When Veronica isn’t drawing, she’s either running with her friend’s geriatric greyhound or talking to the neighbour’s cat. And yes, she insists he meows back. In thirty years, Veronica’s illustrated hundreds of T-shirt designs for the tourism market and created two very popular comic serials for The School Magazine. There’s been LOTS of other drawing as well, but what Veronica enjoys most is illustrating picture books….and cake.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have Veronica assigned to work on my latest picture book, Friends, due for release soon by Serenity Press. It was such an exciting process to see my simple rhymes translated into colourful pictures with a touch of humour. I’m always interested in finding out how the creative process works for writers and illustrators, so I put Veronica on the spot with some questions about her illustrations for Friends.
Why did you cast a koala as the main character in Friends? The text doesn’t specify any particular characters. Because of my work for the tourism industry, I know that koalas are the most popular animal. But I didn’t decide that straight away. I did sketches of all different animals for the first few pages. Then when I looked at it as a reader, it felt odd. I didn’t have a single character to identify the ‘friend’ theme with. When I put the koala in, it did this for me.
How did you decide on which creature to place on which page? First, I worked out the text for each page. Then while reading each one, I imagined which animal I could apply to it. Some pages were easier than others. You have the theme the author puts into their book, but I always like to add an element of humour into the illustrations.
You have worked on Australiana designs for tee-shirts in the past. Did this experience make the illustration process for Friends easier? Yes. I’ve drawn Australian animals since 1992. Tourists preferred animals to be well drawn. So when they return home with their shirts, everyone can clearly see where they’ve been for a holiday. Correctly drawn animals are important for Australians too. You can always spot when a badly drawn kangaroo looks more like an oversized rabbit!
You’ve created a special font for this picture book. Why didn’t you use a standard font? I started with a standard font while working out the pages. After I married up the illustrations to the text, it looked too boring. Also every font in my computer has been used before. I wanted a unique font just for this book.
This is the third picture book of Teena’s you’ve illustrated. Did you use a different approach? I needed to keep in mind the styles in Teena’s other books. I didn’t want her to end up with a similar looking one. When an author displays their books at a fair or a talk, it’s better if they all look different. I’m hoping there will be more books we work on together, so they’ll need to look different again.
As an artist, how do you feel about author involvement in your creative process? I like it. It’s the author’s story, so I feel they should have input. It’s my job to make what they want look amazing. But I’ll also suggest things along the way.
What media have you used to create the illustrations for Friends? I’ve used pencils to draw the illustrations and then scanned them into Photoshop.
Is your creative process when illustrating a picture book always the same, or does the project influence how you work on it? I start them all the same. I read the text as soon as I get it and then put it away. While I’m doing other things (like boring housework), my brain is busily conjuring up images to go with the words. When I sit down to draw, I can start sketching straight away.
What did you enjoy most about working on Friends? It gave me the chance to draw Australian animals. Teena is a great author to work with too. (Thank you!)
What’s next for you? I’m excited to have Monique Mulligan’s new book Fergus the Farting Dragon to begin illustrating next. I’ve created the cover, so we know what the character looks like and also the style. It’s being published by Serenity Press. Drawing an animal farting….what isn’t there to love about that?
Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, illustrated by Veronica Rooke
What makes a friend special?