An interview with Jodie Wonford
A good children’s picture book may revolve around a good story, but the illustrations are an important part of helping to bring it to life.
So when we started Tickled Moon, we knew that finding a good illustrator would be crucial to the success of the books.
Jodie Wonford was suggested to us by a friend of a friend and we loved her illustrative style from the start. The warmth, heart and fun that she brings to her illustrations, shines through on every page.
We have loved working with her – she’s been a true professional from the start – and she has been our illustrator on 3 books so far.
We know many of you love her illustrations too, so we thought you’d like to learn a bit more about her and her journey into becoming an illustrator…
So Jodie, when did you first realise that you were good at drawing?
Gosh, I can’t remember how old I was but my earliest memory I associate with drawing was when my Nan and Grandad took me to a local fair. One of the stalls was holding an art competition. I had to draw a picture and give my name and an address. A month or so later, my Nan and Grandad received a parcel through the post with a prize for me, I was so proud!
I don’t really remember thinking that I was good at drawing when I was younger. I just really enjoyed doing it (I know it’s cliche but) ever since I can remember!
(L. our budding illustrator age 4!)
When did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator?
In all honesty, it was a bit by chance! I have always enjoyed drawing and making and doing anything at all creative, and that was always going to be a big part of my life.
At secondary school, I had a great, supportive art teacher who assumed that I would choose art as one of my subjects but I actually hadn’t initially. That made me think about it a little more (I also felt a little bad when I told him that I hadn’t chosen it!) and I decided to swap one of the subjects to art.
Then, towards the end of sixth form, I still wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do and I didn’t feel ready to choose a 3 year university course. The careers councillor suggested I do a year-long foundation art course at a local university. I loved the course, it allowed me to try out every type of art and I fell in love with illustration.
I then went on to study it at degree level at Kingston University and here I am! Thank goodness my art teacher caused me to change my mind all those years ago!
(R.- One of Jodie’s favourite images from her final degree project.)
Why a children’s book illustrator?
Since I started studying illustration, I have always been drawn to children’s illustration. I created my first proper children’s book at the end of my foundation course and created another at the end of my degree. Then I tried out other things but it never gave me the feeling that children’s illustration does.
I enjoy every stage of illustrating a book, from creating a brand new character and developing their personality, to mapping out what will go on each page, to bringing that page to life by adding colour. Children’s books also take a lot longer to complete than most illustration commissions and I really enjoy devoting myself to a project for a long period of time to make it the best it can be!
Who has inspired you?
I have been so lucky to have been bought up around a lot of supportive people, including my family, friends, and teachers. I have always been encouraged to follow my dreams whatever they are and to work towards what I want in life.
My dad is creative and has his own business and I’ve grown up around that. Myself, my two sisters and brother all have our own businesses/are self employed based on passions of ours. And whilst the nature of those businesses are very different to each other, I think that it must stem back to watching our parents do that as we grew up.
Whilst social media has a lot of recognised negatives, I feel really lucky to be in this generation that has it at their fingertips. There are so many opportunities to be part of communities online and places to ask for tips, support or advice. I am inspired everyday by images I see on Instagram. It’s also so inspiring to watch other people’s journeys and growth in the industry via social media.
Who are your favourite illustrators?
There are so many amazing illustrators and designers out there but here’s a few that I love! Oliver Jeffers, Beatrice Blue, Sandra Dieckmann, Emily Coxhead, Laura Lhuillier, Laura Hughes, Lucy Fleming.
How do you start to illustrate a book? Do you have a process?
Initially, I read the story that I’ve been given, and jot down any initial ideas that come to me. I tend to get a lot of ideas popping into my head at random times throughout the next few days especially, either triggered by a thought or an image or something that has happened.
I love the excited feeling when a great idea comes to you! And I make sure I note all of these and refer back to them throughout the process.
Then I carry out any research necessary to the story. Sometimes that’s looking at pictures or drawing from observation.
Then I go on to starting to design the character, trying out lots of different things to see what brings it to life. These may start as rough line drawings that get more detailed as we develop the character. It’s also good to try out different positions and facial expressions to show how the character will be used throughout the book.
(In the video below you can see Jodie’s illustrative process come to life on a double page spread of “The Birthday BOO!”)
I work with the publisher throughout the whole process, updating them, sending new work, receiving feedback and discussing what works and what doesn’t.
During the same time as designing the character, I start to plan what will go on each page by drawing roughs. These are line drawings, and start as being very rough, but become more defined when it’s time to send them to the publisher.
The character designs and roughs are changed in line with feedback from the publisher. Once the character designs and roughs have been approved, it’s time to start colouring the pages and adding all of the detail that brings the book to life.
This process takes quite a while, especially on the first couple of pages, because we need to work out what style and colours work and tell the story in the best light. Once the illustrator and publisher are happy with how the book looks, we are done!
What do you love best about illustrating?
I love the feeling when you just get into the zone and your mind is clear. And then all of a sudden hours have gone by without you realising.
I find being creative so calming and therapeutic when I’m in the right mindset. And then, afterwards, you have also created something! It’s also normally when I find that things just seem to go right and I create my best work.
I also love the feeling at the end of creating something. When you look back over all of that hard work and ups and downs and failures and successes and it’s done! And you have this outcome at the end of it that you’ve accomplished, which is a product of everything that happened throughout the journey.
What have you loved best about illustrating Tickled Moon’s books?
Tickled Moon’s stories are so fun, cheeky, and heartwarming that they are an absolute joy to illustrate.
I get excited when I read them for the first time because they give me loads of ideas and conjure up so many feelings. The characters are written so strongly and with bucket loads of energy so anyone could imagine them without the images!
Tickled Moon’s team are also extremely supportive and approachable. Their help and feedback have bettered me as an illustrator and helped me improve lots of the images. The illustrations wouldn’t be what they are without their insight! I am very grateful that Tickled Moon trusted me to illustrate their precious stories.
(R. Jodie’s cover for “The Birthday BOO!”)
What’s your favourite illustration from our books and why?
I think it has to be The Birthday Boo image with Boo and the child in the sunset having a picnic. I think it really sums up the book and Tickled Moon’s heartwarming feel. It was a bit of a challenge for me as I hadn’t tried that lighting before. And I love that they “were best friends forever”!
What are your ambitions? Where would you like to be in 20 years time?
Having graduated under 2 years ago I am very much at the start of my journey and career.
In 20 years time I would love to be illustrating full time in a studio that has other creatives working there as part of a community. I would like to have built more of my own brand, and have worked with lots of different people. Be more confident and have grown as a person.
Most importantly, I want to have created or contributed towards lots of things that are out there in the world making people happy, inspiring people to be curious and have fun and to be adventurous!
Tickled Moon has produced 3 personalised children’s books with Jodie Wonford – “The Birthday BOO!”, “The Christmas Wrapper” and coming this summer “The Joyful Adventures of NAME 1 & NAME 2”.
If you’d like to learn more about them, then please visit our website at TickledMoon.com.
And if you’d like to learn more about how Tickled Moon’s creator Alison Reddihough writes the stories, then check out our other blog “On writing ‘The Birthday BOO!'”