I got the chance to interview the splendid Charlotte Voake, an illustrator that you will find on most children's bookshelves. She has illustrated over 50 books, many of which have become household favourites.
Born and raised in Wales, Charlotte says that book illustration is “the only thing I ever wanted to do” and she certainly has made a brilliant career of it. Skipping formal training in art, she studied art history at London University and worked at an art gallery before embarking on a freelance career in illustration. Charlotte lives in Surrey, England, with her husband and two children.
BWB: You worked on The Owl and the Pussy-cat not so long ago. What was it like working with Julia Donaldson?
CV: Julia is lovely to work with - I think she is very interested in how her texts are illustrated - and from an illustrator's point of view she is a visual writer, by which I mean she gives lots of visual clues to get your teeth into!
BWB: The Owl and the Pussy-cat has seen many illustrators produce their versions of the famous characters. What attracted you to the project and what did you set out to do differently?
CV: Actually I illustrated Julia's first, then Puffin asked me to illustrate the original version as a pair to The Further Adventures.I might have approached the original quite differently if it has been stand-alone - perhaps!
BWB: You both returned to the Owl and the Pussy-Cat with 'The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat'.As this was new text, did you feel more comfortable making your mark on such a well known tale?
CV: There is quite a bit more text in Julia's sequel, and she has woven in many more characters from Lear's Nonsense Rhymes, including Aunt Jobiska and her cat with crimson whiskers. It was fun developing them. Edward Lear's original is a shorter poem with very little text on each page. I used a number of characters from Julia's story to make a sub-text in pictures. So it was a bit topsy -turvy doing the second one first and the first one second, but I particularly enjoyed the jigsaw aspect of working that way.
BWB: Has the way you work changed from when you first started in the book industry?
CV: Not the way I work, which is still on paper using a pen and watercolour, but computers make a huge difference to the way a book is designed once I deliver the illustrations. It's still a very labour intensive process but so much easier to manipulate images on a screen. And if I make a bad mistake on a drawing it can be photoshopped out.Wonderful!
BWB: Do you use computer software for any stage in your illustration process?
CV: No, I don't use a computer at all except to do research. It makes a huge difference to be able to look things up easily - for example the candelabra on the Pobble's table!
BWB: Which book are you most proud of?
CV: I think I like Aesop's Fables the best.
BWB: Your career pans over 35 years. What stands out as the biggest highlight for you?
CV: One of the biggest highlights has been meeting Julia!
BWB: Can you tell us what your working day is like?
CV: I work at home in a nice white room which is often horribly untidy.
I go for a 2 mile walk most mornings with a friend and have breakfast when I get home. We have some hens so I quite often have a boiled egg.
I have recently found out how to make proper frothy milk for a cappucino so I am going through a phase of having one or two of those at 11am.
Sometimes I work really hard, and late, which is fine unless I am having a real tussle with a drawing. Sometimes I make soup and practise my violin for a change!
BWB: Any plans for another Ginger book?
CV: I would really like to do a Ginger counting book.
Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to answer my questions and huge thanks to Laura for putting me in touch with her.