This month’s featured illustrator is Suzanne Dore. Our serving Art Director for Words & Pictures, Suzanne grew up in Guernsey and is now based in Oxford. See more of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

I’ve always loved books. When I was young, it didn’t really matter what those books were, as long as they had pictures in them. But my first love was the Mr Men series. I was about six when I met Roger Hargreaves and discovered that you could draw for a living, from then on, every birthday and Christmas I asked for new pens, pencils and paints.

I did Art Foundation at Middlesex Polytechnic, where I unlearned everything I had learnt at school. It was fun, colourful and experimental. I discovered printmaking, textures and line making.

My sense of layout and composition was honed, and my attempts at anything three-dimensional were discouraged. Most of my time was spent screen-printing; planning the composition, mixing colours, and creating transparent layers – techniques I still use today, on my Ipad Pro. I went on to do Fine Art (Printmaking) at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Degree Show
 After Manchester, I moved to Oxford …and I fell into a creative abyss… what I now refer to as my ‘retail years’. I needed to be creative again. So, I went back to college to study graphic design, marketing, advertising and business studies. I became a graphic designer, working for a couple of companies before I set up on my own. Through my job, I’ve illustrated for the National Trust, the Royal Philatelic Society and the University of Oxford, as well as many private commissions. But illustrating children’s books was still at the back of my mind. So, when my workload allowed, I started to build up my illustration portfolio.

I went on many picture-book courses, both online and in real life …and my children’s book collection began to grow significantly.

I joined SCBWI in 2015, in order to enter the Undiscovered Voices (UV) competition. I was very happy to be shortlisted. Encouragingly, I got shortlisted for UV again, the next time it ran. I won the SCBWI British Isles Conference badge competition in 2018.

Undiscovered Voices entry: Wild Wood

Through SCBWI, I’ve been to many events; masterclasses, agents’ parties and retreats. I’d recommend going to as many as you can, as they’re great fun, they’re full of really useful information, you meet incredible people and gain many amazing friends along the way. I also found my wonderful critique group with the help of SCBWI, their support and encouragement are priceless.

Portfolio review with Tiffany Leeson

At the SCBWI Picture Book Retreat
I’ve also attended PictureCamp in Spain, and the Cambridge Anglia Ruskin Summer School. Both gave me the opportunity to meet some inspiring people. I’ve entered the Templar competition twice… and been shortlisted twice. I’m hoping for third time lucky this year. And, last year I was thrilled to be picked for the Pictures at Play exhibition in London, along with some amazing fellow SCBWI artists.

My process has changed since I started illustrating. I used to work in watercolour over a lightbox, with my line drawing underneath. I scanned this in, then spent hours in Photoshop tidying everything up.

Nowadays, I take a photo of my rough sketches with my Ipad Pro and refine the work using multiple layers in Procreate. This also gives me the advantage of being able to ‘undo’ and easily move parts of the drawing around.

One thing that hasn’t changed are my rough initial sketches – in pencil, usually on cheap printer paper – these are where I work out the composition and/or try to find an unusual perspective to convey the story.

Most of the time, I build the environment first, the characters come after. It’s at this rough stage I’m also planning my colour scheme. It’s all about the mood I want to convey, and the magic of making the world come alive.

I have been, and still am, inspired by, in no particular order:

Illustrators: Jim Field, Júlia Sardà, Melissa Castrillon, Karl James Mountford, Benji Davies, Sophy Henn, Birgitta Sif, Oliver Jeffers, Jonny Duddle, Chris Haughton, Rachel Dean, John Burningham, Brian Wildsmith, Korky Paul, Elise Hurst and Chris Riddell. Writers: Erin Morgenstern, Michael Bond, Karl Newson, Peter Bunzl, Frances Hardinge, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Tove Jansson and Matt Haig. I’m sure I’ll keep adding to these lists forever. I feel privileged to have met a few of them in person, and I get super excited if I happen to get a book signed too.

Recently, I’ve been having Orange Beak tutorials with Pam Smy. This may be the best investment in my art I’ve ever made. Her insight into all things Children’s Book Illustration is, without doubt, invaluable. She has helped me discover, artistically speaking, who I really am. Pam has also instilled the importance of observational drawing to me. I now always carry a sketchbook wherever I go. You never know when you see or hear something which will spark an idea, which might make it into a book in the future.

I love learning, and I’ll never stop wanting to discover new skills or knowledge. This month, as well as signing up to a writing course, I’m striving to be braver. I find posting to social media difficult, without being sucked into comparing myself with others, but I know there is value in doing so. There is no point in creating anything if no one gets to see it – this is a lesson I need to work on.

My top tip: Believe in yourself. Be brave, be kind and most of all be YOU.

See more of Suzanne's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.
Her personal website is here.
Follow Suzanne on Instagram and Twitter


  1. Congratulations my dear friend. This is just the beginning. Enjoy your well deserved success.

    1. Thank you Hilal, hope you and your family are well. x


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