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A story began to emerge from these piles of loose drawings. A little girl (I still hadn’t decided on her name) alone in her frozen white world begins to fish simple, colourful objects through an ice hole. As the story grows and she becomes happier, more and more colours fill each page. Her igloo becomes the brightest thing in the land and brings new friends into her life. There’s a surprising explosion of colour in the final pages, in total contrast to the first spread.

I visualise my illustrations almost as stills from a film, zooming in and out of scenes with careful yet simple composition on the page. There’s a close intimacy and emotion on one spread, turn the page and I play with scale in one of my favourite scenes – a tiny figure on the ice with an Arctic underwater-world beneath her and a whale too big to fit on the page!

For the final artwork I drew in quite a small scale with a soft watercolour pencil on paper. This way I could remain true to the simplicity of the thumbnail sketches. These line drawings were scanned and printed out two to three times their original size onto HP watercolour paper, again a change from my usual choice of a textured NOT paper. I then worked on top of the print with the same pencil, building up the depth and detail, finally adding simple washes of watercolour and gouache.

Inspiration came, quite often, unexpectedly. Sometimes, if I’m stuck, I try too hard and nothing happens. I have to let things find their own way in, so the little wooden bird Immi finds first is based on a silver charm of mine. During a visit

to my favourite museum, the Pitt Rivers in Oxford, I spotted a little carved bear in a cluttered cabinet of objects, perfect inspiration for Immi’s necklace!

Immi’s name came right at the end. The illustrations were finished, the story written. Maybe I just had to get to know her! Immi is an Inuit name which I found out much later means ‘echo’, a name that seems very fitting for this gentle tale of hope and friendship. n

Immi by Karin Littlewood is published by Gullane (978 1 86233 803 6) at £10.99.

Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011 11

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