Behind the Book | Viola Wang
last updated 05 March 2020
Rabbit Bright, the debut picture book from Bright author/illustrator Viola Wang is about a brave rabbit setting out to explore the darkness and shows that there is light everywhere - you just need to know where to look…
The book is published in hardback on 5th March 2020 by Hodder Children’s Books.
Viola was born and raised in Beijing, China, and has now lived in London for over ten years. She joined Bright after completing the Children’s Book Illustration MA at the Cambridge School of Art and winning the Sebastian Walker Award. Viola now lectures for the same MA course alongside her picture book work.
Here, we find out some of the techniques Viola used to create the bright and bold artwork for the book, as well as finding our where this bunny came from…
Where did the inspiration for Rabbit Bright come from?
The story of Rabbit Bright is inspired by my own childhood. I was that little girl who was afraid of the night and worried about bedtime. I remember that I often asked my Dad, ‘Where does the light go when there is dark?’, and I would drift off to sleep pondering the wonders of the universe. I believe that from a young age children should be given the freedom – mentally and physically – to explore their surroundings – and beyond – and hopefully this equips them for a more fulfilled life.
What was your creative process for writing and illustrating the book?
The visual language used in Rabbit Bright was developed during a summer holiday in the Lake District. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to handle the first edition of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, at the Armitt Library & Museum Centre. Examining the book first-hand, I was able to work out what was then the cutting-edge of colour printing; a three-colour process. Print technology has moved on during the last 100 years, but Beatrix Potter and Frederic Warne’s simple three-colour technique enabled them to bring a whole world of imagination to Victorian children. I was truly inspired by this bold initiative, and came up with my own digital three-colour process.
Unlike my usual projects, Rabbit Bright wasn’t born in a sketchbook. Instead it developed from experimentation with this three-colour process. The character appeared even before the story formed. After over 30 experiments, I came to the three-colour screenprinting of a little rabbit riding a bicycle.
Where do you do your best creative work?
It really varies. Sometimes an idea will appear from observation in life. Then the idea may get recorded in written or sketch form. I often start a project by taking my character for a day out, or allowing myself to live in their world in my imagination. After that, it’s pretty much just work work work, until the imaginary world becomes a reality in the picture book.
I think I do my best creative work when I am away from my desk. I like to take daily walks and to spend time observing everyday life. Ideas often flow naturally to match the rhythm of walking. I especially like those long walks on weekends and holidays. Walking slows you down, and allows you to look closer so that your senses become more finely tuned to your surroundings.
How do your surroundings impact your creative work?
London is one of my favourite cities in the whole world – a city of possibilities. London’s diversity was its main attraction for me. Different people from all over the world, bringing their own cultures with them. They all melded together in this one giant cauldron of possibility.
Life in London became my source of inspiration. Its rhythm and rhyme became the bass tone of my work. It kept me curious and courageous, always.
Were you artistic as a child? Where did the creativity all begin?
I more or less grew up in a print factory, and have vivid childhood memories of watching my Dad at work, and playing with the offcut paper. This had a strong influence on my work. I have great respect for printmaking and for print technicians, and I am still fascinated by the printmaking process.
What’s your favourite moment from your time with the Bright Agency so far?
The Bright summer party in the local park. It was a glorious English summer day. We gathered in the glittering sunshine, playing games and enjoying a picnic. It was my first time meeting everyone at Bright, and it was great to finally match the names to faces. I felt I was part of something much bigger. I met many illustrators on that day, and we all shared a similar story. Suddenly I felt I wasn’t alone any more; I had friends all around me.
The best part was playing rounders. I fell over in the first game, but I was more embarrassed than hurt (I really need to work on my fitness – illustators can’t run!) We all laughed together, and it was great fun to be part of a team sport. I felt like a child again.
You can see more of Viola’s work in her portfolio.