This month's Featured Illustrator is Beccy Blake, whose colourful world of creatures and characters have appeared in a wide range of media, from publishing and the greetings industry to comics and most recently, animation, all produced from her studio in Bath. See more of Beccy's work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery

One of my earliest memories is of that hot summer of 1976, I was stretched out on a rug over a very dusty parched lawn, drawing on some printer’s paper (Dad was a printer so he brought paper back from work for me to draw on). My mother appeared, looking very funky with her afro hair, with feed for the ducks who all swarmed around her, the goats munching on the nettles at the side of the garden and chickens racing about hoping to get some of the duck ‘all bran’ (which I used to think it looked like). It was a hazy laid-back kind of day, and I was drawing the chickens. I was lucky in that I was surrounded by encouraging adults and friends who used to like my drawings and I think this confidence at such an early age helped me on my later career path. I loved comics, particularly Fat Freddy’s Cat, Asterix, Giles cartoons and The Beano, and of course favourite illustrated children’s books such as Richard Scarry’s bonkers Busy Busy World, Uncle Lubin by William Heath Robinson where his serpents and fairies were so real to me, Mervyn Peake’s Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor and Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are. The darkest recesses of my imagination delighted in Arthur Rackham’s illustrations of trees whose eyes and crawling hands scared me to bits every time we went for a walk in the bluebell woods near our home in Hampshire. One of my favourite books was The Child’s Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, and a garden of imagination it is - I remember loving taking a journey into a different world thanks to both the words and his beautiful illustrations.

Busy Busy World by Richard Scarry (Golden Books, 1965, reprinted by Random House)

The Adventures of Uncle Lubin by William Heath Robinson (1904, reprinted by Young Puffin)
Mervyn Peake and Maurice Sendak
A Child’s Garden of Verse, RL Stevenson, illustrated by Brian Wildsmith (Franklin Watts 1966), and Arthur Rackham A Life in Pictures, James Hamilton (Pavillion 1990, reprinted 2011)

Then by the 1980’s, two little brothers appeared. And being 11 years older I was very much the big sister. I loved reading them the picture books I’d loved, and drawing with them when they were little. I think it was at that point when they were small and I was a teenager that I really took my drawing seriously and decided to apply for art college. Just before starting art college I won a cartoon competition run by the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, which gave me a real boost and so I carried on drawing comics along with my more serious work. I also painted a narrowboat that hot summer before starting art college.

The foundation course I took at Manchester Metropolitan University was amazing…the days of “Madchester” and a hub of the music scene. You try a bit of everything on a foundation course and printmaking became my ‘thing’…I explored the city, and soaked up its industrial past; it was still quite a rough place in those days, a lot to see and experience. The art galleries and contemporary art shows were very inspirational. I went onto Newcastle upon Tyne to do a BA (hons) degree in Graphic Design and illustration and loved the three years I was there. Six to eight weeks for project deadlines were bliss. Again I explored the city and Northumbrian countryside, and more artistic influences popped into my life at college, I loved going to the Laing Art Gallery regularly. It was also a total joy seeing my fellow art students' work, and great to see most of them having flourished and continue in different areas of art and design to this day. It was a real thrill when years later my own kids loved my old art college friend Neal Layton’s books, Poo - a natural history of the unmentionable (written by Nicola Davies) and Bartholomew Bear being firm household favourites. It’s great to share ideas, and you get this at art college and later on if you’re lucky enough to share a studio.

I work from my studio at home in Bath with my partner, Steve Rawlings, who is also an artist and illustrator (and my creative director!) two kids, two cats and a pond full of frogs and newts. I’m supported and represented by Sylvie Poggio Artists, based in London. She keeps me out of mischief most of the time. I mainly work on educational titles, on picture books, text books and editorial commissions, science and wildlife illustrations and have also produced greetings cards. Recent clients, both here in the UK and overseas, include Franklin Watts, Wayland and Hachette Children's Books, Oxford University Press, GirlGuiding Uk, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Waitrose and John Lewis, Highlights for Children (U.S) Arastirmaci Cocuk Merkezi (Turkey) FLTRP (China) Scholastic (USA), Chunjae Education (South Korea). I use mainly pencil or pen and ink, with watercolour, and also digital tools (photoshop, illustrator, and Storyboard pro). I’ll often combine traditional with digital, and use a Wacom pen to achieve this. You can’t beat a decent pencil like a Staedtler blue or Faber Castell mechanical pencil, I always start my rough sketches with those.

Some recent titles I've illustrated

Lost Tooth! work for a Turkish science magazine for children

Detail from 'Anything can happen'

G is for Grace

Scary wood

Another influence on my comic work has to be the late and wonderful Ronald Searle, his cats, Molesworth and St.Trinians are hilarious.

I’m currently working on an animal comic called Ozzy and Elsie which has been up on my Instagram page for a while but has been pretty popular. The comic came about from doodling cartoons of our cats, and then family and friend’s cats and dogs, and the odd rabbit, while my children had their swimming lessons on a Saturday morning. It was partly to entertain them when they were waiting for each other to finish swimming, although they’re probably more suitable for older children and teenagers upwards. Although my 11-year-old daughter loves editing and adding her own jokes to them sometimes. They feature a long suffering single Dad cat, Ozzy, and his cat daughter, Elsie, and now cousin Milo from Russia has moved in as well, I try and theme them on current events and how they all react to them. They are mainly illustrated in pencil or black and white pen, however I recently was asked to illustrate a piece on social distancing so used all my characters keeping two metres away from each other, and for the first time they were in colour!

Ozzy and Elsie
Stay safe!
Uncle Tommy and Uncle Fluffy
I also paint murals, on walls in both domestic, retail and corporate settings and also three-dimensional objects. I got asked to paint an owl for Minerva's Owls of Bath in 2018 and also a lion for Lions of Windsor and Maidenhead in 2019. It was fab painting them and very happy when they were auctioned off for charity and bought by local businesses, Curo in Bath and The Cinnamon cafe in Windsor, who have since put them on permanent display for all to see. It’s particularly lovely to see kids looking at them and spotting things.

Owl design front
Mowlberry beak, Owl for Bath
Windsgrr! Lion finished
My latest excitement is having been involved doing the storyboarding and working with the design team at a local animation company, Complete Control, on Nick Cope’s Popcast currently on CBeebies. It was total fun, and really tapped into my comic and story-making thoughts and idea processes. Drawing the storyboards is the first step in animation. The team were wonderful to work with - all of us on the same wavelength, working as a team and loving Nick’s songs and ideas for children and stunning to see them brought to action on television. It was very inspiring.

I’m currently working on a large scale piece, experimenting to see where it goes, while listening to a good music vibe in the studio.
Hello from us!


See more of Beccy's work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.
Beccy's personal website is here. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook. Her agent is SylviePoggio

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