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Artist Reflection: Rachael Saunders on Illustrating a Picture Book

British illustrator, Rachael Saunders graduated from Falmouth University in 2014 and currently works as a freelance illustrator in Hampshire, England. Rachael draws inspiration from the rich printed aesthetic of 1960’s children’s books and the work of Miroslav Šašek to create vibrant, colorful and textured images. Rachael’s passion for story telling shines through in her recent collaboration with author, Sally Doran on the children’s book, Boom! Bang! Royal Meringue! We could not be more proud of this monumental step in Rachael’s blooming career and are excited to share her process with you.

Boom! Bang! Royal Meringue!
Written by Sally Doran, published by Andersen Press, Penguin Random House

Rachael Saunders: Since graduating in 2014 I have always dreamt of illustrating a picture book, so when I was given the opportunity to bring debut author Sally Doran’s story to life, I was incredibly excited. My brief was to design a vivid and fanciful book, full of fun and humour, but most importantly depicting the importance of learning to share, friendship and working as a team.

It was crucial to find the correct balance of stylisation to complement Sally’s writing. Upon reading the story, I envisioned simple and striking imagery, a limited pallet of vibrant and bold colours with loose, expressive black line work to bring out the accents and details.

I also felt it was important to bring in some texture to give a screen-printed appearance and to prevent the illustrations from becoming too flat.

A pallet of turquoise, pinks, greys and gold were chosen because I believe that these colours inherit the capability of being both soothing and sickly sweet. Just like the fine balance of eating the perfect amount of cake, and then too much, this pallet can fluctuate these qualities depending on the combination chosen. I feel that through the use of a changing dominant colour on every spread, each page offers something new and unexpected, enticing the reader onwards. 

A sense of scale was an important factor to consider in this book. The ‘Marvellous Magical Pudding Machine’ is a crucial feature, and with it being so tall, incorporating height in as many compositions as possible was a necessity. I really enjoyed playing around with how the characters interacted with the machine: looking up at it, swinging from it, climbing up it; the list goes on.

I designed the pudding machine in a very particular way so that it combines some of the many processes involved in cake making. There is an oven, a chicken laying eggs and multiple mixing bowls, aided by little helpers who keep the machine working efficiently; something you might find at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! Princess Hannah’s dress was also designed to mimic the shape and style of a cake. It has a decadent and dessert-like appearance, creating a subtle link to the theme of the story.

Animals also add their unspoken observations and humour. The family’s pet cat and dog almost have their own narrative running through the book, which adds additional fun and playfulness in this sub-plot.

I found this experience truly freeing, as I have not had so much influence before with the way a book could look. It felt both liberating and indulgent to experiment and explore so much during this process and to have the time to problem solve and investigate ideas in so much detail. I believe this time was crucial in order to find the right compositions to suit each spread and to convey and augment the text.

I learnt the importance of self-belief as throughout this experience I questioned my ability to create a book that I was proud of. Confidence can go a long way and it took me a while to realise that I should just follow my artistic instincts when unsure or in doubt.

I can truly say that this book is the pinnacle of my career so far and I am proud of all the hard work and time I have dedicated to making it what it is.

See more of Rachael Saunders’ work here.