Illustration Sunday

There seem to be two ways picture books develop for me:

  1. The story comes first: something triggers an idea for a story, so I write the first draft before setting out to design characters to fit it
  2. The character comes first: a vivid character turns up in my mind and demands to be drawn, and after a while their story becomes apparent

My little monsters are an example of the first, while Squish Rabbit is an example of the second (Squish was with me for about 2 years before his story turned up). Below are my latest sketches and another example of the latter. About a month ago I woke up with this character’s name and image firmly in the front of my mind. Even though I was desperate to draw him then and there, I didn’t. Just like with my story ideas, I’ve learnt that putting characters in my sketchbook too early can trap them on the page. If I leave them in my head for a month or so, they’ll grow and change. It gives me time to watch them gamble about; to observe how they move and interact with the world. Are they confident, shy, clumsy or zen like? Do they seek to be with others or prefer to wander alone? What do they look like from each and every angle?

Just yesterday I was finally ready to draw my new character. His name is Piggy-Wilikins, a tiny teacup pig with big ears:

His story hasn’t turned up yet, but I know it will – and I’m certain it wont take as long as Squish’s did! I’m starting to get a good sense of his personality already, and I think he may just be my very first confident protagonist (although he’s still a misfit, which seems to be developing into my trademark). Now I have him down on paper I can get back to the story I’m supposed to be working on – the storyboard of a new rabbit picture book. I’ll be posting character sketches from that project in the next few days.

Please excuse me while I hop off to dabble in some rabbity ink…

PS. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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17 Responses to “Illustration Sunday”


  1. 1 chrisbongers February 14, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Love your process, Kath. Reminded of Melina Marchetta saying that she listens to the characters in her head, sometimes for months, before putting pen to paper. Happy Valentines’s Day to you too. xx

  2. 2 Carol Warner February 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I love your illustrations, Katherine. They are so simple (excuse the term) Piggy Wilikins shows so much character. I can’t wait to see what his journey is.

  3. 3 Lynn Priestley February 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    LOVE him…I have passion for pigs. He could be my Valentine, anyday…

  4. 4 aaronpocock February 14, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    beautiful clean style you work in! (and the characters a little cutie…)Happy Valentines day to you!

  5. 5 Helen Ross February 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Katherine. He is just gorgeous. Love your style.

  6. 6 Helen-Louise Usher February 14, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    He’s beautiful, Katherine! Happy Valentine’s to you, too.

  7. 7 Anonymous February 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    How cute!A sure hit, Katherine. He looks like a determined, curious little fellow with big ‘I can fly!’ ears and a big ‘yes, I can! attitude. Congratulations on another wonderful character.
    Joanna :))

  8. 8 Katherine Battersby February 14, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks guys! I look forward to seeing where he takes me. Will let you know when I find out…

  9. 9 Sybil February 15, 2010 at 8:44 am

    He is beautiful!!! so cute

  10. 10 Debbie Johansson February 15, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Another cute character, and I look forward to hearing more about him. Looks like you’re finding your mojo in your new surroundings. :)

  11. 11 duckofalltrades February 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Hooray for pigs! Excellent character and I get the feeling Piggy-Wilikins will let his story be known soon enough. To me, that is the magic of a great character…it’s not the stories you write for them, it is the story they write for themselves.

    Love seeing the magic behind the magic. Great work and take care.

  12. 12 Katherine Battersby February 16, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Thanks Sybil! We’ll have to skype soon – I miss chatting with you and Maggie.

    Debbie – my mojo has certainly resurfaced with abandon! I suddenly seem to be working on 4 picture books and 2 novels … craziness.

    Mr Duckworth, you of all people would understand my fascination with pigs :) You have some gorgeous ones on your site (my current favourite being the loveable Katrina).

  13. 13 deescribewriting February 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    What a cute little piggle, Kath. He definitely has a story to tell. Can’t wait to read it:-)

    Dee:-)

  14. 14 Katherine Battersby February 18, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Thanks Dee. Andrew thinks he’s based on our pup, and I wouldn’t be surprised – they’re both cute and very silly…

  15. 15 Karen Collum February 19, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    He is just adorable, Kath! So glad your mo-jo has returned :)

  16. 16 Katherine Battersby February 20, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Thanks Karen! I think our writing comes in waves, and luckily I’m sitting on the top of mine right now – a good feeling.


  1. 1 Illustration Wednesday « the Well Read Rabbit || Katherine Battersby Trackback on February 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm

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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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