Hi Carole, thanks for speaking with us today and congratulations on your latest project, ‘Who Can? Toucan!’ Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into illustrating for children’s books?

Hi there! It’s a pleasure for me to be sharing my thoughts and process with you so thank you for
having me! My name is Carole Chevalier and I’m a French graphic designer and illustrator.
Although I studied design in France, it’s in North Wales where I lived for more than 5 years that I learnt pretty much everything I know about my profession. I used to work at a great design
company but realised quickly that what I really wanted to do was to be my own boss. So I left in
June 2016 to pursue a freelance career and one of the main reasons was to be able to work on
my dream project: illustrating children’s books.

I’ve always enjoyed working on various illustrative projects, but my passion has always been in
children’s books and I felt it was time to approach the right people to achieve that goal. As I
naturally create youthful and fun illustrations, I’m always drawn to cute and entertaining projects and children’s books are the best for that. I love the idea that they can help children going to sleep or learning to read, that they can be educational and full of life-lessons whilst being fun and magical. There are so many great aspects and purposes to a book! If I can help and illustrate the author’s ideas to create a beautiful book that children will cherish, then I’m the
happiest of illustrators!

That’s great!  You have a whole portfolio of different illustrations. How is illustrating for a children’s book different from other graphic design work?

The tools I’m using whilst illustrating a children’s book might be very similar to any other
illustrative project, however, the process can be very different. I try and think about the kids that will look at the pages, even the ones that can’t read yet, so my aim is to make each illustration as interesting as possible. This is why I love everything to do with bright colours!

Also, as most books will have hidden messages and values, there are many things that you need to think about when illustrating a children’s book. For example, for “Who Can? Toucan!”, the author wanted to make sure that the book was gender neutral and represented various ethnicities.

As mentioned before, there’s an educational side in each book but the best thing about it is that it doesn’t have to be serious. I love the fact that I can be as creative as I want and as long as the right message is being conveyed, there’s no harm in escaping from reality and going a bit wild!

So what is your process for illustrating a children’s book – how do you start, how do you work?

I start any project the same way to be honest. The main thing is to understand what my clients
want and need, to understand what would be my task and how I could help them. With a
children’s book, it’s pretty much the same thing. I need to understand the story, the message
behind it and what the author would like to concentrate on. It could be a main character like
Toucan or the concept behind the settings.

Then the fun part is to decide which style we’re going for! Moodboarding is essential and I
always enjoy putting together inspiration boards to show how the illustrations could look
style-wise. Once I’ve had feedback from the author, I start sketching out some layout ideas as
well as character poses. It’s super fun! I prefer to sketch ideas before developing them as this
way, the author can see the process and let me know if anything would need to change before
we’re going too far, and for me, this is when I’m the most creative and I make a point of thinking about every detail.

After this crucial stage, once all the sketches are approved I get to either finalise the illustrations by hand or digitally. It’s so amazing to see each illustration come to life! This is another reason why I love working on this type of project, there’s a story behind it, and as an illustrator, it’s nice to see the characters you’ve created evolving throughout the book.

If you’re curious, I’ve actually put together a little blog post showing the behind the scenes when illustrating “Who Can? Toucan!”

Where do you find your inspiration for your illustrations?

Pinterest is one of the best tools to find inspiration, so I made sure to create a board exclusively about illustration on my profile which helps a ton. However, sometimes it’s nice to not rely too much on Pinterest and I find myself having a look at the work of other illustrators that I follow on social platforms. There are so many super talented people out there! I love having a look at what they’ve been working on recently and I enjoy discovering children’s book illustrators that I could look up to. Also, when I used to live in North Wales, I would often go to the Waterstones in Llandudno just to have a look at the beautiful book covers! When they started to introduce the greeting cards range, I would even take the time to scroll through all of them and I would have a look at the reverse of the cards to find out who the artists were.

It’s nice to find so much inspiration thanks to the whole wide internet, but sometimes I just need to go to a shop or look around me to find great sources of inspiration.

Your illustrations are beautiful bold and colourful, talk to us a little about why and how you choose this as your main style?

Why thank you! I think a lot of creative people will feel more comfortable with certain styles and I realised quite early on in school that what I enjoyed most was colourful and dynamic
associations that would feel more joyful rather than sad. One of my favourite things is to talk and laugh, and having fun in general so I think my illustrative style reflects that! Even looking at my school notebooks in primary school, I would always find a way to add colour to each and every page by using different coloured pens to underline the titles. I remember my best friend and I collecting colourful ball pens when we must have been about 12 years old, and when writing our homework, we would change colour for every line… Our poor teacher!

I feel more true to myself when working on fun, bright artworks because as simple as it sounds,
they make me feel happy!

What do you think makes a great children’s book?

Such a hard question! A great children’s book to me is one that has more illustrations than text
as I always remember looking at the beautiful pictures with my parents and imagining the story
when I couldn’t quite read yet! Amazing visuals are essential.

Also, I think it’s great when they have some kind of intrigue and you discover something BIG on the last page. It makes it all very exciting!

Another thing would be that the story is clever enough that growing up with the book as
a child, you understand more and more its message that might have been too deep when you
were very young but makes complete sense when you’re a bit more grown up. See what I mean?

But overall really, a great children’s book is one that you can tell has had a lot of thought and
love put into it and you can see that the author and illustrator wanted to create something
unique that would spark all kinds of emotions in many kids.

And finally, what was your favourite children’s book growing up?

When I was teeny tiny, I remember this book that I was always asking my parents to read before
going to sleep. It’s a shame we don’t have it anymore so I can’t check the author nor the book’s
title. It was about three sisters that were also witches. Two of them were always really nice and
they would bake amazing and tasty cakes. The last one would always be moody and her cakes
looked disgusting. If I remember well, the moody sister once fell in stinging nettles so her two
lovely sisters had to look after her and gave her their delicious cakes. In the end the moody
witch realised that her sister’s cakes were not so bad and she became a lovely person too!

Other than this one, I always enjoyed the books that would have little games included in the
stories and very surreal stories like “Little Nemo in Slumberland”. Growing up into my teens
though, I have to say Harry Potter became my favourite of all time!

Good choice!  Well thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights today Carole.

If you would like to find out more about Carole’s work, you can visit her website: carolechevalier.co.uk

If you are a children’s book illustrator, author or publisher and would like to tell us about your process, we’d love to hear from you.  Get in touch hello@babybookclub.co.uk