My very first commission was The Show at Rickety Barn. There was definitely some luck floating in the air around me when I got it. Read on...
For 10 years previously, I'd been a freelance editorial illustrator, working in pastels for all sorts of clients: the one above was for the Times Educational Supplement, an article about excluded kids. Below was a piece for a doctors' trade journal about equal opps:
I'd started lecturing part-time too, just to get out of the house occasionally (honestly, there was no need for real human contact for weeks on end). But the teaching started to take over, and I felt the need for a change, so I resigned my lecturing post and took 9 months off, to build a brand new, children's book portfolio.
I developed 2 new styles, one in watercolours (below), the other a digital version of watercolours (above).
I also wrote a picture book text, which I roughed up and did sample artwork for. These are 2 pieces from that book, about a big flood. Spot the mistake though: at that time I had no idea that you should never include text on your artwork (because of co-edition translations).
I also added in half a dozen pieces that seemed appropriate, from my old editorial folio. Especially those featuring animals, like this one (can't recall the article now):
I set up appointments to visit a dozen London publishers, to show off the new folio. I got very encouraging responses, but publishers were almost unanimously interested, not in the new watercolour work, but in the editorial style!!
When I visited what was then David & Charles (and is now Gullane), it just so happened that Paula, the Art Director, had a text about a singing cat on her desk. She was in a bit of a pickle: the text had already been illustrated, but it wasn't looking right. They needed a different illustrator for a new approach to it, but were now way behind schedule.
When she saw the above editorial illustration in my folio (originally for an article about something to do with serendipity), the connection clicked into place: she could see from my singing dogs how my singing cat might look...
I got the commission, which was a delight to work on, and I have been illustrating books for Gullane ever since.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, the text on the poster was not part of my pastel illustration, but added later on the computer, using Corel Painter and Photoshop (here's how).