Bridget Marzo has illustrated over 25 picture books and novelty books for English, French and American publishers. Today, Bridget shares with us her creative process with a special look behind the scenes of her latest picture book You, Me, and our Whole Wide World.

My most recent book, You, Me and Our Whole Wide World was published in hardback by Walker Books in July 2022. The paperback has just come out this year.

Front and back cover of You, Me and our Whole Wide World

Clearing out the big stack of preparatory work has given me time to take stock. It all started in 2017, when I began to sketch from a balcony overlooking Liverpool Street Station.

Sketch of Liverpool Street Station

I wanted to escape from depressing news and online media bubbles. And as I drew, I began to wonder what do we all, across the whole wide world have in common? Later I had a chat with a 5 year old pal. Yes, we all pee and poo, but what about before that? Every single one of us once lived in a tummy. He found that funny. I was off on an exploration.

Early sketches

None of these early sketches were used but they got me rolling. (I ditched the sound effects in the text here a little reluctantly.) Also, for the first time in over a decade, here I was, drawing people again. It was going to look very different from my imaginary cat and donkey in Tiz and Ott’s Big Draw (Tate UK) and all the other books I've illustrated with animal characters – a leap and a challenge encouraged by my critique group, though it took over 2 years to grow, off and on.

Although I’ve had a bunch of books published in different countries and earned the odd prize, I've had enough disappointments in publishing to feel I needed some detached feedback.

Investing in some mentoring with Orange Beak’s designer Ness Woods and illustrator Maisie Paradise Shearring helped me over the inevitable humps of self doubt. They also encouraged me to keep it simple – forget backgrounds, just a bit of the patterning I love, and focus on the shapes and detail of individuals.

And a few months later, I painted these two pages directly, in a mix of watercolour inks and gouache, and it turned into a final spread for the book. I was on my way.

A spread from You, Me and our Whole Wide World

But I was still struggling with the structure – the ending in particular.

Sketches showing children growing

I hit a wall – the book was NOT just about growing as this rough suggested. And the text risked sounding boring – even didactic.

Rough sketches of children growing

The whole project might have fallen flat, like this toddler, had not my critique group kept urging me on. And early on there was the drawing itself. Ink contour – thin line or no line?

Sketches of toddler crawling, walking, falling

My answer for this book was painting. Colour always helps me get into the flow. So I painted directly, scanning what I felt worked best into Photoshop, and using that to lay out the content across facing double page spreads.  

Using Photoshop just for composition and layout rather than for any drawing or tweaking was liberating. No time wasting with pixel perfection!

So, for example, this page inspired by sketches done from life at the beach...

Repeated painted figures on a beach

...ended up as this:

Final beach spread

I rarely progress in a methodical way from rough line to final colour – as this snapshot of a storyboard of rough spreads shows.

Storyboard of rough spreads

But colour also helps me get the tone and flow of the book, and I like to work around a basic colour palette to achieve some unity across the book, in this case turquoise and orange-red.

To keep me on track, I use Adobe Indesign very roughly (I am self-taught) to import the Photoshop spreads and assemble them in order. It means I can view everything on a roll just like in a storyboard, update easily and sometimes print it out from a PDF to get a better sense of page turns.

On to the next step – finding a publisher. It was a stroke of luck really.

I painted this key image "Together" for the 2019 SCBWI exhibition in Westminster Library in London, Pictures at Play.
A Walker art director who was at the opening of the 2019 SCBWI Pictures at Play Biennial Exhibition, commented on the image "Together" (above) and, after an encouraging chat, she invited me to discuss my half-baked project at the wonderful Walker Books office. Louise understood what I was trying to get across – a book about togetherness for young and old to enjoy exploring. Eventually she brought her editor to join us for an online meeting just as we were moving into the first lockdown in 2020.

The editor suggested I try out some changes to pronouns, so "we" became "you". "Do you know what... I did too..." becomes "we" at the end. What seemed like small text changes worked. Things fell into place and I saw the full arc of the book. The picture lurking at the back of my mind, a vision of a communal, egalitarian dance in a ring common to many cultures across the world, came out on a spread. In Catalonia, where my ma was born, the dance is called the Sardanas and I loved dancing that in a ring as a child.

Spread showing a ring of people holding hands

The discussion went on for some while until they reassured me that I would receive a contract – hooray. Covid started just as I was sketching people holding hands. There was a lot more work to do but I finished it in the summer of 2021, a year before publication day.

Publishing is a test of patience, but I’ll never forget the day at critique group in my home when Candy Gourlay told me firmly that this book HAD to happen. Well, huge thanks to her, and all my amazing critique group, my Orange Beak mentors and my editor and art director at Walker Books – eventually, it did happen, together!

YOU, ME and OUR WHOLE WIDE WORLD for young and old to share where we come from and how we all grow together.

* All images courtesy of Bridget Marzo


Bridget (Strevens) Marzo
French and English book & illustration archive
New books and events
Find her on Instagram @bridgimage_art, Twitter @BridgetMarzo and Facebook


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

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