Caterpillar Books

News, interviews and ramblings from Caterpillar Books HQ.

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Illustrator Interview: Mike Byrne

Mike graduated with a degree in Children’s Book Illustration and now works as a full-time illustrator. He has always loved experimenting with his designs, combining his passions for art and his computer! He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two cats, and spends his days doodling and creating fantastical characters to bring his books to life. 


As an illustrator, did you always want to work on children’s books?

I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to draw the pictures that I saw in all the fab books in the library and at home. So much so that when I grew up, I went to University to study a degree in ‘Illustration for Children’s Publishing’. 

What do you need to be able to sit down and start working?

A big cup of tea, a cheeky biscuit, the radio, my Macbook Pro, my amazing Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet that lets me draw directly onto the screen….and some more tea!

What processes do you go through after receiving an illustration brief?

When I first get a brief? Panic, excitement and then a zen-like focus!

I first scribble down my initial ideas and character sketches whilst reading through the story. They usually look nothing like the finished artwork, but it helps me to think and work through the story in my own way.  

I then get lots of reference material together for all the things that appear in the story, which helps me to develop my initial scribbles into more refined sketches. Then it’s on to the initial rough spread stage, where I sketch out the pages on my Wacom drawing tablet, allowing me to easily undo all my mistakes! Once they are ready, I send them off to the brilliant team at Caterpillar*, who make their comments and give me feedback.

When I get all their comments back, I make any changes that have been requested and set about adding some flat colours. At this point, it’s more about trying to get the palette and the ‘look’ right. Once I’m happy, I then start to colour the pages up in detail, adding shading and making the pictures all look nice. When that’s done, they are sent back to Caterpillar and they make any final suggestions for tweaks before everything gets sent off to the printers!

What is a typical day in the life of Mike Byrne?

I sit down at my desk at 9am, spending the first half hour or so going through emails and necessary admin before I get started on the ‘fun’ stuff!

I work through until 12:30 when I get changed and either go for a jog or a quick ride on my mountain bike before heading back to the house. I grab a sandwich and another cuppa, before getting back to work at 1:30.

I then carry on working right through till 7pm (ish) when I down tools to go and cook dinner for my wifey before she comes home from work.

The books you have worked on for Caterpillar, including Bunny Starts School include lists to help improve memory. Are you a forgetful person and do you make lots of lists?

I’m not a forgetful person, but that is because I make so many lists! (Just take a look at the photo of my workspace.) I have lists everywhere… you can never have too many lists!


Page shown is from Teddy’s First Sleepover


Can you remember your first day at school?

I can! I was very excited and very nervous. I remember holding on tightly to my Mum’s hand not wanting to let go…That was until I saw one of my friends at the school gates and ran off straight to meet him! 

Your characters in the Let’s Get Ready series are all very friendly, happy animals. Do you have any pets that inspire you? 

I have two cats. A tabby cat called Molly and a big fluffy cat called Boots. They spend  their days coming and going, but often stop by my desk to say hello and to get a quick cuddle! 

If you hadn’t been an illustrator, what would you be doing now?

I have no idea, but I’m sure it would have involved me drawing in some form! 

What’s your favourite food?

Cheese… of all kinds! 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a children’s illustrator?

Do it! It really is the best job in the world. I get to spend my day, indulging in my hobby, drawing fun characters and getting paid to do it!

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?

New York. I went there for my first wedding anniversary and it is the most amazing city in the world. It is such a vibrant place, with so much to see and do. I already have a list of things I’d like to do and places I’d like to visit the next time we go there!

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading the Game of Thrones series by George R.R Martin. 

 

*Opinion Mike Byrne’s own – the Caterpillar team in no way coerced the interviewee!


Bunny Starts School is out now!

Filed under books children's books children's publishing caterpillar books caterpillar Illustration interview creative publishing

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Inside Caterpillar Books HQ

Emily Hibbs describes her first day of work experience at Caterpillar Books.

Morning

I arrived at The Coda Centre (Caterpillar Books Headquarters) a bit late having not quite mastered the London Tube system, which, as I was already nervous, did little to calm me down. Fortunately the team was very welcoming and I quickly relaxed.  The office was lovely and bright and the walls were covered in shelves showing off all the colourful books Caterpillar have published. I was given a cup of tea and a bit of tour before I settled down to my first task, helping think of ideas for a princess activity book – watch this space, from what I’ve seen it’s going to be fantastic! After I’d exhausted my imagination, I was shown the first draft for a book coming out later this year, suggesting I had a go at editing it. I read through the text and attempted some proofreading as well as checking the story for incongruities. I got some really helpful feedback on why some of my ideas would work, and why some wouldn’t. It was exciting to see the company’s upcoming projects, and just before lunch I was shown Kate Daubney’s Monster Doodle Book,which is so fun, and beautifully illustrated!

