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Join #PickleOnTour with Kate McLelland

Posted on 18/06/2018 in Design and Illustration Fun Stuff Guest posts Isla & Pickle Kate McLelland

It’s official – our favourite Shetland pony is back! Today is the first stop on Kate McLelland’s blog tour, which is celebrating the return of Isla and her adorable miniature Shetland pony, Pickle, to our bookshelves in a brand new adventure – Isla & Pickle: the Highland Show. In today’s interview Kate chats about how she loves folk music, ice cream, her sister and why Pickle really is the perfect pony!

Hi Kate – thanks for visiting our blog today. We’re delighted to be reunited with Isla and Pickle on a brand new adventure. Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration behind the new story?

The idea of a talent show or best in show was something I really wanted to explore with Isla and Pickle. Isla is so proud to be Pickle’s best friend and she thinks of him as the best pony in the world – but will everyone else see it the same way? Most of us have taken part in competitions and it’s just as important to learn how to lose as it is to win. My children have just had sports day, so it’s something we have been talking about at home. Also, for me, being kind and being a great friend are two of the best qualities anyone can have and I wanted Isla and Pickle to get this message across, whilst not taking themselves too seriously!

We’ve heard that Pickle is inspired by someone close to you. Any clues who that might be?

Pickle is my pet name for my little sister Emma. I say little, she is in fact only 3 years younger than me and works in London. Emma has been my best friend since we were young children, although I wasn’t keen on her for the first 2 years! Just like Pickle, Emma is kind, fun, cheeky and loyal . . . in fact the best friend anyone could wish for. She also inspired Pickle’s long unruly blonde hair!

PS – my sister is finally happy to be compared to a Shetland pony!

We love the Highland Show setting! Have you been to a Highland Show before?

I have been to a few smaller shows as well as The Royal Highland Show. I think they are absolutely wonderful. They celebrate Scottish rural culture and provide hours of fun for every age. Last year we visited with my sister (aka Pickle) and my two children. They loved climbing the tractors and counting sheep, the Scottish dairy ice cream and dancing to folk music. I tried to put all the things we love about highland shows in this book – my greatest highlight being the highland cows!

#FlorisDesign meets Kate McLelland - Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show

Pickle gets up close and personal with the Highland cows!

We love the different textures you create in your artwork. Can you tell us a bit more about how you achieve these effects?

I have always loved printmaking, everything from screen printing and wood block to carving little rubber stamps. So I will create textures and details through printmaking as well as using rubbings from rocks, trees, leaves etc and then I combine all of these textures digitally to create a final composition.

What was the best thing about revisiting Isla & Pickle?

Long walks in the countryside and putting on my folk music all day – because I HAD to feel inspired (at least that is what I told my family). I also looked through the family photos of the Skye holidays.

What is it about the Isle of Skye, and Shetland ponies, you love so much?

Skye was our annual family holiday. Sometimes we visited with friends and sometimes with family. There was no technology and car room dictated only a few toys – we mostly brought our sketchbooks and pencils. So, for a week we would be cut off from the world in a magical, dramatic, awe-inspiring setting. Even as an adult, whenever I go I feel a little lighter, freer and more creative.

We currently live just outside of Edinburgh near to several fields which are home to Shetland ponies. I have watched my kids chat to them and wave to them daily. Shetlands are notoriously grumpy – which is hilarious because they are adorable to look at! However, I have had the pleasure to spend a few days with Shetland ponies and their owners and they were gorgeous. Their characters remind me of toddlers and young children, which makes them so much fun to illustrate.

What was the main challenge you faced whilst working on Book 2?

I hope that my work evolves and ultimately improves over time – but consistency is key when working on a book series. So, sometimes I had an idea for how to create a particular spread and then it jarred with the previous book. I had to keep comparing the artwork to make sure I was being true to Isla and Pickle.

#FlorisDesign meets Kate McLelland - Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show

Staying true to the characters is really important

He doesn’t win the competition, but in your eyes is Pickle the perfect pony?

Without a doubt! Although I was lucky enough to have to have my sister, we both longed for an animal. I loved horses and ponies so Pickle would have been a dream. Also, if I was to get a pet for my kids I would value a kind nature above shiny fur any day!

Finally, if you had one tip for illustrators working on a series what would it be?

I think the characters are the most important. All the characters in Isla & Pickle have a back story and they feel a little like friends. I didn’t consciously set out to do that, but the more I thought about Isla and Pickle’s home and their life on the island, the more filled-out everything became. If the story isn’t the illustrator’s own, I still think getting the characters right is the starting point. Beyond this is consistency again, making sure the books in the series relate and work with each other visually.

Join #PickleOnTour

Thanks for joining the first stop on the #PickleOnTour Blog Tour! Stay tuned for more blog tour action, book chat and surprises this week with Kate as she visits some of our favourite picture book bloggers.


Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show

About the Book

Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show is the second picture book in a new series about a feisty little girl, a cheeky Shetland pony and their adventures. They live on a Scottish island where they get up to all sorts of mischief, led by Pickle the pony, who enjoys escaping from his field and getting very messy! Perfect for any children with a penchant for ponies, this book is full of fun in the great outdoors, with bright, humourous illustrations that are sure to make grown-ups smile and give wee ones the giggles.

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