FROM THE STUDIO OF Emmeline Pidgen

Who doesn't love taking a peak inside an artist's work area? Deputy Editor Françoise Price talks to award-winning illustrator and author Emmeline Pidgen about her studio space.

Emmeline Pidgen

Hi Emmeline and welcome to Words & Pictures. How did you get into illustration? And how would you describe your style?


As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an illustrator. That, and a firefighter, and a ballerina. All at the same time. But ending up with one out of three isn’t bad!


I remember in primary school I drew a picture of a particularly fancy rat and my teacher stuck it to the wall behind her desk and kept it there for years! I would spend a lot of my time in school drawing elaborate title pages for my projects and doodling in the margins of my notebooks.


After my foundation degree in art, I almost took a fine art course. But when I found out that there was such a thing as a degree in illustration, my heart was absolutely set on it. Books and art - YES! After graduation I jumped straight into freelancing and building up my business, before getting my first book deal a couple of years later.


I think style is a tricky thing to pin down. I work in a few different ways, but what comes through whatever medium I’m working in is a voice that shows my passions and interests (lots of history, nature, folklore etc!). A lot of people say my style is really comforting.


Describe your studio space

I work in a garden office that I share with my husband. For years we’d been working from our small spare bedroom in the house, but with the arrival of a little one we needed the extra space. The office has huge windows, which makes it a little chilly in winter and very warm in summer. But it’s amazingly bright and I absolutely love looking out at our very wild garden. My husband and I have one side of the office each, and for mine I have a big desk and I painted the wall a lovely blossom pink. The bookshelves along one side of the room are bursting with books, comics, prints and a couple of awards! It’s a really lovely, bright space that I’m very grateful to have.

Emmeline's garden office 

What are your favourite tools of the trade?

I often flick between digital and traditional work (usually digital for commissions and traditional for fun). For my digital work I draw on a Samsung Galaxy tablet using Clip Studio software, and write on my Macbook. For traditional work I love using Kuretake watercolours and ink brush pens.


When illustrating for yourself or another author can you describe your process from getting a manuscript to finished artwork?

It really varies between each book. Illustrating for other authors is very different from working on my own books. I’ve worked with some authors/publishers who will give me a brief or a rough idea of what they would like on each page, whereas others will trust me completely to interpret the text and illustrate it the way I think will work best. I love the challenge and problem-solving aspects of both. For my own author/illustrated books I will usually start with character sketches and a rough story idea, then everything usually weaves and develops together in one huge braid of story.

Is there a particular artist/illustrator who has inspired you?

I think Sara Ogilvie’s illustration work is amazing. The characters all look so effortless and charming. I love reading her books to my son.


Do you have a favourite children’s book and what draws you to it?

Ooh this is such a tough question. I’m going to answer with a couple of books that kicked off my love of illustration when I was young: The Porcelain Cat written by Michael Hearn and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon; and The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Ruth Sanderson. I used to stare at those pages for hours. They’re just so lush and there’s always more to see within each page.


Is there a project you have particularly enjoyed working on and why?

Last year I was asked to illustrate a children’s trail for The National Trust. That was such a fun project. I am really inspired by history in my work, so it was such an honour to be asked to create characters based on real children who lived at National Trust properties and draw lots of artefacts.


Have you got any tips for when you get stuck on a project?

Go for a walk in the woods. Or a park. Or anywhere really. There’s nothing that shakes me out of feeling stuck like just getting out and focusing on something else for a while. I know time’s a bit of a luxury, but I always remind myself that when I feel stuck on a project things will move again eventually. It might be an hour later, or even a year, but time is really important to give the ideas a chance to click.


What advice would you give artists who are starting out and interested in focusing on picture books?

Draw and draw and draw! Research what publishers/agents are looking for in a portfolio (consistent characters, emotion etc) and twist that with the things you’re passionate about drawing. Have a clear, concise portfolio website.


What's next for you? Anything exciting you’d like to share?

I’m working on a middle grade novel at the moment. It’s really exciting to be writing again as well as illustrating. I also have a new 10-page comic out called Ammonites about a Victorian fossil hunter and the concept of home. It’s free to read on my Instagram page or on my website.


Read more about Emmeline's comics here

*Header image: in-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo; 
All other images: Emmeline Pidgen.


Emmeline Pidgen is an illustrator and author living in Lancashire, England. She is represented worldwide by Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Emmeline has worked with clients like The BBC, Zara, Hachette and The National Trust, and was named National Freelancer of the Year in 2016.
You can see more of Emmeline’s work here:

Françoise Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact


Ell Rose is Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact them at

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact her at:

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