Today, illustrator of The House of 12 Bunnies visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk about being an illustrator and why she chose bunnies for this book.

Have you always enjoyed illustrating?

Yes, when I was small, like many kids, I liked to write stories and illustrate them.  I was one of those children who was always getting in trouble for drawing in class, when I should have been doing something else.

How did you become an illustrator?

I used to do greetings cards and other small illustration jobs all the way through school and uni. I remember doing a design for the mining engineering student society’s badge, and getting paid $20 and some beer. I was pretty happy about that! I studied science, and worked for 7 or 8 years, and later I became a full time illustrator. I started out mainly illustrating educational books, greeting cards and a bit of commercial illustration. Now I mainly illustrate children’s books. I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.

Where does your inspiration come from?

From all around the place! Recently, I’ve been doing more drawing from life, which is good practice for me, and also makes me look at things properly. I also like to look at other illustrator’s and artist’s work.

What inspired you most about illustrating this book?

I liked the idea of a house full of messy characters. I have friends with little children, and a messy house gives you the impression that there are lots of  fun things going on! Originally, the text was for a house of 12 children, and I made a start drawing them, but it wasn’t really working, and so I tried creating 12 rabbit characters instead, and they seemed much more appealing!

Who is your favourite character and why?

I tried to give each of the 12 rabbits his or her own personality. In each picture, there is a sad little grey rabbit who often misses out. He might be my favourite, I feel a bit sorry for him.

How did you decide what the main character would look like?

The main rabbit is Sophia, who is looking for something. I chose to make her a plain white rabbit, so she stands out from the others and is easy to recognise even if you can only see a tiny part of her, like the tips of her ears.

Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?

Firstly, I planned the characters, and it was at this stage they changed from being people to being rabbits! Then I made pencil drawings of all the pages, and sent them off to the editor for her feedback. The designer used these pencil drawings to make the layout, which was great, because then when I came to make the final illustrations, I could incorporate the changes she wanted. It’s great to work with a good designer! Then I went ahead and transferred the pencil drawings to the watercolour paper. Then I painted them.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

I quite like making the final artwork. I tend to watch DVDs when I work, and make lots of cups of tea. I like colouring in!

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Doing the rough drawings is sometimes quite difficult. In a book like this, where each page has the 12 rabbits in a different room, I tried hard to make sure that all the pages worked together, but that there was also enough variety on each page so they didn’t look too similar.

Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?

Fairly independently. I didn’t have any communication with the authors.

Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?

Pencil and acrylic (which I use like watercolour).

How long did it take to illustrate?

About 6 weeks.

How many books have you illustrated?

About 80

What number is this one?

Perhaps 81?? I’m not sure.

Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?

Practice drawing things! In particular, children and animals. Be brave and take your folio around to show publishers.

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

People might be interested to know that my cat Fidel now weighs more than 7 kg!! (haha!) Also, a picture book I wrote and illustrated, ‘Oliver’ is going to be published by Harper Collins in the US next year. I’m very excited about it!

You can find out more about Judith Rossell by checking out her new website at judithrossell.com


Published by

Dee White

Dee White lives with her husband and two sons in a small rural country town which has more kangaroos than people. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and journalist and has had numerous career changes because until recently, writing wasn’t considered to be a proper job. Letters to Leonardo, her first novel with Walker Books Australia, was published in 2009 to great critical acclaim.