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 illustrator & block printer
Tammy Angelis the most inspiration.

Tammy Angelis is an active member of several SCBWI critique groups. She has a degree in Ocean Science and postgrad qualifications in Marketing and Programme Management and works as a Project Manager. She and her husband have 2 'tweens', a feral cat and a lot of nieces/nephews. Before studying with Central St Martins and The Good Ship Illustration, Tammy learned block printing and machine embroidery to make home textiles and gets much of her inspiration from time in Scotland with her wider family. Her goal is to create a sustainable creative career through writing and illustrating, with a line of stationary and surface pattern designs.


Tammy & some of her work

Block Printing

Which genre do you write/illustrate for? 

Currently I am writing and illustrating for the picture book fiction market. The niche which lights me up concerns Sensory Processing and normalising the reactions which children have, as a result of their 8 senses. Proprioception, Vestibular and Interoceptive senses are rarely discussed but can play havoc with transitions through the daily routine. I have written 3 picture books in readiness for submission to publishers and I am also in the process of creating a non-fiction book, full of dramatic collage works. There is an early readers detective book on my google drive, but I need to do a lot more research on authentic voice before my first draft comes to life.

I have spent the past 12 months filling a messy sketchbook with observational drawings to find my own visual language for drawing people. Animal characters and landscapes seem so natural but little kids and strong composition are still an area of development for me, which I need to master if I want to illustrate my own picture book text. As Martin Salisbury advises in his book ‘Drawing for Illustration’, “the next big leap is to inject more of what you think and feel as well as what you see in your drawing”.

Tammy's sketchbook page

Some of Tammy's book inspirations

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

Initially it would be title typography, colour palette and an obvious use of traditional media. Even more appealing are books about science, natural history or neurodiversity. I have a soft spot for difficult or emotional topics but invariably I need to order them from our local bookstore, which only stocks a small and limited selection. Often my critique group will suggest books from their corner of the globe and last year I bought several beautiful European books at Bologna Book Fair, which I have been referring to ever since.

European Books

Are you inspired by books from multiple genres which are written/illustrated by the same author/illustrator? (in case they write/illustrate in other genres too)?

One of my favourite author-illustrators is Lauren Child and I also love all of the work by Yuval Zommer and Jon Klassen. It’s inspiring to see the visual language morph from board to picture to middle grade books as each requires a maturing emotional arc and allows for further complexities in texture and stylisation. 'I Want my Hat Back' remains the only book to elicit a startled yet animated reaction from my youngest child. It made me laugh out loud when we read it for the first time!

Do you bring your inspirations into your work?

My inspirations include the Scottish Highlands, vintage textiles and botanical lithograph plates (think Ernst Haeckel) and I love to include repeating patterns, emotive colour choices and detailed motifs in my work. I’ve got a pile of hand tinted lino prints which are fun to cut up and incorporate into collage. As a child of the 70’s my lasting memories of reading books include Alfred Edmeades Bestall (Rupert); Shirley Hughes (My naughty little sister); Hergé (TinTin) and Harmsen van der Beek (Noddy; Faraway Tree). We used the library every week and my Grandparents would bring me copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica from auction houses and car boot sales. The thrill of finding a missing Enid Blyton book in the charity shop still can’t be beaten

Scottish Highlands illustrations

Thinking back, I had a preference for stories which depicted adventure and autonomy but illustrations which were rooted in realism. These realistic proportions are something I find difficult to break away from. It helps to read blogs from other creatives - recently I found an article by Rebecca Green talking about ‘style testing’. In my current practice I am trying to bend some rules; taking note of composition and emotions portrayed in works by Isabelle Arsenault, Beatrice Alemagna and Jan Pienkowski. They incorporate pattern, texture and detail in all of their work and yet offer the element of surprise, humour and ultimately delight.

Fern in the woods

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

Colour palette and materials make my work personal. I enjoy using a set of vintage coloured pencils, by Karisma (Berol) which I have owned since 1990, layered over gouache but my paints are not taken straight from the tube, instead they have the same base colour mixed into them, which gives the muted vibe of celtic botanicals. Often I will use up my leftover paint on sketchbook pages as a background, or glue down my hand tinted papers to make an altered sketchbook; building up layers of media. If I’m really stuck then I make new papers with a gelliplate, using hand cut stencils or torn cardboard, then put them away for a fun surprise!

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

My book shelf is an ever growing and changing collection. Originally, it was on behalf of my children but then, as they started to grow out of picture books in particular, I had to admit it was for myself. If I was gifted a book voucher I would spend it on books illustrated by Sharon King-Chai, Lian-En Lin, London Ladd, Claire Fletcher, Anne Montel, Fiona Woodcock and Gemma Koomen.

Which are the main few books that have inspired your work and yet not on your bookshelf?

There are plenty of books still missing from my shelf: The Secret Sky Garden; Luna Loves Gardening; The Invisible; everything involving paper engineering and anything recommended by Books That Help.

Are there any books that have inspired you in a way that you really wish you worked on a text like that or you wish you thought of the unique way of storytelling? 

Some books I have discovered recently include Ocean Speaks, Inside the Villains, Fergus Goes on Holiday and a new set of reimagined classics by Harper Design (Imprint of Harper Collins) which contain interactive elements from studio MinaLima.

My own personal favourite picture book is Pip and Egg, written by Alex Latimer, illustrated by David Litchfield. It covers the themes of growing up and apart; reaching adolescence and returning home to roost and I cry every time I read it. More poignantly my youngest used to bring me the book, knowing full well it would elicit feelings and then question me on my thoughts, which was a surprising and tender result of bedtime reading. Evoking emotion or facilitating a conversation is surely the best possible outcome from a well loved picture book and if I could manage this in my own craft, for neurodiverse families, my life’s purpose would feel complete!

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo;
other images courtesy of Tammy Angelis


Tammy is a London based illustrator who studied Ocean Science at University. She does pattern design and children's book illustrations.
See more of Tammy’s work here. Follow her on Instagram and check out her Substack.


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 Publishing. 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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1 comment:

  1. What a treasure trove of ideas and insights! This bookshelf is a true reflection of Tammy's limitless imagination and love for literature. I can't wait to dive into these pages and see where they take me. Thank you for adding such inspiration and beauty to our world, Tammy.
    useful article thank you sir
    gk questions


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