SCBWI FACES Anne-Marie Perks


SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet our volunteers! This month Eva Wong Nava chats to Anne-Marie Perks, part of the Illustration Masterclasses team.

Photo of Anne-Marie Perks

Anne-Marie is an award-winning painter, author illustrator and stop-motion animator focusing on book covers, older fiction and graphic novels. She is published in the UK and the US and has exhibited her paintings internationally. Her first book, The Tortoise Who Bragged, is still close to her heart. When not busy teaching illustration and animation at Buckinghamshire New University, she is working hard to finish her autobiographical graphic novel, Fifteen Months.

What do you illustrate? 

I illustrate book covers, older fiction and graphic novels. I’m also a fine artist and an animator, for which I do a lot of drawings to design and plan, just as I would with any illustration.


Do you have a ‘day job’ as well as volunteering and making art? 

My ‘day job’ nicely follows what I love to do, I teach illustration, visual storytelling and animation at Buckinghamshire New University in High Wycombe. I started teaching to fund my MA in Children’s Illustration and I never stopped.


Describe your creative space. 

I suppose I have two creative spaces. My studio at home is in the loft, outfitted with animation tables, puppet-making materials and puppets, lots of brushes and paints, charcoals, pencils, pastels and clay. Artists’ reference and inspiration books, as well as graphic novels and books on writing, inhabit my bookcases. Of course, there is also the expected digital equipment too. The other creative space I spend a lot of time in is at the university, shared with wonderful enthusiastic and creative students. Every term this space changes in mood and colour, it’s fabulous.

Puppets and puppet-making material in Anne-Marie's home studio

Anne-Marie's home studio

How long have you been a SCBWI volunteer? 

I’ve been a SCBWI volunteer since 2001, coming up to 23 years. When I moved to the UK with my husband and two young daughters, I contacted SCBWI British Isles right away. I had already been a member for a few years in California, making me a member of SCBWI for over 30 years. The Regional Chapter here gave me a foothold in the country.


Describe the main tasks of your role as a SCBWI volunteer. 

My first role as a volunteer was as the Illustrator Coordinator. In those days, we managed one event a year, Illustrator Day. Over my time as the IC, we added in the annual SCBWI BI Conference, Illustration Masterclasses, exhibitions and competitions with the conference, and, for a few years with Undiscovered Voices, a Picture Book Retreat and a Biennial Exhibition. Life changed for everyone with the Covid-19 lockdowns and by then I had stepped down from that role. There were lots of wonderful illustrator volunteers who helped make all this happen too!

One piece of volunteer work I haven’t let go of yet is the Illustration Masterclasses. With the amazing team I work with, Niki Leonidou and Trish Phillips, we’ve kept Illustration Masterclasses going for many years. We plan and organise a series of events for illustrators that include Portfolio Reviews, craft and/or marketing masterclasses for illustrators, and the Art Director’s Brief in which illustrators are given a brief to work on from an art director, who in turn gives two stages of feedback as part of the masterclass. I’d love for the Biennial Exhibition to come back, maybe it will, and I’d help with that.


Do you do any other volunteering? 

Between the demands on me working with students at the university, my own illustrating, writing and animating career and a full life as a granny these days, SCBWI is all the volunteering I can manage to fit in!

Has volunteering influenced your art in any way? 

Yes! On the positive side, which it mostly is, inspiration and enthusiasm for the medium. Visual storytelling of all types is my passion, and being with others working on doing the same thing is an incredible plus. It can be difficult sometimes when the balance of work, family and volunteering isn’t right, but that’s part of the challenge of it all.

What are the advantages of being a volunteer? 

Meeting people! Not just those wonderful friends you make in the industry, who never fail to inspire with their knowledge and commitment to children’s illustration and visual storytelling, but also all the writers and illustrators at different stages of their careers who are so generous with their time and experience. This is a very generous industry over all, which never ceases to amaze me.

How many hours per week do you spend volunteering? 

That’s difficult to put down to a specific amount as it depends on timings set for planning and organising, contacting perspective facilitators for the masterclasses, setting up budgets, advertising and bookings. If it’s online, then it’s Zoom rooms or if it’s a physical space, making the contacts to hire spaces for the event to take place in. So it can be a lot of stop-and-start activities. As a team, we are in contact a lot to chat about what we would like to do and what we are going to do. Added into the mix is working with our current Illustration Coordinator as part of this whole process. I suppose each masterclass could take up to 10 hours split up within the team, although that doesn’t include the organisational requirements of being present at each event too.

Do the boundaries between volunteering get blurred or do you have demarcated creating/volunteering times/space? 

Yes, they get blurred, no doubt. I mentioned the challenge of balance, right?

Favourite children’s book?

Tough to pick just one. Right now it’s a toss-up between Jillian Tamaki’s They Say Blue and Colours, Colours Everywhere by Julia Donaldson and Sharon King-Chai. The best older children’s graphic novel for me is still This One Summer by Jillian Tammy and Mairko Tamkaki.

* Header Illustration: Tita Berredo and Ell Rose
* Photo credits Anne-Marie Perks


Eva Wong Nava writes stories that help children to love who they are, develop a sense of belonging, and to see themselves in the pages of books. When not writing, Eva is a sensitivity editor helping publishers in the UK and North America to make sure that East and Southeast Asian people, culture and heritage are accurately represented in books.


Anne Boyere is one of Words & Pictures Feature Editors and runs the #SCBWIchat X (formerly Twitter) chat about books for all ages @SCBWI_BI. You can find her on X (formerly 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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