#FlorisDesign meets Kathryn Selbert
To many Scots, the Coulter’s Candy tune is often sung yet rarely seen. Floris Books is changing that with a new board book inspired by the quintessentially Scottish nursery rhyme that has been reimagined for new generations. #FlorisDesign spoke to Kathryn Selbert, the illustrator behind the sticky sweets, about Coulter’s Candy, Kyle Webster and colourful commissions.
Hi Kathryn, thanks for talking to us today all the way from Connecticut! Could you tell please us about your studies and training?
I had always drawn in high school and was motivated by my teachers at the time to pursue my interest in the arts at college. I attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and received my bachelors in illustration. In school my work was very different – I worked mostly in cut paper in acrylic!
We’d love to hear about your decision to become a children’s book illustrator.
While in college, I took a class focused on writing and developing children’s books. Our teacher was an artist’s agent in the field and exposed us to a wide variety of books and illustrators I adored. I felt I had found the area of illustration I was truly passionate about and went on to have my book from the class published after I completed school. The rest is history!
Do you work using traditional methods or digital methods or both?
These days I tend to work mostly with Photoshop and a series of Kyle Webster brushes to imitate the energy of traditional techniques. I enjoy being able to easily achieve clear, bright colors and play with shapes and composition. I still work with watercolor for some of my commission work but use Photoshop to clean up my work and connect everything together.
What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?
I love illustrating characters with a lot of personality – giving them quirks and interesting detail. My portfolio seems to be filled with happy children and happy animals – you can’t help but smile when you’re drawing a character enjoying themselves.
Were you familiar with the Coulter’s Candy rhyme before you started working on Ally Bally Bee?
I wasn’t! Once I finally heard it I couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s a very catchy song.
Do you have a favourite nursery rhyme or song from your childhood?
I do remember singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider when I was little. The little dancing hand gesture that accompanies the song is very fun.
What did you enjoy most about working on Ally Bally Bee?
Drawing Ally, definitely. We focused a lot on achieving a sense of his toddler-like attitude and gestures.
Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?
I have a large collection of children’s books in my studio that I turn to when I’m having trouble. I pull out any that have similar subject matter or are from illustrators that draw characters with a ton of poses/personality. These usually help give me the spark for a new idea.
Is working as an illustrator what you expected?
I think it has exceeded my expectations so far. I love solving problems (even if I create them…), focusing on color and composition. Sometimes keeping all of my deadlines straight can be overwhelming but I love being busy. It’s a big thrill finding items you’ve illustrated or designed in stores!
Do you have any illustrators or designers that you consider to be your favourites?
At the moment, I have books on my desk from Andrea Beaty, Owen Davey, Benji Davies, Christian Robinson and Keith Negley. I could go on for hours naming illustrators I love!
About the book
Ally Bally Bee is a playful re-imagining of the traditional Scottish rhyme — perfect for sharing with very young children. Toddlers can discover Kathryn Selbert’s bright, colourful illustrations and explore the durable flaps, perfect for wee hands.
About Kathryn Selbert
Kathryn Selbert is a children’s author and illustrator with a BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. She currently lives in Connecticut, USA, with her French bulldog Margot. You can follow her on Twitter here.
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