An interview with Hiding Heidi’s Fiona Woodcock

posted in: Fiona Woodcock | 34

HidingHeidi Heidi is exceptionally good at hiding. She can blend in anywhere!

Kind friends know Heidi’s amazing skill and let her win whenever they play hide-and-seek, but is hiding away really the best way to have fun with your friends? What might they be good at? What might they most enjoy doing?

Fiona Woodcock‘s playful and stylish début, Hiding Heidi is a lovely exploration of friendship and thinking of others. Heidi’s delightful friends help her learn that you don’t always have to be the best at something to enjoy it, especially when you know your friends are having a good time too.

Mixing the delight of spotting Heidi in her various hiding places, with fresh and joyful illustrations and a story perfect for fostering kindness and understanding, Hiding Heidi is an uplifting read. To celebrate its publication this month I recently caught up with Fiona Woodcock and asked her a few questions about her journey to becoming a published illustrator. I’m really pleased to share our conversation with you today.

Portrait of Fiona Woodcock taken by Sandy Suffield, in front of a painting by John Hoyland at the Newport Street Gallery.
Portrait of Fiona Woodcock taken by Sandy Suffield, in front of a painting by John Hoyland at the Newport Street Gallery.

Playing by the book: Wanting to draw was in your fingertips from an early age I believe – can you tell me a bit about your early art making experiences? How were you encouraged? What experiences were particularly informative and encouraging?

Fiona Woodcock: I was always drawing as a child and my parents found it hard to get me to stop and read instead. At primary school I was selected along with two other budding artists from each class to join a lunchtime art club. We exhibited our work in the local library. So from a young age, being creative formed my identity really.

I would also add that, not only was I always drawing as a child, I did a lot of looking too (or some might say staring!) But I think that being observant and taking everything in is a big part of being creative.

One of my earliest collaborative art making experiences must have been at a preschool class when I was about 3 or 4. We had to screw up pieces of coloured tissue paper which were poked into a huge polystyrene board. The end result was an image of Alice in Wonderland, which I remember being utterly amazed by.

A family snap of Fiona and her brother. This photo inspired the climbing frame spread in Hiding Heidi (see below)
A family snap of Fiona and her brother. This photo inspired the climbing frame spread in ‘Hiding Heidi’ (see below)

Playing by the book: I really love your comment about the importance of observation. I’m sure this was something you developed further whilst studying – can you tell us a bit about your course at the Glasgow School of Art? How much illustration – and children’s book illustration in particular – was part of the course?

Fiona Woodcock: I studied Graphic communication at Glasgow School of Art, which I loved as it was very drawing and ideas based. It was there that I got into animation – I just loved making my drawings move.

There was a lot of drawing on the course, we’d draw on location every week in places like Kelvingrove Art Gallery, The Transport Museum and The Botanical Gardens. And went on an amazing field trip to Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

Sketchbook detail from Fiona's Glasgow School of Art trip to Uist
Sketchbook detail from Fiona’s Glasgow School of Art trip to Uist

Whilst at Glasgow I did a couple of book projects, but not specifically children’s books. I always enjoyed the challenge of sequential images, which is probably why I was also fascinated by animation.

After graduation, I came to London and sought out illustrative animation projects. It became clear that my favourite aspect of the animation process was the design / illustration and so my route into illustration came that way.

Playing by the book: I’d love to know about about your process for making the art in ‘Hiding Heidi’ – including the materials you used, the research you did. What would your top tips be for kids who wanted to have a go at creating art inspired by ‘Hiding Heidi’?

Fiona Woodcock: My process for ‘Hiding Heidi’ started with lots of pencil sketches to help refine the characters. I like to draw on animation paper, it’s a habit I can’t get out of. In some cases I’d use the initial pencil drawings for the final artwork as the redrawn version would loose the expression and energy of the original sketch.

I created the colour work by cutting my own rubber stamps and printing with ink pads to create textured shapes of colour. I also cut stencils and used charcoal and children’s blo-pens. Then everything is composited in the computer and endlessly tweaked.

This shows the print and stencilled colour work, which is combined with charcoal tone and pencil work. You can also see here an early concept image for the stairs spread from the book
This shows the print and stencilled colour work, which is combined with charcoal tone and pencil work. You can also see here an early concept image for the stairs spread from the book.

The way I work has evolved from lots of playful experimentation and I’d encourage children who wanted to create Heidi inspired art to do the same. They could try doing simple potato prints to create imagined places for Heidi to hide in and add extra drawn details. Or use stickers and collage to create their own patterned sofa to hide Heidi on. But essentially just play, that’s how great surprises happen!

