Our special guest this month is:
Rhian Nest-James, Illustrator
Born in Wales and now living in Sydney, Rhian discovered her escape into art at hgh school. She hid in the art room to avoid doing PE and Maths. Her wonderful black and white illustrations bring the Samurai Kids to life.
1. When did you decide to become an illustrator?
I made and illustrated my first book when I was 4! Much later when I was a student at Art College I decided to specialise in Illustration so I could combine my skills as an artist with my love of books and reading.
2. What made you choose children’s books?
I love working on children’s books because you can let your imagination run free, but I also illustrate all sorts of other things too, so I don’t get bored and hopefully my work keeps evolving.
3. What is your favourite illustration in Samurai Kids?
Well, in ‘ White Crane’ I think the illustration of the Komusu priest on page 195 is good and I am pleased with illustration of the horseback archery on page216.
4. Do you have a favourite medium?
I like experimenting with different media. I do tend to use a lot of watercolours and inks, but right now I am enjoying using acrylics.
5. How did you decide what the Samurai Kids look like?
I get as good an idea as possible from Sandy’s descriptions because it’s important for my images to correspond with the author’s writing. I visualise things quite quickly, then I do lots of rough drawings and then more detailed studies until I feel I have captured the characters.
6. Did you have to do any research to draw the illustrations for White Crane?
Yes lots! For hairstyles, clothes, buildings, everything! In an historical novel it’s important to be as accurate as possible.
7. Do you have a funny story to tell about about working on White Crane?
Hmm. When I opened my box of books a cockroach ran out. I decieded it was a good omen.
8. Do you receive input from others (eg editor) when illustrating?
Yes, the editor and usually the author see my rough drawings and they get back to me with comments before I go ahead with the final illustrations.
9. What advice would you give to kids who think they would like to be a children’s book illustrator?
You have to want to do it 100% as you will be spending a lot of time doing it! It’s quite a solitary occupation so you have to be comfortable working on your own for long stretches of time. And you have to be very disciplined in order to meet deadlines.