This month's featured illustrator is author/illustrator, Sarah Lovell, based in BC, Canada from the UK,
She has a background in teaching, prop design and studied at 
Winchester School of Art for fine art sculpture.

I’m an illustrator/author. I put illustrator first, as art has always been first. I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember.

I had to wear glasses and a patch on my eye from the age of 2, so my mum did activities with me to strengthen my weaker eye, including drawing. I remember endlessly copying pictures; Garfield, She-Ra and above all, Thelwell Pony books, as horses are my favourite. My dad was an architect and was a great help and inspiration for my art. I remember him often trying to do my art homework for me as he just wanted to draw!

Playing with paints

At school, art was always the lesson I looked forward to. Time always passes so nicely, lost in a drawing. I studied art all the way through school, on an art college foundation course, then a place at Winchester School of Art, studying fine art sculpture.

Not the obvious lead on to illustration, but I had the best time, and made some wonderful friends, whilst spending days in the studio making sculptures. Mainly out of pieces of metal and string which hung from the ceiling.

I headed into the big wide world of work, without a clue in what to do next. Despite university being three years of creativity and fun, they didn’t really teach us the skills we needed to find work and make a living, which wasn’t very helpful looking back.

I eventually tried prop making and got a couple of jobs for various tv shows and films. I was keen to move out of home and the tv/film industry was a tough one to crack so…I looked into primary teaching.

I got a place on a GTP (Graduate Teaching Program) course in London and became a nursery/reception teacher. I loved it and art played a big role in the classes I taught. Little ones are so keen to try anything, get messy and they inspired me as much as I did them (hopefully!) I continued to draw and paint at home and had several exhibitions in local pubs in Hackney.

Time went on, and my husband and I had our first child. I continued to teach, but after having my second (of three kids), we decided I would stay at home with the children. That’s when I found out about a card company who would pay a licensing fee for new designs. So, I thought I would submit some. They all got rejected, which obviously disappointed me, but also made me think,

‘Well, if they don’t want my drawings, I’ll do it myself…’

Sarah Lovell Art was born, and I embarked on my card publishing journey, attending my first trade shows in London, which was really nerve wracking but, I learnt about what shop buyers wanted, refined my skills and card collections, and found my cards stocked in several independent shops. I loved creating the artwork and receiving the designs as cards. It worked well alongside looking after my children, but my favourite part was drawing rather than selling, especially the characters and stories I created which spanned across some card collections.

One of my best selling greetings cards

I did local art fairs selling cards and prints. Some customers would ask if I did children’s books when they saw my work, which got me thinking…

Children’s books could be the path I had been looking for, more drawing! I created a portfolio page on my website and found people to send it to, thinking, ‘Well, all those people who bought my prints think I’d be good at children’s books, so this should be easy enough…’

I was about to find out how wrong I was…

Here begins the journey of building a thick skin. Looking back on the initial portfolio page I created, I realise it was so, so far away from the standard it needed to be to even get the end of my little toe in the door of the children’s publishing industry.

I booked a portfolio review, and it was honest, very honest, and hard to hear to begin with, but as time went, I realised how helpful this was. The reviewer had picked up on one illustration that she liked, so I clung on to that and redeveloped my ‘style’ from illustrating with watercolour and black outline to losing the outline and using more vibrant gouache, blended with coloured pencil and later, Procreate.

I submitted to agents many times and, as you can guess, really built on that thick skin. Over the last few years, I’ve taken courses with Curtis Brown, The Good Ship Illustration, Lilla Rogers Studio, The Golden Egg Academy, and a mentorship with The Illustration Department. They have all taught me so much and built on my skills and confidence in my work.

In 2021 I heard from Essie White at Storm Literary Agency. She had seen my illustrations online, and asked if I had considered representation. I couldn’t believe an agent was contacting me! After a few emails back and forth, I mentioned my big goal was to write and illustrate my own books. Essie reviewed some of my writing and suggested I need to work on that further if being an author/ illustrator was my ultimate goal, before she made an offer of representation.

I was frustrated!

Self published books I've illustrated

I felt like I had got sooo close. Maybe I should’ve kept quiet about the writing? At the same time, I felt fired up again. I knew my writing needed work. I found a local writing group in Dorset where we lived and thoroughly enjoyed the tasks set and getting feedback from the group.

Over the next couple of years, I continued to write and draw, illustrated four books for self-publishing authors, and one which will be published by Foggie Toddle Publishers this year. We also moved to Canada for my husband’s work!

British Columbia has brought a whole new world of inspiration to me.

Nature has always been a source of wonder, and I spend a lot of time walking and running in the forest here.

I listened to a free talk online about writing picture books, and one of the pieces of advice was to try and write the story like a poem. One day, after playing in the forest with my family, I wrote a poem inspired by our day. To accompany this, I drew a rough sketch, which I posted on social media.

Brothers sketch

A few days later I heard from Essie White again. She had seen my sketch on Twitter (X) and asked if I had a manuscript to accompany it. I sent it over, and this time she loved it.

So, at the end of last year, I signed on the dotted line and am now proudly represented by Storm Literary Agency. My first author/illustrator picture book is out on submission, and I can’t wait to see what happens next …

Magic Door

Gallery illustrations

*all images: Sarah Lovell

You can see my illustration portfolio at:


And connect with me on social media:

Instagram: @sarahlovellart

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sarahlovellart

X: @sarahlovellart

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/sarahlovell20

Substack: www.substack.com/@sarahlovellart


Email: sarah@sarahlovellart.co.uk


For book projects, please email Essie White:



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

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