This month's featured illustrator is Suffolk based Beverley Gooding, a children's illustrator with wide publishing experience, and now author-illustrator. See more of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.


I remember as a child saying to my Mum that I was bored. My Mum would have none of it and with various ideas and giving me free rein to make a mess would send me off to create, paint or make something. I also remember when I was about 11 finding a copy of The General, written by Janet Charters and illustrated by Michael Foreman, in the under stairs cupboard at home. I was totally captivated by both the story and the illustrations. It has remained to this day my favourite children’s book and I have the 50th Anniversary copy. 

The General, by Janet Charters, illustrated by Michael Foreman (Reprint edition by Templar books 2010)


At 18 and in need of a way to earn a living I chose a graphic design course at Ipswich School of Art. I reasoned it was creative and had a fair chance of leading to gainful employment. Although I enjoyed some aspects of the course I spent much more time than I should wandering around the illustrator’s studio. Eventually the visiting lecturer suggested I find a children’s story and illustrate some of the text. I chose Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, the wonderful story of the adventures of Mole, Ratty and Toad and completed five large full colour illustrations towards the end of the graphics course. I would like to thank Andre Amstutz, (the illustration lecturer in question and collaborator on many books with Allan Ahlberg), for his encouragement. Without doubt it led to my becoming a children’s book illustrator.

At the end of the course I started a job as a graphic designer/illustrator in London for a firm of business consultants doing charts, maps and graphs. After a year I approached Methuen, who still owned the rights to publish The Wind in the Willows, with my five illustrations. Back then, in 1978, if you wrote a polite letter asking to show your work you were invariably asked in for an interview. Unbelievably they asked if I would be interested in illustrating three chapters from the book in large picture format to introduce younger readers to the classic tale. It was the beginning of a wonderful working relationship with Methuen which lasted for 10 years. During this time I was short-listed for The Frances Williams Award at the V&A for Moles Christmas. It was the year Raymond Briggs won for The Snowman


Being a children’s book illustrator has led to many interesting projects. I have taken art workshops in schools and been invited to book fairs across the UK and USA working with children to produce paintings, collages, mosaics and murals. After exhibiting my illustrations at the Polka Children’s Theatre in London I spent two years there working on prop and set designs. Subsequently I was approached by the Wolsey Rep Theatre in my hometown and invited to design sets and props for Youth Theatre and Theatre in Education. These were all wonderful experiences. 

In my early forties I applied to Cambridge School of Art to do a BA hons degree in illustration. I needed a jolt, a new way of approaching the creative process. One of the modules was ‘Writing for Images’ and it was then that I began to write stories as well as illustrate them. It was exciting to develop stories alongside the illustrations and to become much more engaged with the individual characters in the story. At the end of the course I submitted two stories to the Macmillan Prize for Children’s Book Illustration. I was awarded second prize for Bertie Looks Back and commended for Tom and Mabel.

I illustrate full colour picture books for 3 to 5 year olds. I constantly go back to story ideas I may have started months ago or years ago because sometimes something clicks! My favourite illustrator/author at the moment is Oliver Jeffers. I love all of the books he has produced since and including How to Catch a Star. He tells such lovely stories full of humour and heart. It’s something I aspire to! 

                        How to Catch a Star, by Oliver Jeffers, published by Harper Collins in August 2015

Without doubt experience has taught me, and it may seem obvious, to start with a strong story. One that really does have a beginning, middle and end, a cause, effect and resolution. One that might have a little gentle wisdom to impart maybe about sharing, being kind to others, being helpful or just a good tale of high jinx! So many times I have had a good idea but have found myself with a story that simply doesn’t work, is not well rounded and doesn’t ‘flow’ from one page to the next. I am definitely still learning.

Max and Tallulah, a little love story is my second book as author/illustrator and recently the BBC asked if they could read it on their lunchtime CBeebies story time programme. Needless to say I am thrilled. Cottage Door Press have told me they are going to re-publish it next year which is also very exciting.


                  Max and Tallulah, by Beverley Gooding, published by Parragon in November 2014

I am working on several new story ideas and I have just completed a dummy of my latest tale which I hope will be published next year. I consider myself amazingly fortunate to be a children’s book illustrator!


See more of Beverley's work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

Her personal website is here

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful work and it was lovely to read your article, thank you for sharing :)


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