#FlorisDesign meets Sandra Klaassen

A leopard may never change his spots, but a cover can change many times in the lifetime of a book. At Kelpies HQ our Kelpies Classics collection have undergone more than one cover transformation as we reach new readers and a new generation with these timeless tales of adventure, courage and bravery. In today’s #FlorisDesign interview we’re shining the spotlight on children’s book illustrator Sandra Klaassen, the artist behind the cover artwork for the new editions of Kathleen Fidler’s Flash the Sheep Dog and Haki the Shetland Pony. Read on to find out her top tips for budding illustrators and why felt tips are an artist’s best friend.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far?

I was born in The Netherlands. As a graduate of the Royal Academy of Art and Design I’ve been working for over 25 years as a professional children’s book illustrator. As a freelancer I’ve worked for many publishers.

Sandra Klaassen #FlorisDesign interview

Left – the old cover (artwork by Mabel Forsyth). Right – the new cover edition of Haki the Shetland Pony (artwork by Sandra Klaassen).

What made you decide to become an illustrator?

Since my childhood I’ve loved to make drawings of books I have read and stories I have written. My ‘first’ (stapled) book (when I was 11 years old) was a comic book about the adventures of Tarzan and a cat. I remember at secondary school I always illustrated the reports we had to write hoping that it would give me a better mark. After secondary school I went to Art school, happy to be immersed in art every day!

Is working as a picture book illustrator what you expected?

Working as an illustrator hasn’t always been easy because sometimes you have to make drawings with a difficult subject and you always have to deal with deadlines. But I’m still fascinated by illustrating. It’s still fantastic to be inspired by a story and to make the illustrations as beautiful as possible. I always look forward to a new book project knowing that I will be absorbed by it.

Can you tell us a bit about your illustration process and methods?

My illustration process is long and intense. I always start with researching the subject or characters and writing down my ideas. The first stages of the process begin with sketching and developing the main characters. I always make my initial sketches in felt tip; because you can’t rub them out these sketches are more spontaneous. For a picture book I make a dummy without any colours. When I feel happy with the result I begin creating the original artwork (no felt tips though). I mostly use ink and watercolour.

Were you familiar with Kathleen Fidler’s books before you were commissioned to illustrate the cover artwork?

I was not previously familiar with Kathleen Fidler’s books. Fortunately the internet has helped me to find out information about her; I find it very important to know someone’s background as I feel it helps me convey the right atmosphere in my illustrations.

Sandra Klaassen interview #FlorisDesign

Sandra with ‘the real’ Peg

Your pets Peg and Uan feature in some of our other books. How does your relationship with animals influence your work?

Animals do influence my work. I love animals and feel very connected to them. We always had pets when I grew up and I cannot imagine living without pets or animals around me. During my family life we had lizards, dogs, cats, rats and ferrets. I’ve looked after stray or injured birds as well, such as a jay, a crow and a jackdaw.

Do you feel that your artwork is influenced by the landscape and natural world?

The landscape and natural world are a big source of inspiration for me; I cannot draw without it.

In your opinion, what makes a good illustration?

For me a good illustration inspires emotion and it should complement the story, creating balance with the text.


Sandra Klaassen #FlorisDesign interview

The old cover and the new cover edition of Flash the Sheep Dog (from left to right). All artwork by Sandra Klaassen.

This is not the first time you have illustrated a cover for Flash the Sheep Dog – how did you approach the same book this time?

I didn’t want to recreate the same sort of cover again so this time I focused just on the character of Flash.

What did you most enjoy about working on this project?

I adore Collie dogs and I cannot remember having drawn a Shetland pony before so that was quite a nice challenge too.

Do you have any top tips for budding illustrators?

Stay true to yourself in the style you want to illustrate. And always ask yourself, ‘What do I want to express”?



Sandra Klaassen #FlorisDesign interview


Flash the Sheep Dog

As London orphan Tom struggles to adjust to his new life in the Scottish Borders he finds an unexpected ally in Flash the sheep dog puppy. Their friendship blossoms and Tom’s determined to make Flash a sheep dog champion! Will they succeed?

Adapted for the big screen in 1966, Flash the Sheep Dog remains an unrivalled portrait of rural Scotland and is perfect for fans of Lassie and Babe the Sheep-pig.

Haki the Shetland Pony

When Adam and Haki are forced to leave their home on Shetland and find work on the mainland, they become the lead acts of a travelling circus. Yet Adam and Haki’s future is in jeopardy as jealous feelings arise amongst the circus folk. Will the stars of the circus somersault to success or stumble and fall?

An exciting adventure, this heartwarming story is perfect for pony lovers everywhere.

Flash the Sheep Dog and Haki the Shetland Pony are out now.