In the first of a new series of interviews with illustrators about their working processes, Rachel Wolf meets illustrator, painter and author Rebecca Green.

You are currently in Japan. Can you describe your studio space and whether your process has changed since being there, especially during such uncertain times? 

Yes! My husband and I live in Osaka and I work from home. As I’ve always had outside studios, the isolation of working from home in a foreign country took a lot to get used to. Additionally, because of the time difference, it’s not easy to reach out to my fellow illustrators in the middle of the day for feedback or commiserating. That’s been the most challenging, but living in Japan makes all of that worth it.

What are your favourite art materials? 

My favorite materials include acrylic gouache, coloured pencil, water-soluble crayons, cut paper and mixed media. I also thoroughly love experimenting with sculpture. Basically anything tactile - I’m not much of a digital artist.

Are you an avid sketchbook keeper; what role do they play in your process? 

I go through phases of sketchbooking, but I think of it more like visual journaling. I love to record my days, what I ate, little details I noticed. I might draw from observation or write thoughts. I also have loads of sketchbooks that are mostly words and notes for projects, thumbnails, planning, etc. Right now, I’ve been writing everyday but not necessarily drawing in a sketchbook but I’d like to get back into it. I think it’s every artist’s dream to have that perfect sketchbook of spontaneously stunning pieces but it’s not a reality for me. It’s too much pressure!

Who are the illustrators that have inspired you? 

Though not all technically illustrators, I’m quite inspired by Maira Kalman, Roger Duvoison, Morico Machiko, Andrew Wyeth and Beatrice Alemagna.

Can you describe the process from receiving a manuscript to the final artwork? 

The process can differ depending on publishers, but essentially after receiving the manuscript, the text is first paginated and organised into the page count. The trim is also decided upon (so I know the dimension of the sketches.) I often do super loose thumbnail sketches of the pages to show the AD and, after their feedback, I do more fleshed out sketches. Usually, the editor and AD choose three interiors and the cover to begin with so those can be used at book fairs, etc, and then I move forward on the balance of interiors, endpapers, details, etc. Afterwards, there might be some revisions, and I work with the designer back and forth to ensure the whole book looks cohesive. After that, the book is proofed for colour, and once it’s approved by me and the team, it goes to print! I receive an advanced copy and then wait for the book to come out! The whole process can take anywhere from 8 months to 12 months usually (which is why I’m often working on more than one book at a time.)

I’ve recently read Madame Saqui and was blown away by how much your illustrations brought the characters and era alive, can you describe the process of creating the characters? 

Thank you! The characters for that one were actually much easier than the world building and style. I read in detail about Madame Saqui and her parents, and since there were engravings and even photos of her, it was easy enough to bring them to life. I wanted the characters to feel flat and animated but classic at the same time - and to have playful but historically accurate clothing and details. The most difficult part was choosing color and style.

What do you do when you are struggling on a project? 

It depends on the struggle. Some struggles feel technical - I just have to keep working at it. I might take a little break and come back to it or I’ll start a part of the project on scrap paper - I’ll try to loosen up a little and reintroduce play. Some struggles are more internal, so no matter what I make, I don’t like it. When I feel like that, it means I need to do something else - work out, cook, talk to friends, take care of my non-illustrator human self.

Have you got any tips for illustrators starting out? 

Don’t begin your questions with ‘should’ so often. I hear illustrators ask, ‘What should I have in my portfolio? What should I illustrate? What should I write about?’ Instead think, ‘What if I made….’ We need fresh and unique approaches to illustration. When an idea feels too wild or you’re not sure it ‘fits’ I tend to think that’s a good thing. Artists can feel that they need permission to make what they really want, when in reality we most often box ourselves in.

I love your creative compass jar, it’s a great and simple tool for moving through creative blocks, can you tell us about how it works? 

Sure! There aren’t any hard rules, but essentially the jar is to hold all of your dream jobs, or jobs you wish you could get hired for. You make a list of 30 projects you’d love to create, cut them up, and place them in a jar. Next time you have a lull in your workflow or you’re not sure what to make - pull a project out just begin. Beginning is always the hardest part, but if you limit your options and have a task right in front of you, it’s often easier to follow through.

What is next for you, anything exciting you’d like to share? 

Yes! I’m on the cusp of a new phase in my career. I’m backing away from non-fiction picture books and I’m diving into writing and illustrating my own books as well as writing technique books to teach online and in-person workshops. In addition, I’m working on expanding my portfolio to encompass sculpture and installation…that sounds wild, but I have a very good feeling about it. I’m constantly finding the best way to be myself within the commercial field. It takes constant vigilance! 

Check out Rebecca's brilliant website and blog where she shares a lot of her process, as well as her Instagram.


Rachel Wolf is an illustrator based by the sea in Kent. She is currently a student on the Children’s Book Illustration MA in Cambridge. Find her on Instagram @racheltildawolf and

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