good to stand out.

Also keep at it, picture book illustration is a labour of love. It can take a while to be noticed and the market can seem overwhelming (especially if you visit the Bologna Children’s Book Fair!) but don’t let it stop you practicing and developing your portfolio.

You don’t have to do it full time to do it, I have three other jobs and many illustrators work across disciplines to make ends meet. Be open to different briefs and work outside your comfort zone, it’ll make you a stronger designer. Get a good agent who can nurture your career. Go and meet them and get to know them before making a decision and it’s a good idea to speak to artists on their lists before signing up, to get a feel for what they are like to work with.


See more of Carly's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.
Carly's personal website is here, on social media find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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