Illustrator, Serena Geddes has always enjoyed drawing, scribbling and creating spot cartoons of fellow work colleagues.
In 1996 she was accepted as a Trainee In-betweener for Walt Disney Animation Australia, a career path she never knew existed.
Disney offered an intensive 3-month training program to become an In-betweener, and once through, areas such as life-drawing, animal and human anatomy were all part of our learning. Though very hard work, it was brilliant opportunity to learn the fundamentals of animation and illustration.
In March 2009, Serena found herself at the crossroads of her career. She felt this would be a great opportunity to try her hand at illustrating for children’s books and educational book publishers.
Serena decided to invest 3 to 6 months creating new artwork to send to publishers in Australia and the UK. Within 3 months she had landed her first contract and has not looked back since.
I am back to doing what I love (drawing all day) and have four books due for release this year! decided to invest 3 to 6 months creating new artwork to send to publishers in Australia and the UK. Within 3 months I had landed my first contract and have not looked back since.
Serena is at Kids’ Book Capers today to talk about her work and the release of Totally Twins, a series by Aleesah Darlison that she is illustrating.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It can vary from people watching in a café to trudging through books at the local library or bookstore. I sometimes find meeting with the author can give me a better insight into the style or characters for their books.
What inspired you most about illustrating Totally Twins?
I’m one of four children, my little sister is sixteen months younger than I am so I could completely relate to the frustrations Persephone had with her over confident twin sister Portia. Writing in my diary was my escape and I’d find myself retreating to places my little sister could not find me. The irony of this all, as an adult, my little kid sister is now one of my best friends.
Who is your favourite character and why?
I guess it would be Persephone. I was never a very confident child so if there was a school performance coming up, I tried to avoid being on stage in the spotlight. Persephone has a lot of characteristics I could relate to, even though she can be a little disgruntled at times her heart is in the right place once she learns to relax a little.
How did you decide what the main character would look like?
I had drawn up some characters, one of which was based on my niece who lives in New Zealand. This character Aleesah (the author of Totally Twins) was instantly drawn to, so I used her as a base to create Persephone and Portia.
Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?
This is my first Junior Novel so I learnt that the editing process can mess up the initial layout of a book. Once the manuscript was finalised I designed the front cover and sat with the publisher to go over the manuscript discussing the illustrations. Once that was done I tried a few different styles and showed the author to see if it was what she had in mind. Once I was happy with the style I begun illustrating the book.
What was your favourite part of the illustration process?
Adding in something quirky or something humorous to the character’s personalities or the situation they maybe in.
What was the hardest part of the illustration process?
Trying not to over work an illustration, as an artist you can find yourself picking at niggly things that no one else will see or notice. It’s so easy to spend a day on something that should have taken you 15 minutes to do!
Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?
I have worked closely with Aleesah on the Totally Twins series. This was a perfect example of meeting to gain a snap shot of how she saw the style of the book and her feed back on the characters I was creating. Aleesah has been great to work with especially because she liked anything I drew for her, which is always positive.
Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?
For the front cover, I drew some of the images by hand then scanned and coloured them on the computer. I created the bulk of the cover on the computer but all internals were drawn by hand in black ink.
How long did it take to illustrate?
Including the two weeks of artist block… about four to five weeks. Once I found a style I was happy with it just flowed so in this particular instance not very long.
How many books have you illustrated?
I have four books in total all due for release this year.
Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?
Keep an open mind when it comes to sending out samples to publishers, a rejection does not necessarily mean you’re not good enough. Keep creating wherever you can and find a style that makes you a little different from everyone else.
Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?
I attended a Children’s Book Illustration course a few years ago through the Centre for Continuing Education at The University of Sydney http://www.cce.usyd.edu.au/course/CBIL.
At the time I was not sure how it would help as I was not practicing to be a book illustrator, but once I started looking into the publishing industry, all my course notes and the information notes were more valuable than ever.
More of Serena’s beautiful illustrations are available from her website www.reeni.com.au.