Published 11 months ago
One of this month's featured creatives is Mandy Sutcliffe. Mandy illustrated Hop Along Boo, Time for Bed, which we included in our October picture book box.
Mandy is the UK-based illustrator of six children's books, as well as a co-founder of Belle and Boo, an online boutique featuring products made with Mandy's gorgeous illustrations of signature characters Belle and Boo as well as others. She had a pet rabbit growing up named Chalky and had the same hairstyle as Belle as a little girl. She is also the mother of twin boys. We were fortunate to have the chance to catch up with Mandy for an interview, and we’re thrilled to share it with you today! (The interview has been edited for clarity.)
Bookroo: You’ve written before about how you love illustrating children. How did you discover this passion and how have you gone about developing your signature illustration style?
Mandy: I discovered my love of drawing children whilst studying in Paris. I spent many hours in the Parisian parks and was captivated by the way they dressed their children, it reminded me of all my favourite childhood books. The wrinkled down socks with Mary Janes, big floppy hair bows and double-breasted coats. I have since gone on to study the illustrators I love and 'try' and live up to their high standards
Bookroo: You’ve now illustrated six children’s book, all about Belle and Boo. What’s your process for creating a book, from start to finish? What’s the biggest part of that process that’s evolved as you’ve had more experience illustrating?
Mandy: The first four Belle & Boo books were commissioned by our publisher Orchard books and are lovely gentle stories about food, bedtime and Christmas. By the time it came to the fifth book 'Hop Along" I wanted to change the illustration direction and be more in control of the story line. We teamed up with Mark Sperring (an amazing Bristol based writer) and were fortunate that he created two beautiful stories for us. I love drawing parades, groups of children and these books allowed me to flood the pages with children in imaginative worlds.
Bookroo: Where do you look for inspiration for your work?
Mandy: I am addicted to Pinterest and Instagram and of course my children and their friends are a constant source of inspiration.
Bookroo: What does an average day look like for you?
Mandy: I have a very strict routine, I think you have to when you have kids and limited time! I am up at 6:30 at the gym by 7am. At my desk by 9am with my radio and a coffee. I work through to 3pm when I stop to collect the kids. Then it's a couple of hours in the park, home, dinner, bath, bed (for the kids) and if I have any energy left a couple more hours of work, cosy at my desk, maybe with a glass or red, I love my routine!
Bookroo: What do you hope young readers experience from your work?
Mandy: I hope they appreciate the illustrations. My favourite children's book as a child are my favourite still today because of the amazing illustrations. If I can nurture an appreciation of good drawing then I have done my job.
Bookroo: Are there any details of Hop Along Boo, It’s Time for Bed that you particularly love that readers should watch for?
Mandy: Oooohhh loads, I love the first PJ parade, the transition from night wear to what the children will dream about. I also love the ballet shoes hung on the tree in the dancing spread. The cosiness of the cowboy wagon and the tiny babies in the camping spread.
Bookroo: You’re not only the illustrator of six children’s books, but are also the creative director and founder of Belle & Boo. Tell us a little more about how Belle & Boo got started and how that plays into your work as an illustrator.
Mandy: I started 11 years ago selling my prints through Etsy. After a year I teamed up with my good friend Kate and together we grew the brand. I am very lucky to be able to concentrate on the illustrating side of the business whilst others take care of the business side.
Bookroo: As a mother of twins and illustrator, what advice do you have for parents and others who are trying to raise readers?
Mandy: All I can say is READ, Read, read, we have done this from day 1 and the boys insist on it every night, how ever tired they are. My 2 are not natural readers themselves, slowly, slowly they are getting there, but we don't force it. I would rather they are excited about the new books that we got from the library that day than have a battle about reading their school books.
Bookroo: You were an artist and illustrator before you were a mother. Tell us about the process of returning to illustration following your twins’ birth.
Mandy: I never really stopped, I was lucky enough to have a great team around me to help me be a mum and an illustrator. The balance has changed at different stages along the way. I am enjoying this moment (they are in year 2) I get to work for 5-6 hours a day then I get to collect them from school and hang out with them.
Bookroo: What is your favorite children’s book?
Mandy: Milly Molly Mandy wins for me every time, I think because she is my name sake!
Bookroo: Outside of illustrating, what activities do you enjoy?
Mandy: I am not very exciting I am afraid! I love exercise, art, shopping and eating, not necessarily in that order!
Bookroo: We’re a community of book lovers. Do you have any upcoming books you can tell us about?
Mandy: Ohhh I have a few things that I would like to develop at some point, but they are just doodles in my sketch book at the moment, I am afraid you will have to watch this space!
We really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Mandy and her work as an illustrator. You can learn more about her and see more of her work on her website.
All images courtesy of Mandy Sutcliffe
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