Kate Hindley illustrates in both colour and black and white. Favourite characters include the Royal Rabbits of London, the Knight Who Said No and Oliver and Patch and she has illustrated texts by authors including Alexander McCall Smith, Miranda Hart and Claire Freedman. Her work is characterised by her lively, humorous, child’s-eye-view sensibilities and personality-filled creations. Here she explains her approach to Oliver and Patch.
The Oliver and Patch stories are very different to the comedic texts I normally find myself working on. Claire Freedman conveys beautiful stories about the complicated aspects of friendship in a gentle and sensitive way. I love how the texts distil many emotions into something so deceptively simple, and when I came to start drafting the illustrations felt both very inspired and rather intimidated!
Claire cleverly uses colour to reflect Oliver’s feelings throughout the book. The city is cold, grey and blue, whereas Patch’s bright red collar adds a flash of hope. My first artworks unfortunately got this all wrong, and felt far too heavy and oppressive. Luckily I had Book Designer wizard Nia Roberts to hand. She helped me immensely, and with a lot of unpicking we managed to lighten up the whole city with lighter pastel tones which incidentally gave the city a Parisian feel. I love it when a bit of experimentation leads to a happy accident!
For both books I was lucky to have full colour end papers, which gave me the perfect opportunity to go to town on a big scene-establishing double page spread.
A couple of years after the publication of the first Oliver and Patch story, I was kindly invited to Paris by one of my lovely French Publishers Little Urban. Whilst staying there I visited the amazing Jardin des Plantes and completely fell in love with the wrought iron enclosures and greenhouses. I hastily made an incredibly rough (and therefore incredibly private) sketchbook and was resolved to one day use the setting in a picture book. A few months later the text for The Lost Penguin rather serendipitously landed in my inbox and I pounced on the opportunity!
The project was a real treat to work on. All of the charming tone of Claire’s first story, but as we had already established the characters and colour palette I had plenty of time to explore the zoo setting and all its animal inhabitants.
The most daunting part of the project was probably having to go back through all my old drawings, and seeing all the little details I wished I could have done differently. Rightly or wrongly when I’ve completed a book project I rarely come back to it. Too much reflection might just lead to awkwardly listing all the things I wished I had done differently, which is energy arguably better spent throwing yourself into the next project. Conversely as I warily poured through my old sketchbooks I realised that this project gave me the excuse to revisit and include some ideas which didn’t make it into the first. It was hugely satisfying to have this second opportunity, and I hope Oliver and Patch might in the future meet another new character and give me a third.
The Oliver and Patch books are published by Simon and Schuster, paperback £6.99.