ARTIST JOURNEY: ROSIE BUTCHER
last updated 18 June 2019
Rosie Butcher is a children’s book illustrator living and working in East Yorkshire. Always an avid reader, Rosie grew up surrounded by books of all kinds and began writing, drawing, and imagining her own little worlds at an early age. Now a seasoned Bright artist, Rosie joined the agency in the summer of 2012 and has been on the rise ever since! We thought it was high time to shine a light on Rosie’s star achievements over this past year, so we were delighted to chat with her for an inside look at the inspiration and creative process behind illustrating There’s Only One You, and How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear?
As a child, your two great passions were art and history. Does research still play a role in inspiring your fictional worlds and characters?
There’s something so special about standing in a place and thinking, “life was completely different here 100 years ago.” I love collecting little historical secrets about the significance of a place or an item. In my work, I include these tidbits in the form of illustrative hints to add depth and warmth to a character’s backstory and personality; this could be a photograph on a bedroom wall, an old teddy bear, or a torn coat on a railing. I think that’s how my love of history manifests itself in my work, as a consideration for the story behind what you initially see.
A collection of Rosie’s inspirational books and references
Readers and reviewers alike have embraced THERE’S ONLY ONE YOU as a celebration of inidviduality and abilities of all types. Growing up, how did you hone in on your own creative talents, leading to the artist you are today?
As a child, I would watch the same film/TV shows (usually animated) over and over again until I knew the story and the characters inside and out. This habit likely helped me to learn how to construct a story. I absolutely loved writing, drawing, and designing my own little worlds. My favorite types of picture books continue to be ones you can read repeatedly and notice new details in the spreads or interpret the story and characters slightly differently each time. There’s Only One You was a really fun project because I got to create a whole cast of individuals with their own lives and quirks.
“A picture-book celebration of individuality and diversity. . . . Affirming and welcome.” —Kirkus
You recently completed a very exciting project! Written by actress and comedian Vanessa Bayer, HOW DO YOU CARE FOR A VERY SICK BEAR? has been featured on Good Morning America, The TODAY Show, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (just to name a few!) How has it been to see your illustrations broadcasted on such a grand scale?
How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? was such a private project for so many months (and top secret!) that it was really exciting to see the bears finally set free on US television. I never dreamed my work would be exposed to so many people on such a huge scale! It was amazing seeing something I illustrated on a screen in Times Square while sitting at home in my small, quiet, East Yorkshire town.
Based on Vanessa’s personal battle with childhood leukemia, HOW DO YOU CARE FOR A VERY SICK BEAR? tackles important emotional topics that can be difficult for children. Can you take us through your approach to illustrating such a sentimental project, and did it have an effect on you personally?
I ended up facing a few personal challenges during my time illustrating this book; I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and was in the hospital a lot. I also lost my beloved Grandad. Having the spreads to illustrate provided me comfort and focus during a very difficult time that ended up being quite inspiring. I had some of my most useful ideas for spreads whilst sitting in hospital waiting rooms.
Early thumbnail sketches from HOW DO YOU CARE FOR A VERY SICK BEAR?
What I loved the most about working on this book is the emphasis on having that person (or those people) around you when you are going through a really hard time. The people you can at the same time laugh with and also say to, “actually, I’m not OK at all today,” are so incredibly important. Before working on this project and going through what I did, I found that quite hard to do.
Can you walk us through your creative process? Where do you begin on the page?
When I first get a text to illustrate, I always read it many times and make some rough sketches of whatever visuals pop into my head. I usually have a few ideas for spreads that I really like right off the bat. I’ll get those down first, and then I find the rest of the pages begin to flow more coherently, and the story appears. I’ll often have little additional ideas that enhance a story, such as the paper planes in How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear?
When I’m sketching a spread, I usually start with characters, but I also like to plan out backgrounds and characters together in case what I expected in my head doesn’t look right on paper—this can happen quite a lot.
Progression from sketch to final spread in THERE’S ONLY ONE YOU
Where are you currently drawing inspiration from?
At the moment, I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from my daughters! I have a three year old and a nine week old. They give me lots of ideas when I watch them play and interact with each other. Conversations with my eldest daughter have always inspired me because what she finds important to mention is often something I would not have thought twice about. I get a whole new perspective on an outing or event when I am with her.
Rosie’s two daughters
You have a very sweet story about your wedding in connection to joining Bright! We’d love to hear more about it.
I was signed by Bright in 2012. That following summer, I got a 4 fairytale book series with a great publisher. My then fiancé and I were looking for somewhere to move into together and were then planning to save for a wedding in a couple years time. However, the money from the book deal ended up being enough to pay for everything we wanted (with some left over to put toward items for our first baby!), and we were able to get married much sooner than expected!
Rosie’s workspace at her home in East Yorkshire
What are you most excited about as you move forward with your career at Bright?
At the moment, I’m looking forward to working on more exciting projects! I’ve found I most enjoy illustrating children and families interacting; I get so excited about the little worlds and lives I create behind the story. I would also love to author/illustrate my own picture book on day!
Click here to see Rosie’s full portfolio.