Adrienne Body is an author and illustrator of children’s fiction and non-fiction picture books. Growing up in New Zealand with stories and illustrations by great local children’s authors like Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy inspired her to put her love of art together with her love of words to bring to life her own cute and colourful characters.
What’s the best aspect of your artistic life?
I like having an outlet for all the crazy random sparks of ideas that come from great experiences and interactions. I love that (hopefully) my books help kids to learn, to feel positive about books and reading, and encourage their own creativity. If a book or character of mine makes someone smile or laugh, I’m happy.
I often wish I had more time to devote to it, but it doesn’t pay the bills right now.
How do you approach an illustration project?
Usually I am illustrating my own text. Sometimes the text comes first, sometimes the idea forms with the text and images forming together. Mostly I just let things stew in my head until something clicks. Then I get the words down, map out a page by page layout, then start work on the individual illustrations.
I find it helps to give myself a deadline, even if it’s fairly arbitrary, otherwise I procrastinate too much. Other than that, I find there is no point in trying to work on any project of mine if I am not in the right mood for it. Things just get frustrating.
When doing illustrations or cover art for others I try to get to know the story, talk to the author about it, and again let it all stew for a while. I’ll then rough out some concepts and go from there.
What are you working on at the moment?
I always have a few different projects floating about in my head. I can never tell which one is going to elbow its way to the front next. At some stage I plan on revisiting my very first character, Breakfast the sheep. In her next story she is trying to help her friend (a currently nameless cow) figure out a way to jump over the moon. I’m having a lot of fun with the rhymes and the not-so-successful moon jumping ideas. Accurate use of the laws of physics is not something that is going to be playing a role in this story.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?
Confidence, time, and expense. It can be a big and scary investment; particularly if you decide to self-publish. Print-on-demand wasn’t really a thing when I put out my first book, so deciding to front up the cash to print a batch after being (very politely and positively) rejected by a couple of publishers was nerve-racking. Although one publisher was very encouraging about my illustrations, so that helped a little with the self-confidence.
Is there any area of art that you still find challenging?
It’s hard to let my projects ‘into the wild’ sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with them, so I have to tell myself that they are finished enough, otherwise I’d never publish anything. It comes down to the confidence thing.
Also, marketing can be a challenge, particularly when you aren’t great at talking about yourself and your work.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve always been writing and drawing. If I don’t do something creative pretty regularly, then I struggle with life in general. It is my sanity, my therapy. It’s not my day job, not my main income, and I (try not to) think I’m a bit rubbish at it, but I think it’s what I’m meant to be doing.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator?
I think I would do some courses on some different techniques and on using different digital illustration software. But it’s never too late to do that, so I probably soon will.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator?
I always had self-doubt, thinking that I would never be creative enough to come up with new ideas or produce something good enough for a client. It would have been nice to have a cheerleader then, someone whose opinion I trusted who could tell me that I would be good enough and to keep working toward it. I got there on my own.
What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators?
Find yourself someone who will genuinely (in a constructive and sensitive way) tell you if something you make is rubbish; and believe them when they tell you it’s not.
“This full-colour children’s picture book is full to the brim with adorable aquatic creatures who have oodles of personality. Granddad’s Fish Tank is a great tool to encourage literacy development skills. It’s rich in fun rhymes and rhythm, paired with bright and quirky water-colour illustrations.”