Authors, publishers and awards can help debut illustrators

posted in: Abbie Cameron, Nicola Davies | 3

Today the longlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize, “awarded to the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s book illustration” was announced.

Whilst fifteen marvellous books by debut picture book illustrators made the longlist, I was especially excited to see one particular book included: Animal Surprises from the tiny independent publishers Graffeg, who I especially admire.

Animal Surprises, illustrated by Abbie Cameron, and written and edited by Nicola Davies is full of rhyming adventures across many different locations around the world, introducing lots of surprising animals in their habitats. Combining poetry and non-fiction in an original way, Animal Surprises is hugely enjoyable to read aloud (when did you last share a non-fiction book with a child where the language of the text was a musical and playful treat?), packing a punch with dramatic page turns and exciting illustrations.

Abbie Cameron was studying Illustration at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, when she first met the award-winning author Nicola Davies (whose titles include ‘A First Book of Nature’, ‘Ice Bear’, ‘Big Blue Whale’ and the Silver Street Farm series).

At that time Nicola was looking for new outlets for her work and had recently approached Graffeg with the text for her (incredible) Perfect and Animal Surprises. Working with Graffeg was an experiment for Nicola, and as it was something new for her, she loved the idea that her texts should offer illustrators who hadn’t had the chance to do a book before, a first go.

An interior spread from Animal Surprises, illustrated by Abbie Cameron

She was already working with young illustrators from two illustration course, and with the cooperation of the course leaders, and the publisher Graffeg she offered the texts to students with the stipulation that there were no guarantees of publication

Nicola says, “What all the students who tried to find images for the texts got was lots of feedback from me, and from Graffeg and their very experienced designers, but amongst them we found some wonderful new talent, including Abbie Cameron.

Its been really interesting for me to have to think more thoroughly and rigorously about the illustrations for my work and I’ve had to be really tough sometimes (which I find very hard) and say when I don’t think something is good enough. But overall, the talent and vision of these young illustrators has delighted me [through this project Nicola has gone on to also publish books with Claire Jenkins and Fran Shu, Anastasia Izlesou and Anja Uhren, all through Graffeg] – I really hope the experience has been useful for them and that they even make some money out of it (part of the deal was that I didn’t take an advance for my work – and both I and the illustrators will get a royalty if the books sell).”

An interior spread from Animal Surprises, illustrated by Abbie Cameron

I found it inspiring to learn how Nicola, who regularly works with well-known illustrators, turned publishing her stories into an opportunity for new talent. Having heard from her, I wanted to hear why Graffeg had decided to work with new talent. After all, taking on unproven artists can be very risky, especially for a small publisher.

Well, for starters, Nicola’s stories were so brilliant we couldn’t say no. And then Nicola was so passionate about working with these students, and she has so much experience of working with illustrators that we had every confidence that she would be able to dig out the best new talent and guide them into making something beautiful. And the illustrations definitely did not disappoint, they’re stunning,” said Graffeg.

The most interesting part of the process, for us, has been seeing the illustrations grow, develop and change. This is the first time we have worked with illustrators, we typically publish photography, so it has been exciting to see the illustrations grow and to see how they work with the the texts, developing Nicola’s words in new and often unforeseen ways.

It’s also been incredibly rewarding to work with brand new illustrators – young enthusiastic graduates brim full of ideas who are thrilled to have an opportunity to work with such an accomplished author as Nicola. Each has their own style and method of working but it’s been fascinating to see how each has risen to the challenge of illustrating a complete book. And it has to be said that sometimes a lack of experience can be a blessing when it comes to the creative process, as what has emerged from a project like this is, we think, new, fresh and exciting.

I’m delighted that Graffeg and Nicola have the vision to champion new talent. Very many congratulations are due to Abbie for making the longlist; here’s hoping we’ll see her name on the shortlist (announced on 17 May), with the winner of the Klaus Fugge Prize being revealed in September 2017.

The Klaus Flugge Prize longlist in full

The Lonely Giant, Sophie Ambrose, edited by Lizzie Sitton (Walker)

Hannah and Sugar, Kate Berube, edited by Tamar Brazis (Abrams)

Baxter’s Book, Hrefna Bragadottir, edited by Louise Bolongaro (Nosy Crow)

World of Information, James Brown, written by Richard Platt, edited by Denise Johnston-Burt (Walker)

Animal Surprises, Abbie Cameron, written and edited by Nicola Davies (Graffeg)

Bob the Artist, Marion Deuchars, edited by Elizabeth Jenner (Laurence King Publishing)

The Museum of Me, Emma Lewis, edited by Alice Chasey, (Tate)

Life is Magic, Meg McLaren, edited Libby Hamilton (Andersen Press)

First Snow, Bomi Park, edited by Victoria Rock (Chronicle Book)

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast, Christine Pym, edited by Louise Bolongaro (Nosy Crow)

Duck Gets a Job, Sonny Ross edited by Alison Ritchie (King’s Road Publishing)

The Journey, Francesca Sanna, edited by Harriet Birkenshaw, (Flying Eye)

Little One, Jo Weaver, edited by Emma Layfield (Hodder Children’s Books)

Hiding Heidi, Fiona Woodcock, edited by Lara Hancock, (Simon and Schuster)

Little Red, Bethan Woollvin, edited by Suzanne Carnell (Two Hoots)

Find out more about Abbie Cameron’s work:

3 Responses

  1. Suzy Leopold

    Thank you for introducing me to the work by Nicola Davies and Abbie Cameron. Lovely & delightful words and illustrations. I am in love with these books.

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