Who doesn't love taking a peak inside an artist's work area? Our newest Feature Editor and SCBWI Scotland Network Organiser Tibo Torelli talks to Japanese illustrator Ryoko Tamura about her studio space in Edinburgh.

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

Growing up, drawing has always been a fundamental part of me. So it was natural for me to go to the art college. I studied illustration at Edinburgh college of art and the rest is history. My style varies but it is heavily influenced by Japanese art, where I am originally from. 

Can you describe your studio space? 

Cluttered, lots of crumbs, coffee stains and cat fur.

Ryoko's studio wouldn't be complete without a cat.

What are your favourite tools of the trade? 

I am very simple/traditional. I have had the same mechanical pencil for 20 years, which broke last year so it had to be replaced. Then Sakura fineliner and Kuretake or Winsor and Newton watercolour. I use very basic Photoshop to complete the artwork. 

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

It all depends on the project. If illustrating for another author, communication is the key! I always work closely with the author. The most important thing is capturing their words/stories through my illustrations and ultimately creating a shared vision together via regular coffee catch ups or updating each other by email. Then I look at the feedback from publishers - move on, make changes and repeat till the end. It's a long journey and the project becomes a part of you. Oh, what a special feeling when you finally see the finished product! When I am illustrating my own work, I just talk to myself a lot or ask my cat for advice. 

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

I admire all artists who write and illustrate their own work. Tove Jansson and Judith Kerr. They both loved cats too. 

Between Japan and Scotland, how does both culture inspire your work? 

Japan is a big manga culture and I was a huge manga otaku so that kind of style of drawing definitely shows in my artwork. I fell in love with the architecture of historical buildings in Edinburgh. Also there is nothing like a good old Scottish sarcastic sense of humour. 

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

I had the opportunity to work with an Icelandic writer Guðni Líndal Benediktsson and we produced three children's books. It was published by an Icelandic publisher, written by an Icelandic author, illustrated by myself in Scotland and the layout was done by a French graphic designer who lived in France. Communicating was done via email and none of us spoke English as a first language. It was such a crazy and great experience. Gudni is now one of my best friends and I am so proud of our three books! 


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

Stop what you are doing. Go for a walk. Lay with your cat. 

Ryoko's style is heavily influenced by Japanese art


What tips do you have for artists who are starting out and interested in focusing on picture books? 

Plan well. Do a lot of research, get some inspiration. Do take a break, and enjoy the journey! 


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

I'm currently working on another children’s book! Also there's an exciting collaboration with a stationery company MISO paper and an exhibition in the summer. 

*Header image: in-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo

All other images: Ryoko Tamura.


Ryoko Tamura is a Japanese freelance illustrator living in Edinburgh, with her devilish black cat. She runs a quirky gift shop and does commissioned illustrations for various companies. Her work spans a wide range of illustrations, from children's books to designing product labels and editorials for art publications.
Apart from drawing, Ryoko is passionate about Lothian buses, cats, coffee, collecting stationary, and Moomin mugs.
You can see more of Ryoko’s work here:

Tibo Torelli is the co-Network Organiser of SCBWI Scotland. 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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