Today we chat to Nottingham-based Illustrator Ella Bailey, who’s big break came when she wrote and illustrated children’s book ‘There’s No Such Thing’ for innovative publisher Flying Eye Books, the children’s imprint of award-winning publishing house Nobrow. She’s since published a second, ‘One Day on Our Blue Planet… In The Antarctic’, and has already collected an impressive client list under her belt. Ella talks picture books, cats and ketchup with Bibelot…
1. How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it before?
I would say that I take a lot of inspiration from illustration and design from the 50s and 60s, so my work often has a retro feel to it. I love using limited colour palettes combined with fresh, contemporary colours. Wide-eyed characters, of both the human and animal variety, feature often in my illustrations.
2. Describe your working routine – studio, kitchen table, caffeinated beverage of choice, music, silence?
I have a desk, which is mainly dominated by my computer and tablet, tucked away in the corner of a room. My work is mainly digital, so that is often all I need to get things done! There is always a minimum of one cup of tea (or coffee, especially if I need help staying awake) within arms reach, and I go through quite a few cups throughout the day. I alternate between music and silence, depending on my mood. Sometimes I find listening to film soundtracks especially helps when I need some motivating, but not too distracting, background noise!
3. Which book illustrations have stayed with you from childhood/influenced you?
I was very lucky to grow up in a house full of books, so I have a lot of favourites! Shirley Hughes and Judith Kerr are two illustrators whose work has really stuck with me over the years. I love Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline books, too. I also remember being enchanted by the illustrations from the Brambly Hedge books, by Jill Barklem. Oh, and of course, Beatrix Potter was, and always will be, a favourite as well! I think I could go on for a while!
4. When are you happiest?
Lots of little things make me happy. Like rainy days, or pizza (I am easy to please). I’m not sure if I know when I am happiest.
5. Cats feature a lot in your work. Do you have a furry friend who keeps you company while you work?
It’s true that cats pop up very often in my drawings (in fact I have just finished a very cat-heavy project), but the truth is… we have a dog! She’s a black cocker spaniel called Minnie, and she can often be found snoring on a cushion by my desk. I think the reason I enjoy drawing cats so much is I find them very easy to anthropomorphise, and I just really like how they look.
6. What type of artwork do you have hanging in your home?
I live with my parents right now, so I don’t really have a home to decorate. I like to stick up interesting bits and pieces on the walls around my desk (it looks nicer than it sounds)! I also have a Miroslav Sasek calendar (I love his travel illustrations), and some illustrations from vintage Topsy and Tim books up there too. Most of the artwork I like to look at lives in the ever-growing collection of picture books on my shelves.
7. Who/what is inspiring you right now?
Right now, I’m feeling very inspired by the natural world. Picture books are a constant source of inspiration for me, too.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.
I had a long think about this, and came to the conclusion that I am not a very surprising person. Sometimes people are vaguely surprised that I don’t like ketchup.
9. What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
At the moment, I’m focusing on my work in children’s books and children’s illustration, and I love what I’m doing. In the future I think I would like to explore illustrating for an older audience too, as that is something I haven’t done too much of yet.
10. What advice would you give to people who want to make creativity a bigger part of their life?
Surround yourself with things you love to look at, and always keep your eyes open for inspiration – sometimes it can be found in the most unlikely or mundane of places.