How to Make an Illustrator

Rabbit - balloonThe other day, Kathleen, a writing friend of mine, asked how I got into illustrating. This got me thinking.  My path has been quite a meandering one, which has happened in a few stages. I suppose it started back in the ice age (when I was at school):

  • School: I was always known as the ‘arty’ one, who people went to when they needed something drawn, designed or an assignment decorated (if I was more enterprising I would have started charging). However it took a new high school art teacher to really open up my creative mind – he pushed me to explore new mediums and techniques, and got me really excited about communicating visually
  • University: I considered studying graphic design, but for a creative person I’m also painfully practical. The thought of trying to earn a living creatively terrified me. So I took my love of people and science, and studied occupational therapy instead. At uni, where exams and assignments (and a little partying) took over, my art became more practical, only happening when specifically called on: ie. making people cards or creating posters for events
  • The Real World: I’d always wanted to work with kids, so as an OT I specialised in paediatric counselling and play therapy. For over six years I worked with children experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties, a job I adored, but it was draining and left me with no creative energy. I reached a point where I was working in my ideal job but just wasn’t happy. So I started drawing (and writing) again, and after a while realised that everything I was doing was aimed at kids. It made sense – through my work I was passionate about kid’s needs and their world, and had been collecting kids books for years. After dabbling in a few art courses, I decided to take the leap:
  • BACK to University: I studied graphic design part time at the QLD College of Art. It was strange to be back doing what I’d always imagined when I was growing up, but this time I had direction, and the thought of pursuing something creative no longer terrified me. I got to study art history, art theory, digital design, visual communication, typography and book design / binding, which only concreted my goal: I wanted to create books for children
  • Genes: There are a lot of creative souls in my extended family, which I only truly realised in the last few years. I grew up in a house with the art of my mum (gorgeous water-colours), grandfather and great-grandfather lining the walls. My brother had an instinct for music, and both plays the guitar and sings. My American aunt and uncle are children’s singers – The Battersby Duo – who have performed on Sesame Street and in the White House. My English uncle is a film editor and aunt is both a fine artist and author. My two New Zealand aunts are highly talented artists who work in oils, mosaics and jewellery. Even my dog is creative (see image below). So I suppose it seems obvious that one day I’d listen to the creative call of my genes

So that’s how this illustrator was made. Everyone’s journey is different: there are many ways to bake a cake. Personally, I prefer to think of myself more as a chocolate brownie, although I have in the past been described as a strawberry shortcake. Make of that what you will.



7 Responses to “How to Make an Illustrator”

  1. 1 Karen July 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Katherine. It’s really interesting to hear other people’s journeys. I am inspired to go and find that art course I mentioned the other day, just to explore that side of me a bit more. I can see illustrations in my mind, just can’t translate that through my fingertips!! And it could be a bit of fun too. You have a wealth of experience and knowledge. That’s fantastic! I think it’s a recipe for a long and healthy career as a children’s author/illustrator. I look forward to following the rest of your journey.

  2. 2 Karen Tyrrell July 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Loved reading about your Journey as an illustrator! Enthralling! As a primary school teacher, when I needed a picture on the black board I used an OHT and cheated!…I wish I had your artistic talent!

  3. 3 Lynn Priestley July 3, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Lovely post. I can totally relate to that affinity you have with kids and wanting to create for them. After so many years working closely with cancer kids, I feel the same way. Children are so special to be around and I always felt blessed to be part of their little lives,especially during illness. Whilst I no longer nurse them, they have imprinted my heart and to be able to create adventures they can take between the covers of a book is the ultimate goal for me. To carry them away and allow them to experience new worlds. What a great thing to achieve.

    Thanks for sharing your journey. It is indeed inspiring.

    And…. isn’t that… Van Dogh in the picture?

  4. 4 Kathleen Noud July 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Yay! I’ve definitely had the real world/Uni mix that has gotten me this far :D
    Also, your extended family is so amazing! I’ve always said you know you’re famous when you get to be on Sesame Street.

  5. 5 Katherine Battersby July 4, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks guys! Lynn, he may appear to be a Van Dogh, but I believe his art work is more along the lines of Jackson Pollock

  6. 6 Sheryl Gwyther July 6, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Lovely to learn a little bit more about you the artist, Kath. Now I’m waiting to see you in action one of these days???? :)

  7. 7 Katherine Battersby July 7, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Seeing me ‘in action’ is less exciting than it sounds! But I’ll have to show you the computer programs I use – they’re all powerful…

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:


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