Behind the Book | Rosie Butcher
last updated 28 September 2020
Bright Artist Rosie Butcher’s latest picture book The Joy in You showcases a colourful cast of jungle animals in Rosie’s distinctive whimsical style. Written by TV presenter Cat Deeley and published by Random House Books for Young Readers, this touching tale encourages children to express themselves and enjoy the little moments. We caught up with Rosie to talk about her illustration process and how she deals with creative block.
The Joy in You
What was your creative process for illustrating The Joy in You?
Illustrating The Joy in You was such a whirlwind! It was the tightest deadline I have ever dealt with, so I really needed to get ideas down on paper to see what worked and what didn’t as quickly as possible. When I begin a new book project I read the brief and story several times, and The Joy in You was no exception. I find it really useful to physically write the story text out myself with a good old fashioned pen and paper - I tend to get a lot of great imagery this way.
Then I create thumbnail sketches of every spread so I (and the rest of the creative team) can see how the book will flow. I usually have a few pages in a book that I know exactly how I’m going to to handle, so I begin with those; this helps the ideas flow for the remaining spreads. When the thumbnails are approved I moved on to tighter sketches in full size and, eventually, colour.
Thumbnail sketch vs the final image
What was your favourite thing to illustrate in the book?
One of my favourite spreads in the book is the animals at the disco doing their different dances. Crocodiles are my favourite animal – they can be challenging to draw but I enjoy drawing them so much. Orangutans feature a lot in my work too because they are a fantastic colour, so expressive and hairy animals are always more fun to draw!
Image from the book
How do your surroundings impact your creative work?
I have two little girls under the age of five, and my work surroundings change all the time. During my time working on The Joy in You, we were in the middle of moving into our first house, so I had my work station set up in the living room at first. As we became more settled I could move into our office, but I still passed plenty of working evenings at my desk with my youngest child asleep in her sling. It can be stressful trying to work with such a young family, but I get a lot of inspiration from my children’s games and conversations I have with them; I’m always surrounded by their books and toys.
Rosie and her children
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
I most enjoy reading a manuscript and spending a lot of time taking it apart and coming up with the imagery to complement it. The Joy in You was particularly challenging because it was all about the message and I had to work out how to translate that into a continuous flowing narrative.
A spread from the book
How do you work through a creative block?
I first tend to take a break and focus on something else creative like gardening, writing, playing or painting with my children. I always get my creative flow back when I refuel my imagination by spending time outside where I can think. It also helps me to just draw something within my comfort zone; when I am drawing I get lots of other ideas.
A spread from the book
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
It can be really tempting to get completely lost in the small details of your art; fretting over how you draw eyes, how your line looks, textures, and pallets. My piece of advice would be ask questions. What narrative exists here? What is this character’s back story? What emotions do I want to convey? What kind of atmosphere is suitable? Focusing on these things add depth to your work and allow your personality to shine through.
Other books illustrated by Rosie
Why is being part of an agency important to you?
Being part of an agency is important to me because I feel part of a creative community all the time. I love being able to balance my time between my family commitments and work; Bright have always been really supportive of what I needed to do my best work.
I started working with Bright straight out of university - I had a lot to learn and Bright always helped me to grow and get the kind of projects I always dreamed of working on. When I was ill with a lot of projects booked in, the agents in the US and UK made sure I got the time I needed to get better and finish my projects. They were invaluable in that respect!