Interview: Children’s Book Illustrator Ella Bailey
Ella Bailey’s new Flying Eye Book One Day On Our Blue Planet…In The Savannah teaches children a valuable lesson about the importance of nature preservation whilst taking them on an unforgettable journey.
Tracing the footsteps of a young cub for 24 hours, the story weaves narrative and education together to uncover fascinating facts about the animal kingdom, and enlighten readers young and old.
In The Savannah is the first in a series of books by Ella Bailey and Flying Eye books, each looking at wildlife in a different part of the world. The One Day On Our Blue Planet series is very different from Ella’s debut Flying Eye No Such Thing, a short story about a fearless little girl and a group of sneaky ghost and ghouls.
As well as working with Nobrow and their children’s imprint, since graduating in 2013 Ella has also produced an illustrated board book with Ivy Press, designed a range of stationery products in collaboration with Ohh Deer, and worked on a series of personal projects. Tying all of her projects together, her illustrative style is a wild yet tame blend of smooth shapes and rough texture, using simplified forms and varied expressions to bring any subject to life.
Eager to know more about her new book and the process behind it, we caught up with Ella to tell us more…
Hi Ella – how did the idea for your One Day On Our Blue Planet series first materialise?
It was actually Flying Eye Books who first came to me with the initial concept for the series. Having always been a bit of a wildlife enthusiast, I loved the sound of the idea, and leapt at the chance to work on the books!
And how did the idea of basing the first book in the Savannah come to you?
Rather than thinking in terms of where we wanted to set it, we decided on the first book based on the animal we wanted to focus on. We wanted to start off the series with an iconic animal, something that most people will love and recognise, and I think a lion cub felt like the most natural choice for that.
Can you talk us through your process of creating the book? Your work is filled with texture – is this created digitally, by hand or a mixture of both?
Everything for the book was created digitally, on my trusty computer.
I like the flexibility that working digitally brings, and over time I’ve become just as comfortable working on a tablet as I am working on paper!
However, I do like to retain a sense of texture in my work, so I have made quite a few nifty photoshop brushes that help me with that. Sometimes I overlay some scanned, inky/painty textures as well, although I used that technique sparingly in this book.
Most of all, I wanted to concentrate on capturing the distinctive colours of the savannah, so after I had created my rough sketches, my next step was to block in all the colours I wanted to use on the page. The colour palette for most of the book is dominated by greens and yellows, which are colours I don’t ordinarily use, so it was a fun challenge getting the balance right.
Speaking of colour – one of our favourite aspects on the design of the book is the transition from day to night. Did you find it difficult to create a colour palette to capture this?
I knew the day to night transition was an important aspect of the book, so I spent a while trying to get it right. I have a couple of ‘Art of…’ animated film books, and inside they often include the colour maps they create when they are story-boarding their films, that show how the dominate colours change from scene to scene. I took some inspiration from these to help me figure out how the colours change throughout the book.
This book is very different from your first Flying Eye Book, No Such Thing. Was it important to you to do something completely different with this series?
Part of what drew me to becoming a freelance illustrator was the prospect of being able to work on a variety of projects, though I didn’t set out with a purpose of doing something completely different with this one.
I do feel lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to work on two such different books early on
Did you feel more or less pressure when creating this book compared to you debut Flying Eye?
I guess it was about the same? I think I will always feel the pressure, no matter what number book I am working on!
How did you go about researching the Savannah in preparation for writing the book? Did you already know much about the subject?
I spent a long time on research for this book, mostly in regards to the animals that populate it! I already had quite a good idea of the sorts of things you could find in the African Savannah, mostly thanks to many years of David Attenborough documentaries, but there were still many creatures that were new to me. I wrote many lists of all the mammals, birds, and reptiles I could possibly include. The most time consuming part was probably looking up pictures for reference – the internet and reference books were my friends here.
We wanted everything to be factually accurate, so I had to make sure my animals looked right…
Of course, I also had to spend some time researching about the lions themselves. As it turns out, these big cats don’t tend to pack their days full of activity (they sleep a lot), but I hope I still managed to keep things interesting, whilst staying true to the lions’ love for lying around.
Have you always been interested in animals and nature – even as a child?
When I was very little, I dreamt of being a farmer, and then when I was a bit older, I had a phase of wanting to become a marine biologist. Obviously, I am currently neither of those things, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve always been drawn to nature and found wildlife fascinating.
How important do you think it is to teach children about animals and nature from an early age?
Wildlife conservation is, in my opinion, a big issue, especially in the current world climate, and I feel that educating children from an early age is essential to help them understand the importance of the natural world. Books like ‘One Day…’ can hopefully help with this education, by acting as a gentle introduction to a variety of animals and habitats that children might not otherwise be aware of.
Finally, this is just the first in a series of books you are creating in collaboration with Flying Eye Books – can you tell us anything about future titles in the series?
I can tell you that the next book in the series takes place somewhere very, very cold…!