In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features Camille Whitcher.

Camille is a London based British-Japanese illustrator and author. After graduating from the MA Children’s Book Illustration course at Cambridge, she won the inaugural Stratford-Salariya Picture Book Prize. Her winning entry, Luna and the Moon Rabbit, was published by Scribblers (an imprint of Salariya) in 2018. She’s currently working on a few picture book ideas and seeking literary representation…as well as training for her next half marathon!

Image from Luna and the Moon Rabbit

Image from Luna and the Moon Rabbit

Luna and the Moon Rabbit

Tell us about your creative space.

I wish I could say I had a lovely spacious studio with lots of light and a beautiful view of countryside out of the window! However, my space is a perpetually messy desk in my cramped bedroom in a bungalow in the ‘burbs. The view out of my window isn’t bad - houses opposite me plus the sound of the Tube trains - but I’m often distracted by skulking cats, delivery folk, the dog that lives opposite who keeps escaping from the garden and running up and down the road barking, and other such goings-on. Currently there is a noisy magpie wandering around near my window! I’m thankful I have at least this small space but it can be hard to separate work and non-work time.

Camille in her workspace

Your creative tools - what are they and why?

I almost always start with pencil. It’s the easiest tool for me to get my ideas down quickly. I keep a sketchbook but it’s not one of those ‘grammable sketchbooks filled with gorgeous artwork. It’s essentially a dumping ground for any idea or image that pops into my head. I can freely scribble and doodle in it without worrying about how it’ll look or what others will think of it, which is why I’m always reluctant to show it to anyone. After I get an idea that I think can be expanded into something or put into a narrative, I move onto drawing on loose cartridge paper. From there I will decide how/whether I want it to be coloured. At the moment I’m mostly working on digitally colouring pencil drawings as it’s much easier to edit/change. I previously worked much more in watercolours and inks but I seem to only do that now for things like Inktober where I will also sell the original artwork.


Camille working digitally

Do you need particular prompts to get started?

I don’t have any particular pre-work rituals apart from clearing off a tiny space on my desk! Depending on my mood or how my ideas are flowing, I’ll listen to some music while I’m illustrating - something without lyrics like the lo-fi chill out music on YouTube if I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing.


What is the best creative advice you’ve been given?

During the MA course at Cambridge, I remember being told to make stories about things we wanted to draw. That we don’t have to have a whole story from the start, just think about a scene we’d like to draw and draw it. Then, find the story within that.

There are three things that I try to do myself:

  • Look out for illustration (or writing) competitions - preferably the free ones - and work towards entering those. Sometimes they have specific themes which can be good practice for working to a brief. I find this helps keep me going to create portfolio pieces, as even if I don’t win anything, I still have something I can show.
  • If you get creatively blocked, go and do something completely different to clear the head. Things like going for a walk/run or watching TV/a film can kickstart an idea from seemingly nowhere. 
  • Try not to compare your work to other people’s. I have to take frequent breaks from Instagram because it leaves me feeling massively disheartened.


What was your favourite book as a child?

I didn’t actually really read much as a kid and didn’t have many books either. However, I did get a hardback copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Justin Todd for my 7th birthday and absolutely adored the illustrations in it.

As a child, Camille loved the illustrations in this book

What is your favourite ‘how to’ book about writing and/or illustrating?

I have two solid go to books. The first is Writing with Pictures: How to write and illustrate children’s books by Uri Shulevitz. It’s not the most recent of ‘how-to’ books but it covers so much ground. The second is a fairly recent acquisition, Writing Picture Books: A hands-on guide from story creation to publication by Ann Whitford Paul. As I’m predominantly an illustrator, I find the writing side more challenging and something I’m still working on and this book has been indispensable. It’s written in a very easily digestible way and it’s possible to dip in and out of it as and when I need.

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz

Does exercise help the creative process?

I run regularly. I don’t know how much it directly helps the creative process but it’s a very necessary part of my life. I started running just after graduating from the MA. My mental health took a bit of a dive and I needed an outlet of some sort. I nervously joined my local running club on their Learn2Run scheme. Since then I’ve run 3 marathons, several half marathons and 10k races, and regularly attend my local Parkrun on a Saturday morning. From a mental health perspective running has been vital to me. I’ve met lots of new people and made great friends through running and many of them support me in my illustrating/writing and encourage me to persevere when I feel like I’m getting nowhere.


What about food and drink - what must you have at hand in order to be able to create?

When I’m deep in one of my productivity whirlwinds, I have a tendency to forget to eat, but I definitely make time for copious amounts of tea!


What image are you dying to use, but haven’t yet found room for?

I have a small family of mice that I created for Folktale Week last year. I sort of created a narrative for them but it needs work and I’m not sure if it’s even PB appropriate!


An illustration that Camille created for Folktale Week

What inspired you to first start writing/illustrating?

I had always loved to draw and paint but then that love disappeared when I did a fine art degree. I hated the degree and ended up hating anything art related. It wasn’t until a few years later when I was living and working in Japan that I came across and fell in love with picture books. I think in Japan picture books are seen as much more than just something to read to kids before bedtime. There are several museums dedicated to picture books and picture book makers, such as the Chihiro Art Museum in Tokyo and the Inori-No-Oka Picture Book Museum in Nagasaki. There also seemed to be such a wide variety of styles that I had never really seen before. It made me want to get back into drawing.


*Header by and photos courtesy of Camille Whitcher

Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes MG and YA and is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at

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