This month's Featured Illustrator is Josie MaceyJosie is a children’s’ book illustrator based in Hampshire. She lives with her husband, son and Mary, their beautiful rescue dog who sometimes appears in Josie's stories.

I have always loved drawing since I was little and was determined growing up that I would be an artist one day. When I first left school, I went to art college to learn graphic design but unfortunately circumstances prevented me from following an art career at that time. After 20 years working in the airline industry, I decided to retrain as a teacher. My time as a primary school teacher was invaluable. I learned so much about the magic of picture books and have always felt passionate about instilling a love of reading in children.

I have always loved reading (I once spilt a cup of coffee on my desk and rescued my new book instead of my mobile phone). My experience in the classroom gave me first-hand knowledge about what can inspire children and not only how picture books can stimulate imagination but also how they can be used as a launch pad for a series of lesson plans.

Having left teaching, I now have the time to concentrate on my illustration work. My experiences in the classroom taught me so much about inclusivity and diversity and how all children want to see themselves in picture books. This is a real focus for me now and I have begun to reflect this in my portfolio.

There are lots of illustrators that I admire like Chris Riddell for his incredible detail and line work, or Emily Gravett for her witty stories and attention to detail. I also love Oliver Jeffers for his beautiful simplistic drawings, wonderful colour palettes and often quite meaningful messages, and Axel Scheffler for his instantly recognisable style and ability to add humour to his characters. Mini Grey is a new favourite, her watercolour work is just gorgeous!

I can’t deny another influence has to be Walt Disney. I have always loved Disney since I was a child. The animation that I see in some of their latest movies is so realistic, I have no idea how it is created. I love the old movies too, the magic of Mary Blair’s work in Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella has such a cool mid-century style. 

Illustrating digitally is something I’ve only learned in the last few years, and I love the versatility this medium provides. It is like having the supplies of your favourite shop in the palm of your hand. I also like to work traditionally and always take my watercolours and sketchbooks on family holidays to get inspiration for my portfolio. I also take lots of photos with my phone wherever I go if I see something which inspires me. 

When creating a character, I often draw out several versions on sheets of layout paper until I am happy with how they look.  Once this is done, I will draw a coloured pencil version in my sketch book considering colour palettes before moving to a final digital version in procreate.


If I could give any advice, it would be to do lots of courses. SCBWI has lots of Zoom courses that they run throughout the year that can challenge and stretch such as The Art Director’s Brief. They also hold regular portfolio reviews too which is a chance to get expert opinion from an art director or publisher.  I have done a lot of courses in the ‘Make Art That Sells’ kind of theme which are a lot of fun but there is a cost involved. Instagram has lots of free challenges which run all year round such as Folktale Week or Inktober and they are a great way to practice your art too.  

As I write, I am still hopeful to be approached by an agent or publisher. I send out my updated portfolio twice a year and the first couple of times I did it I had no response at all. This can be disheartening, it's true, but more recently agents have started to write back and although I am not taken on, I feel that I am now getting some feedback on what I have created so far. I have just sent my portfolio out again so keep your fingers crossed for me. So, my advice is to keep going, keep putting your work out there, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook whatever works for you.  You never know who is looking.

See more of Josie's work here. Follow her on Instagram.

See previous Featured Illustrators on our Showcase Gallery


Tita Berredo is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. If you'd like to be featured contact her at illustrators@britishscbwi.org. Follow her on InstagramTwitter and find her work at www.titaberredo.com

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