Behind the Scenes: One Author’s Creative Process

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.

Ever wonder how a children’s author and illustrator approaches his or her craft? When we last spoke to one of our featured authors, Sophy Henn, she kindly shared some insight into how she developed the idea for her first book, Where Bear. Below are some images that help capture her process as well as her own description of how she works. As a special bonus we’ve included a link at the end to an article in the Guardian where Sophy explains how to draw your own bear. We hope you enjoy!

The Studio

Sophy Henn lives and writes with her family in Sussex, England. She studied fashion at Central Saint Martins, had a London-based career as an Art Director in advertising, then completed an MA in illustration at the University of Brighton. Sophy is the only two-time winner of the World Book Day Illustrator award in 2015 and 2016. She writes and illustrates her books in her studio with a big cup of tea by her side.

The Studio

Sophy Henn lives and writes with her family in Sussex, England. She studied fashion at Central Saint Martins, had a London-based career as an Art Director in advertising, then completed an MA in illustration at the University of Brighton. Sophy is the only two-time winner of the World Book Day Illustrator award in 2015 and 2016. She writes and illustrates her books in her studio with a big cup of tea by her side.

The Inspiration

“The story started as a very poor acrylic painting I doodled sitting at the kitchen table with the usual Saturday chaos going on around me. It was of little white bear, who looked a bit worried, in a deep, dark forest. He didn’t seem to be where he was meant to be, and that got me thinking.”

The Inspiration

“The story started as a very poor acrylic painting I doodled sitting at the kitchen table with the usual Saturday chaos going on around me. It was of little white bear, who looked a bit worried, in a deep, dark forest. He didn’t seem to be where he was meant to be, and that got me thinking.”

Building the Story

“As I mentioned above a doodle of the bear initiated the whole story, and as for the rest of it, basically I made it up as I went along. I had the luxury of no deadlines or pressure as I was creating it alongside work and that gave me the time and space to explore all sorts of ideas. . . It came about from watching my daughter and her friends pottering about, and it struck me that when they came up against a problem they were very pragmatic about solving it.”

Building the Story

“As I mentioned above a doodle of the bear initiated the whole story, and as for the rest of it, basically I made it up as I went along. I had the luxury of no deadlines or pressure as I was creating it alongside work and that gave me the time and space to explore all sorts of ideas. . . It came about from watching my daughter and her friends pottering about, and it struck me that when they came up against a problem they were very pragmatic about solving it.”

Developing the Characters

“I had a vague idea of how I wanted the book to look and wrote with that in mind, but as the book got further down the line it became a question of locking down the words and then illustrating round them. That tends to be how I work now, though often one image or character will start the whole ball rolling. . . The boy notices the bear is in the wrong place, so goes about sorting that out. He puts the bear first and trusts that their friendship will endure that, simple!”

Developing the Characters

“I had a vague idea of how I wanted the book to look and wrote with that in mind, but as the book got further down the line it became a question of locking down the words and then illustrating round them. That tends to be how I work now, though often one image or character will start the whole ball rolling. . . The boy notices the bear is in the wrong place, so goes about sorting that out. He puts the bear first and trusts that their friendship will endure that, simple!”

The Look & Feel

“I do love to create a colour palette. The art director I work with calls them “Non-colour colours”, sort of like a colour but a bit off. I think it comes from the picture books I grew up with, those mid-century ones that were a bit murky. (I’d like to point out they had been around for a bit by then!) I also love the colour palettes of Wes Anderson films (there is a tumblr account dedicated to them and rightly so) and the palette of the new Mary Poppins film is a delight! But the Where Bear book was definitely created with bedtime reading in mind, warm and soothing but with a nod to mid-century loveliness.”

The Look & Feel

“I do love to create a colour palette. The art director I work with calls them “Non-colour colours”, sort of like a colour but a bit off. I think it comes from the picture books I grew up with, those mid-century ones that were a bit murky. (I’d like to point out they had been around for a bit by then!) I also love the colour palettes of Wes Anderson films (there is a tumblr account dedicated to them and rightly so) and the palette of the new Mary Poppins film is a delight! But the Where Bear book was definitely created with bedtime reading in mind, warm and soothing but with a nod to mid-century loveliness.”

On Sketching Bears

“I do seem to love drawing bears, my sketchbooks are full of them! I think it’s because you can give them very expressive and human qualities quite easily. And they are instantly cuddly. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle a bear? . . . I can’t ignore the fact that if left to doodle, I will most likely doodle a bear!”

On Sketching Bears

“I do seem to love drawing bears, my sketchbooks are full of them! I think it’s because you can give them very expressive and human qualities quite easily. And they are instantly cuddly. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle a bear? . . . I can’t ignore the fact that if left to doodle, I will most likely doodle a bear!”

Sophy’s Drawing Tips

Feeling inspired? Want to try your hand at drawing illustrations? Sophy actually sat down sometime back with the Guardian newspaper and provided her own special tutorial on how to draw expressions. You can take a look for yourself by following this link or clicking on the picture.

Sophy’s Drawing Tips

Feeling inspired? Want to try your hand at drawing illustrations? Sophy actually sat down sometime back with the Guardian newspaper and provided her own special tutorial on how to draw expressions. You can take a look for yourself by following this link or clicking on the picture.

 

Thanks as always to Sophy Henn for sharing her time and talent with us. To learn more about the author check out our first interview with Sophy here, and our follow-up conversation regarding Where Bear here. You can also visit her website here.

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