An interior spread from 'Hiding Heidi'. Inspired by the earlier family snap (see above).
An interior spread from ‘Hiding Heidi’. Inspired by the earlier family snap (see above).

Playing by the book: Yes, playful exploration! My sort of thing 😉 Is there a secret hidden in the illustrations for ‘Hiding Heidi’ that you’d be prepared to share with us?

Fiona Woodcock: There are a couple of very subtle things to spot on the boating lake scene on the last page, which are different to the other earlier illustration of the boating lake. An indication that even though Heidi is still camouflaged, something has changed. But I’m not going to say, it’s just there for the most observant of readers!

Playing by the book: Brilliant! We’ll all be going back to take a closer look now :-)I love your celebration of a playful approach when it comes to making art. On my blog it’s all about the play inspired by the books we’ve read. What’s the last thing you did (other than creating illustrations) inspired by a book you loved?

Fiona Woodcock: I was very inspired by Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. It reminded me about the wonderful fabric drawings and cloth books by Louise Bourgeois, which has lead me to hatch a plan do some bold graphic fabric based creation myself.

Playing by the book: What a great idea – I can easily imagine your eye for colour and design coming up with some fabulous fabric prints. I do hope your plans come to fruition!

What’s up next for you on the book front? And do you have any time to work on animation at the moment?

Fiona Woodcock: I’m presently working on my second author illustrated book with Simon and Schuster called ‘Bloom’, which will be out next year, and there are other exciting projects that I will be sharing soon too! I’m devoting most of my time at the moment to developing books, so I’m not able to take on any big animation projects, but I really enjoyed working with some friends to produce this short animated trailer for the book.


I’m indebted to Fiona for her generous answers and insight today. I hope you’ve enjoyed our interview, and will seek out Hiding Heidi. It’s given us lots of ideas for project we’d like to try at home – from making sunflower hats (inspired by this), holding bouncy hopper races, making simple boats to sail to the river this holiday, and reading an old, related favourite, Halibut Jackson by David Jackson, to trying our own version of Liu Bolin’s invisibility art!

And here’s some TERRIFIC news! Like the sound of Hiding Heidi? Well… I have one SIGNED HARDBACK to giveaway – and this time the giveaway is international!

  • This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE
  • To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post
  • For extra entries you can:

    (1) Tweet about this giveaway, perhaps using this text:
    Win a signed hardback of @FionaWoodcock’s ‘Hiding Heidi’! To enter just leave a comment here: Worldwide,ends 29/7

    (2) Share this giveaway on your Facebook page or blog

    You must leave a separate comment for each entry for them to count

  • The winner will be chosen at random using
  • The giveaway is open for one week, and closes on Friday 29 July 2016 23.59pm UK time. I will contact the winner via email. If I do not hear back from the winner within one week of emailing them, I will re-draw as appropriate

  • Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    Find out more about Fiona on her website or on Twitter:

    **THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. It was won by Denise**

    34 Responses

    1. Poppy Stoker

      What a hide-aliciously Heidi-tastic book! As a children’s party provider, Hide and Seek is always a game that is requested so to have a book about the ‘best hiding human’ is splendid!

    2. Lori Tait

      What a delightful book! Looking forward to seeing “Bloom” next year and I’m sure there will be more beautiful books from Fiona Woodcock in years to come. I would love to get my hands on a copy of “Hiding Heidi”, please consider me for the competition.

    3. Claire Potter

      “You don’t always have to be the best at something to enjoy it” – such a valuable lesson to learn.

      I love those illustrations, and as the picture from the Glasgow sketchbook – well, I’d love that on my living room wall!

    4. Denise

      What a fun fun book. I look forward to reading it to my little one some day.

    5. Mary I

      Thanks for once again introducing me to a fabulous author! This seems like an amazing book that will be great to read aloud to my little students just for fun as well as to spark discussions about friendship and inspire creative projects.

    6. M-L Jones

      What a fantastic picture books with imaginative illustrations. Love it

    7. Sally O'Connell

      Heidi is just like me, when I was little. Thank you for the lovely interview. Sally

    8. Library Lady

      Can’t wait to get a copy of this book for our school library. Never before has it been more important to try and impress upon those new minds the qualities of kindness and understanding.

    9. Kirsty Hosty

      This sounds really good, wishing you all the luck in the world.

    10. Julie Curtin

      Even if I don’t win this book I’m going to get it anyway! Have a whole class of new little ones in September who I would LOVE to share this with

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