Sarah Dyer: Passionate about Picture Books

Published on: 11 Mawrth 2013

Sarah DyerWe spoke to picture book author and illustrator Sarah Dyer about how she creates her books, including Bear's Best Friend.

Tell us about Bear's Best Friend.

The story is about a bear that has many forest friends, but doesn't feel he has a particular 'best friend'. He does however have a great talent which is making tree pictures (topiary) and through this talent he discovers his best friend.

How did you get started as a picture book author and illustrator?

After studying illustration at Kingston University I was very lucky to have my first picture book published just as I graduated, so it was something I felt confident pursuing when I left. I also liked the industry - I became passionate about picture books and the reaction of children to my work. I enjoy seeing the pleasure they get out of what I produce - it is satisfying to see them love work I've done.

Where do you get the ideas for your picture books?

Normally I start in my sketchbooks. I find it less daunting and precious if I start there. My books tend to grow out of little drawings or ideas I have and keep in the sketchbooks. Sometimes I'll go back to things I've drawn a while ago and develop them later on. Most of the time ideas develop from character drawings or else I want to draw a particular animal, creature or situation. It is normally a fairly selfish reason... something I'd like to develop further because it inspires me to do so! If I sit and wait for an idea to come that never really works for me. It is too forced and I get far too easily distracted by other things at my desk or on my computer. Sometimes an idea stems from something overheard – often from a child, or else a particular memory I have from my childhood.

Tell us about how you create your illustrations.

I enjoy mixing up my materials and using what I feel works best for the particular book I'm working on. It is nothing fancy though - mainly colour pencils, oil pastels and found papers. I am very fond of the Caran d'Ache Neocolor wax crayons, they are my main medium of choice! I use my roughs on a light box and then place my paper on top and follow my rough drawing, normally adding more detail and adjusting bits and pieces as I need. I stay well away from computers - I'm no good with them and prefer working directly onto my paper.

Which other illustrators or artists inspire you?

So many other picture book illustrators making a difference to the industry. People I admire include Beatrice Alemagna, David Roberts, Oliver Jeffers, Chris Haughton, Kveta Pacovska, Laura Carlin, Richard Scarry as well as other artists like Saul Steinburg, and Eric Ravilious - too many to name really!

What advice would you give to an aspiring picture book creator?

It sounds obvious but to just keep going! It is a really competitive environment and I would never put anyone off wanting to become an author or an illustrator, but you need it to be completely your passion so that you want to do it all the time. It is a good idea to have a good understanding of what is currently popular, and what sells well. Being a regular to your children's book section in your library or independent bookshop will help you see what is out there at the moment.

Which other of your books do you recommend?

Monster Day at Work with Frances Lincoln!

Check out Sarah's book

Bear's Best Friend

Lucy Coats Illustrated by Sarah Dyer

Bear has a special talent for topiary - but he doesn't have a best friend, unlike the other animals in the wood.

Read more about Bear's Best Friend

Check out Sarah's book

Monster day at work!

Sarah Dyer

A cheeky child’s eye view of what an adult’s working day is like

Read more about Monster day at work!