Karen George Interview

Karen George is an illustrator and author who rose to prominence when she won an illustration competition and with it, the chance to illustrate a book written by no less than Julia Donaldson. We caught up with Karen to ask her how her life has changed since that moment and where she sees her career going from here.

Karen, it’s well-documented that your big break came when you won the ’Picture This’ competition, with the prize of illustrating a book written by Julia Donaldson (Freddie and the Fairy). How life-changing was winning that prize?
Winning ‘Picture This’ was an amazing experience. I had long wanted to illustrate children’s books and viewed my entry into the competition as a way of refreshing my portfolio. I never thought it would be possible to win, the prize was too fantastic !

Having won, I was propelled very rapidly to the top of the pile. It was a life changing win, turning me into a published illustrator most unbelievably, for Julia Donaldson !

Is the life of a published illustrator and author been everything you imagined it to be?
The life of a published illustrator and author has been everything I imagined it to be and more ! The thrill of seeing my published books on shelves, alongside authors and illustrators that I have long admired, is wonderful. The bonus has been the opportunities it has brought to get involved reading and drawing with children.

What have been the greatest challenges? And rewards?
The first challenge was not to be too daunted by the prospect of working with Julia Donaldson ! Having not come from an illustration background, the process of making the first book was a very steep learning curve. But I needn’t have worried, I was in the hands of some very experienced and lovely publishers who guided me through it.

The rewards have been enormous, from holding a finished, printed book in my hand with my name on the cover to knowing that all the pictures I have enjoyed drawing are being enjoyed by children all over the world !

Since winning the competition, you have also written and illustrated another book, Hugh Shampoo. Did you enjoy the creative process of working on your own book?
I enjoyed the creative process of working on my own book. The character Hugh Shampoo had been around for a long time in the form of drawings and it was fun to finally be giving him his story.  Writing and illustrating a book is a very different process from illustrating a book for another author. Julia Donaldson’s texts are wonderfully visual and instantly conjure up very strong images. With my own book the words and pictures went hand in hand to develop the story. They inform and inspire each other. I love having the two different approaches to work.

Is there a children’s book illustrator whose style you admire?
I admire the work of Margaret Bloy Graham. When I was young I was given her book Dear Dustman. I loved the humour and detail of her illustrations.

How would you like to see your career as an author/illustrator evolving? You started at the very top, working with Julia Donaldson! 
Starting at the top with Julia Donaldson was quite an achievement ! What it gave me is a very valuable insight and grounding upon which to build. My sights are set high ! I would love my career to carry on just the way it has started, with more books both of my own and collaborations with other authors. I would also like to further develop working with the children the books are for, encouraging reading and drawing. They bring such enthusiasm and a freshness to ideas.

Do you have any events planned to promote your new collaboration with Julia Donaldson, Wake Up Do, Lydia Lou!?
I have been visiting bookshops and schools with Macmillan to promote my new collaboration with Julia Donaldson Wake Up Do, Lydia Lou ! It is a fantastic book to read out loud with lots of opportunity for some very noisy participation ! (All been on the Book Events for Children website ! )

Which children’s book – from any era- would you like to have illustrated? 
I would be fantastic to illustrate some of Edward Lear’s poems. The Jumblies and The Quangle Wangle’s Hat would be great fun !

 For more information about Karen’s work please click here to visit her website.
To learn more about Macmillan Children’s Books, please click here.

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