Our first Featured Illustrator for the year is London-based Camille Whitcher, winner of the Salariya prize, and with a sensitive picture book style that reflects her Anglo-Japanese background. See her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

Like many illustrators, my love of drawing started very young. I liked drawing, painting, sewing, and pretty much anything arts- and crafts-based. My mind often changed about what I wanted to be when I grew up - dentist, airline pilot, psychologist - but I always veered towards studying art.

Meg, Mog and Owl By me aged 5

After completing a degree in Fine Art I was left feeling very disillusioned. I didn’t want to look at another pencil or paintbrush. I was at least able to use my degree to get a visa to go and work as an English language teacher in Japan (mum’s home country). Whilst there, I came across a lot of beautiful picturebooks both Japanese and non-Japanese. Having found out about a monthly themed postcard illustration competition, I started drawing again. I entered several times and was even chosen as one of the runners up on a couple of occasions.

A runner up and an example of my first foray into digital colouring - all one layer….Doh!

I eventually made my way back to the UK and signed myself up for several evening courses to figure out what my next career move would be. I tried courses in Japanese language, leather bag making, woodblock printing, as well as a short course in children’s book illustration at Chelsea School of Art with the lovely Carolyn Dinan.

Bags I made

Woodblock Lilies

Bunny Leaves for Work

After Chelsea, I continued with Carolyn at Putney School of Art’s part-time book illustration course. Carolyn encouraged us to enter the V&A’s ‘Inspired By…’ art competition. My piece, which was inspired by tunnel books and paper theatres, was chosen for exhibition and received a ‘highly commended’ award.

A couple of years later I finally decided to commit to children’s book illustration and applied for the Masters in Children’s Book Illustration at CSA. It was during this course that my debut picture book, Luna and the Moon Rabbit started taking shape as a wordless picture book. I’d known about the Japanese folklore of the rabbit in the moon for some time and thought it would be a good starting point to create the story.

First Cover Idea

Old Moon Rabbit sketches.

Grad Show

After graduating from the masters course in 2016, things didn’t immediately click into place. Following the graduation shows in London and Cambridge, and then having my portfolio shown on the Cambridge School of Art Bologna stand at the Bologna Book Fair that spring, I had a little interest from publishers but nothing fruitful. I became reluctant to contact publishers for fear of rejection. However, I found entering competitions no problem - not being selected somehow felt less of a personal rejection! And it has certainly paid off for me on more than one occasion.

I entered the Cheltenham Illustration Awards 2016 - Tales of Nonsense. I was one of approximately 60 illustrators chosen out of over a thousand entries to have my illustration appear in their annual. On top of that, out of those 60 or so illustrators, I was one of the 38 selected to have my entry exhibited at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s Art Gallery and Museum. This gave me a much needed dose of confidence.

Cheltenham Illustration Awards Annual - my page on the right.

A few months later a friend of mine told me about a new picture book competition - The Stratford Salariya Picture Book Award. However, they wanted picture book dummies with text - my Moon Rabbit dummy from the masters course was still wordless! So I got to work putting together some text and making minor adjustments to the images. I entered less than an hour before the deadline. When I found out I had won the competition I was astonished and so very chuffed!

In 2018, Luna and the Moon Rabbit was published by Scribblers (A Salariya Book Company imprint).

Desk work-in-progress for Luna and the Moon Rabbit

My Debut Picture Book

Since then I’ve continued to enter competitions and have been successful on several occasions. Most notably, this year when I came third in Plum Pudding Illustration Agency’s inaugural Plum Awards competition with my illustrations for Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. I was subsequently offered representation by them which I accepted. I entered my Plum Awards illustrations for the SCBWI Pictures at Play Biennial Exhibition this year and was one of 30 illustrators selected to exhibit.

Pictures at Play

My main tip for others would have to be - enter competitions! They’re a great way of working to a brief and sticking to a deadline. As for tips on illustrating style or technique, I’m not sure I could give any. I use a lot of pencil (regular and coloured), watercolours and inks. I’m dabbling more with digital colouring, with the aim of retaining a hand-drawn element. I’m still playing around and feeling out what works best and what doesn’t for me.


See more of Camille's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.  Camille is represented by Plum Pudding Agency.
Her website is here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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