This month's Featured Illustrator is Lauren Tobia. She works with Walker Books and Candlewick Press. She currently lives in Bedminster, sketching out her work in pencil and refining them digitally via her iPad.

I came to children’s illustration quite late in life after a longish career in nursing and two children. I eventually took the plunge and gave up nursing once my children had left school...all I can say is I totally recommend Art School at 40! It was a fabulous opportunity to have fun, experiment, push ideas about and be in the company of such brilliant and creative people. 

A BIG shout-out to UWE Bristol's amazing illustration course.

In my final year I had the chance to get some feedback from people in the industry which was invaluable...but do have an open mind and a tough skin if you do it! Well, you pretty much need that all the way through your career.

I entered the Macmillan children’s book prize along with a lot of us from UWE and learnt a huge amount about picture book making along the way! Totally recommend entering any competition you can in order to get seen.

Soon after my obligatory few months working at a call centre and a chemist the work began to arrive. I think starting off it's really important to call yourself an illustrator even when you are working in a call centre...by night I trawled the writers' and artists' yearbooks and sent samples and letters to anyone who seemed like a good fit. (This was when sending printed samples was still a thing.)

Starting out I did some artwork for some educational publishers I won’t mention and some illustrations while I learnt my craft as they say. Rather quickly I started working for the lovely people at Walker Books UK and their sister company Candlewick Press in the US who have nurtured me and have given me picture books to work on for many years now!

My first books were black and white fiction titles, (early readers), and happily I was paired with Atinuke for her first series Anna Hibiscus...after that came the Anna picture books and then many more picture books with various authors  all who have been brilliant and challenging in different ways.

I now work from my back bedroom in Bedminster and I would like to give a shout-out to all those illustrators whose rooms are by no means Instagram-ready. I am sitting now among boxes of books, sheaves of paper, unorganised and crumpled drawings and cold cups of tea. 

I work in a sort of hybrid digital way. I draw in pencil into whichever old sketchbook is out and sometimes I scribble ideas in coloured pencil – but I have a very short attention span so they are always super scrappy and, like so many other creatives, I am proudly dyslexic.

The drawings are transferred into Procreate where I work on them using an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil…a massive game changer for me when this technology came in.

I don’t think I can list a huge number of illustrators as I never remember names and I am often taken by just one image that I am inspired by, although I do love design, ceramics and illustration from the 1950s-1960s. 

I adore Japanese and Korean design but I also can’t get enough of the overblown maximal. 

I think I am a magpie and try to keep my eyes open to everything.

*All images: Lauren Tobia


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


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures
Find their work at www.shannonillustrates.com 
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org 

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