#FlorisDesign meets Melanie Mitchell

Sung throughout Scottish homes up and down the country, classic rhymes and traditional tunes make for fun, interactive stoytime sessions. Some of them have been sung for generations, so our Favourite Scottish Rhymes series aims to keep them fresh for youger readers. In our latest post, #FlorisDesign heads over to North Wales to talk to talented children’s book illustrator Melanie Mitchell about our new Favourite Scottish Rhymes book, Three Craws.

Hi Melanie, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us about your studies and training?

I studied illustration at the North Wales School of Art and Design. Over the past 20 years I’ve worked as an illustrator on a wide variety of projects, from greetings cards to shop window displays. However, illustrating children’s books is what I love doing most.

We’d love to hear about your decision to become a children’s book illustrator.

I’ve always loved drawing and painting since I was little, and I knew I wanted to pursue a creative job once I left school, and illustration seemed perfect for me. My dream job!

Do you work using traditional methods or digital methods or both?

When I first started out as an illustrator I used watercolour, and then moved on to acrylics. But over the last few years my style has moved on and become digital, I use Photoshop in much the same way that I used paint, but Photoshop has allowed me to become much quicker at producing my illustrations.

Three Craws, Favourite Scottish Rhymes

What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?

I love drawing children; I have a little boy and girl who are great for reference and inspiration. I also love drawing animals and anything that is full of character.

 

Which favourite nursery rhymes from your own childhood would you most like to see transformed into an illustrated board book?

I always remember my mum singing old nursery rhymes to me, such as See Saw, and Hey Diddle Diddle.  I always enjoyed singing the The Wheels on the Bus to my little ones; I think this could make a nice board book with lots of fun characters.


Where did you get your inspiration from for Three Craws?

I’m lucky enough to have a large window by my workspace and had plenty of crows to spy on for inspiration, but I never spotted any baby ones. Crows are quite cheeky and inquisitive birds, and I wanted this to come across in Three Craws.

 Three Craws, Favourite Scottish Rhymes

How challenging was it working on a lift the flaps book?

I found it quite easy once I got my head around how the flaps would work with the illustration, and how the page would work, once the flap was open. I have done flap books before so that helped too.

Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?

My partner is also an illustrator and we share a studio. So when I’m stuck I usually talk things through with him and ask for his opinion. Or just having a break – it usually helps to see something with fresh eyes.

Is working as an illustrator what you expected?

I love being an illustrator, but sometimes deadlines can be challenging.

 Three Craws, Favourite Scottish Rhymes

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?

The best thing about being an illustrator is when you see or hear about a child enjoying a book you’ve illustrated.

Do you have any illustrators or designers that you consider to be your favourites?

I love so many illustrators! Arthur Rackham, Mary Blair, Quentin Blake,  Alex Scheffler and Miriam Bos to name a few.

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Three Craws, Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny off a Bus, Ally Bally Bee

About the Favourite Scottish Rhymes Series

Lift the flaps and slide the moving parts with our fun and sturdy board books inspired by traditional Scottish rhymes – perfect for a new generation of wee bairns to discover for the first time.
In these bright and chunky books of Favourite Scottish Rhymes, inventive moving parts allow young children to sing and act out the much-loved songs. They can sit on their mammy’s knees like Ally, bounce along the waw with the three craws and they really can push granny off the bus – so long as she’s their daddy’s mammy!

#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!

Ally Bally Bee Kathryn Selbert #FlorisDesign

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.

 Ally Bally Bee Kathryn Selbert #FlorisDesign

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.

Ally Bally Bee Kathryn Selbert #FlorisDesign 

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.

She also illustrated Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny off a Bus.

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