Afternoon

After my lunch break I was asked to do some research on monster trucks for a future project. I can honestly say I was a complete monster truck novice and now feel like a bit of an expert!  One of the many new things I’ve learnt about this week.  On Monday afternoons the Caterpillar team have a meeting to track their progress and ensure everyone’s on the same page, as it were. I sat in on this, trying to absorb all the publishing-lingo (which was thoughtfully explained to me). As my final task of the day, I had a go at drafting my own text for a new pop-up book, which was great fun and much harder than I thought! At half-past five I left the office to tackle London transport again, already looking forward to the exciting tasks the next day was sure to bring.

Filed under publishing children's books books editing work experience illustration

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Illustrator Interview: Kate Daubney

                                         

 

Since graduating from University College Falmouth in 2009, Kate Daubney has worked full-time as a freelance illustrator. Her latest title for Caterpillar Books, The Monster Alphabet Book, is out this month!


How did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books? Were you always arty as a child?

I was never much of an academic at school and used to get my best grades in Art and Design, so going on to study art at college was a natural progression for me. Alongside art, I’ve always loved stories so that inspired me to study Illustration at university, which led me to become a children’s book illustrator!

 

What’s the best thing about being a children’s illustrator? 

The creative freedom is one of the best parts of the job. On a daily basis I get to create new characters and colourful worlds for them to live in!

 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a children’s illustrator?

It’s so important to really think about how your work fits into the children’s book market. Spend lots of time in the children’s section of bookshops and libraries, and try to imagine how your work would sit amongst the other illustrators. Make sure you show your work to as many people as you can and ask for feedback. I used to hate getting negative feedback, but I soon realised that sometimes you need it in order to develop.

 

What do you need to be able to sit down and start working?

My work desk has everything I need all set up and ready to go: a selection of pencils, a ruler, a range of dip-pen nibs and holders, a big pot of black Windsor and Newton ink, a stack of A4 and A3 paper, my iMac and, if it’s first thing in the morning, a mug filled to the brim with hot, sweet tea!

 

What is a typical day in the life of Kate Daubney?

I’m at my desk by 9am, bright eyed and bushy tailed, to check my emails and send off any illustrations that I’ve been working on the previous evening. Then I usually do any admin jobs like chasing up invoices or checking over contracts. Then I can move on to the fun bit, which is to create illustrations! Usually by 1pm my stomach tells me it’s lunchtime. Around 3pm I down tools again and take our dog, Taz, on his afternoon walk. He’s a terrier and loves to chase everything and anything, so our walks usually involve me coaxing him out of bushes and rabbit holes. Once we’re back, I work until around 6pm when I finish up for the day.

 

All of the monsters in The Monster Alphabet Book and The Monster Counting Book have such great personalities - what was the process you went through to come up with the ideas?

I started off by looking through books of insects and animals of all different shapes and sizes to get inspiration. Then I drew loads of sketches of monsters with various characteristics. Some had two heads, some had ten legs, some had extremely long arms, and so on. I then worked with the team at Caterpillar to pick out our favourites. It wasn’t long before the monsters’ personalities started to become apparent. For example, Alfie has eight tentacles, so I decided to make him a cheeky monster who likes tickling things!

                          

If you could be any of your monsters, which would you be?

Probably Deborah from The Monster Alphabet Book. She’s a bit like an octopus and has seven arms, which would come in really useful for multi-tasking, and she also gets to sail to tropical islands in her boat!

                                    

What’s next in store for the monsters?

The Monster series just keeps on growing and I’ve just recently finished working on a Monster Doodle Book. It features characters from both The Monster Counting Book and The Monster Alphabet Book, as well as a whole host of new monsters to look out for.

 

Do you check for monsters under your bed?

No, although I do check for the dog as he has a tendency to hide under the bed and then wake me up with his snoring in the middle of the night!

 

What’s your favourite food?

Without a doubt it has to be chocolate. Chocolate biscuits, chocolate cake, hot chocolate, chocolate spread; it really doesn’t matter as long as it’s chocolate!

 

What inspires you?

Other artists, nature, things on TV, books, people I know, funny looking dogs we meet on our walks… I get inspiration from so many things that it’s just too hard to pinpoint.

 

What was your favourite book as a child?

It has to be George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl. I used to spend hours trying to perfect that recipe, much to the dismay of my mum who was always finding things like her expensive perfume missing, and then mysteriously turning up again half empty.

 

If you hadn’t been an illustrator, what would you be doing now?

Definitely something creative but I have no idea what it would be!

Visit www.caterpillarbooks.com to see all the books in the Monster series.

Filed under books children's books illustration interview monsters paper-engingeering pop-up pre-school pre-school books publishing design