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Windows into Illustration: Karin Littlewood

Karin Littlewood lives and works in London. Originally from Yorkshire, she studied graphic design at Northumbria University, followed by an MA at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she specialised in illustration. She has been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal three times and her most recent picture book, Immi, has just been shortlisted for the Cambridgeshire Children’s Picture Book Award 2011. Here Karin explains the technique and thinking behind the illustrations for Immi.


he story of Immi began without any great thoughts at all, apart from the fact that it was almost Christmas and I needed to do a card to send to friends – and quickly! I drew a very loose pencil sketch of a little

Inuit girl’s face on a scrap of tracing paper, added a few brushstrokes of gouache, and there she was… That original sketch remained pinned above my desk in my studio, her slightly forlorn, wondering face kept looking at me, and I looked back at her and I knew I had to write her story. It was an instinctive process and from the very beginning I felt very strongly that I had to keep the same feeling, simplicity and spontaneity in the final artwork.

I’ve always loved scribbling away at those initial sketches whenever I’m working on a book. Nothing is too precious. Everything just seems to flow – the looseness of the marks on the paper, the experimental drops and splashes of watercolour. With Immi I wanted to place an emphasis on my natural sense of line, a departure from the finished illustrations in previous books where the strength lies in the layers of strong but loose watercolour brushstrokes.

10 Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011

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