Every illustrator and writer has grown up with inspirations from a variety of sources.
This week, illustrator Rekha Salin wanted to find out what gives book illustrator, designer and art director Sally Walker the most inspiration.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a traditionally published Children’s Book Illustrator based in Suffolk, UK.

I have worked for over 25 years as graphic designer and now work part-time as an Art Director in corporate communications. But I was always creative in my spare time. I took classes and workshops and loved to draw and create. In 2014 I decided to take my hobbies further and enrolled on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art.

During the course, I spent a lot of time experimenting in the print room. This formed the foundation of how I craft my illustrations now. I love to spend time experimenting and print-making to create textures, which I blend with hand-drawn and digital techniques.

Children’s books are a huge passion of mine. The talent in the Children’s book industry today is so rich and diverse that it is hugely inspiring. That's what attracted me to this art form in the first place. My book collection is quite diverse too. I have a growing collection of board books, picture books, chapter books, graphic novels and other illustrated stories.


Which age-group do you write/illustrate for?

I illustrate picture books and board books, but I am writing my own author-illustrated books currently too.  

I illustrate picture books and board books

Sally's collection of kid lit books.

What inspires you to pick up or buy a book from the library/bookstore or buy online?

The first thing that inspires me to pick up a book is always the artwork on the front cover. That's especially true if I'm buying online, as sometimes the cover is the only thing you have if you don’t know the author/illustrator. If I'm in a library/bookshop and I have time to browse, I’ll try and flick through as many books as possible to get a better overview.

Are you inspired by books from multiple genres or age-groups that are written/illustrated by the same author/illustrator? 

Yes there are many artists out there that are illustrating for picture books, chapter books, middle grade and even adult books. One illustrator who appears heavily on my bookshelves is Isabelle Arsenault. She is such a talented artist who has worked on picture books, poetry books (for adults and children), chapter books and my favourite of her genres - graphic novels. 

One illustrator who appears heavily on my bookshelves is Isabelle Arsenault.

Mellissa Castrillon is also another artist whose artwork spans multiple genres and markets seamlessly. Her use of pattern and colour is just so beautiful that it appeals on many levels.

Mellissa Castrillon illustrated books

Do you bring your inspirations into your work?

Yes, I think I take a little something from every book I pick up which then inspires my work. Each author and illustrator brings something unique to each book and I feel there’s always so much to learn. I tend to have a process with how I read/study books. First I quickly devour each illustration without reading anything, then I go through again and read the book. And then I will go through it again a third time and really study each page, how the words and images work together and the details of the illustrations. Every time I open a new book it’s like getting a gift as a child at Christmas.

How much of the inspiration do you bring into your works? 

What I take from each book differs from what I see as its strengths. From the imagery it could be a particular way it’s composed, or how white space has been used - a certain technique which I will go on to experiment with in my own way. Use of colour and pattern. The overall storytelling and how the words and images tell their own stories, what is told in words and what is left for the images. How the story is written, the language and choice of words. 

A collection of inspiring books for illustration

How do you keep your work fresh, original and unique and avoid looking like your inspiration?

I’ve found studying how someone else works and experimenting with those techniques has helped me to build my skills. I find that by allowing myself to do that and then putting the inspiration to one side and having some time not looking at it, allows it to sink in but not be too heavy of an influence. Also not being focused on one illustrator’s way of working too much either, I find inspiration from across the spectrum of art styles. And stepping away from illustration and studying, photography, film, fine art, theatre etc. really helps too.


Does your book shelf have all the books that you love or which inspired you?

No, I don’t own all the books which have inspired me (unfortunately) - I don’t have a big enough book shelf or bank account for that. Which is why I’m so thankful for our libraries!


Can you name a few books that have inspired your work and yet are not on your bookshelf?

I do love Benji Davies work and have taken his books out of the library many times but still don’t have one in my bookshelf (yet). Mainly because I have a terrible memory. I have thought to myself, 'I must buy Tad and The Grotylin' every time I see it at the library.

And then there’s other books from my favourite illustrators which I have had to stop myself from buying to stop my collection getting out of control too!


Are there any books that have made you wish you'd worked on a text like that or that have made you wish you'd thought of that unique way of storytelling?

So many! I look at a lot of storytellers with pure admiration and complete awe at how they’ve created their work.

I am a big fan of graphic novels and really admire the artists who create these. The amount of work and technical ability needed to layout a story in that way and make it work is huge. My all time favourite Children’s Book is Raymond Brigg’s Father Christmas, which is where my love of this genre began. 

Another collection of inspiring books

But more recently, Sophie Burrow’s graphic novel, Crushing, blew my mind. How she tells that story, which is so simple but very emotive, really connected with me. I would love to work on a graphic novel at some time in the future and bring all these influences to life in my own way.

Sophie Burrow’s graphic novel ‘Crushing

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo
all other images curtesy of Sally Walker


Sally Walker is a Suffolk (UK) based Children's Book illustrator.

She's with publishers such as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Page Street Kids, PJ Publishing, Mighty Kids, Baby Bug & Ask Magazine.

​See more of Sally's work here. Follow her on Instagram, Bluesky: and Twitter


Rekha Salin has three books published as an illustrator. Two picture books, one in 2020 and the other in 2022, and also a recipe book (for adults) in 2022 published by ABV publisher. She is currently working with Gnome Road Publishing, and this will be available in 2024.

See more of Rekha's work here. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.

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Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. 

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