Today I am delighted to welcome Katie Rewse to the blog with a special guest post about her picture book debut, ‘The Garden of Hope,’ written by Isabel Otter. This beautiful story by Isabel, tells the tale of Maya and her father as they navigate the difficult path that lays before them with the absence of her Mum. It’s never quite clear what has happened to Mum which cleverly allows the book to be used to talk about the grief of losing a parent as well as the pain of a parent who has left after a family breakdown. A truly uplifting story, we see how Maya finds solace in the garden which her Mum loved so dearly as she tries to bring it back to life by planting seeds. Their growth helps transform the garden and gives Maya a sense of hope in the future that happiness and joy are within her reach. Sublimely illustrated by Katie, I particularly love how she uses the colour palettes of each spread to convey the changes in Maya’s feelings. From sombre dark colours, moving on to those that sparkle with tiny pops of colour, to a full riot of vivid colours bursting with joy in the final spread. A thoughtful and heart-warming story that manages to tackle difficult themes in a very sensitive way.
Katie Rewse – Garden of Hope
It was this time last year that I received an exciting email from my agent with the project brief for Garden of Hope. For my first picture book, I couldn’t have been happier to be given the opportunity to illustrate such a beautiful and uplifting story. I immediately knew that with the setting of the garden, it was also going to be a real treat to draw.
The brief had the perfect amount of creative freedom for my first book; I was given guidance about what to include on each page, and a few details about how the characters could look, but lots of it was left to my own interpretation.
One of my favourite parts of the process was developing the characters, as I love imagining all the little details that collectively build a character. It’s always so much fun thinking about things like hairstyles and clothing, but on a deeper level I also enjoy the challenge of trying to think about the characters experiences and how these will come across in the illustrations too.
These are some of my first sketches as I began to visualise the main character, Maya.
These are the two designs that I decided to take forward into colour….
… and the final version in which I made her look a little younger.
After getting the go ahead with the characters, I began to work on the rough images. I used to do all of my sketching on paper, but for book roughs I have found it really useful to sketch digitally. This means that, if there are any suggested adjustments, I can quickly make changes.
For this page in particular I was asked to make a few adjustments. I hadn’t really considered that this could be a night time scene, and I think with the team at Caterpillars suggestion the spread was definitely improved. The collaborative nature of illustrating a picture book was a really enjoyable part of the process for me. At times I would think a page was finished, but with a few pairs of eyes, and sometimes with only a small suggestion for change, I found my artwork really grew.
In the story Maya pours a lot of love into restoring the garden. I think my two favourite spreads are when we see the first glimmer of hope as she begins her mission to tidy up….
… and the second to last scene where Maya is pictured looking joyful, in her beautiful, thriving garden.
I’m so excited about seeing Garden of Hope in the shops, I imagine it will be quite a surreal feeling.
This year has flown by, since finishing the artwork for Garden of Hope I have been working on some homeware projects as well as some new images for my children’s portfolio. Looking ahead, I’ve got a couple of exciting projects which I can’t wait to start. When I consider my future as a children’s book illustrator, I would love to work on some books with environmental messages; to illustrate a book by Nicola Davies would be my ultimate dream.
A huge thank you to Katie for giving us this really interesting insight into the illustrations in this wonderful story, I’m always fascinated to look at the creative process behind picture books.
Katie Rewse graduated with a Masters Degree in Illustration from the Arts University Bournemouth in 2017. Whilst studying, Katie was longlisted in the House of Illustration and Folio Society Book Competition, and shortlisted for the Batsford Prize. She continues to live and work in Bournemouth. When she is not busy drawing, Katie enjoys exploring the coast with her husband in their camper van.
Thank you to Leilah and Little Tiger for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me a copy of this beautiful book. ‘The Garden of Hope,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop.