It’s a rare, but delightful experience to come across a project that is fresh, funny and completely engaging. For me, it was author & illustrator Katie W. Stewart’s book, Famous Animals. I was so impressed when Katie posted a sample in a writers’ group we belong to, that I invited her to write a guest blog after it was finished. Well, the book is not only finished, but published! Many thanks for telling us how it all began, Katie, and for explaining your creative process.
Isn’t it strange how small events can snowball into major projects? Early in 2014, I read a book by Sir Ken Robinson. Entitled ‘The Element’, it resonated with me. He talked about being creative and following your passions, rather than sticking to what other people thought you should do. I was approaching my mid-fifties and finding my job more and more frustrating. I simply wanted to write and illustrate. That was what I’d always wanted to do. By the end of the year I’d made the decision to quit my job and try to make a go of it.
All of that year, I had been taking part on Facebook in the ’52-Week Illustration Challenge’. It had stretched my skills and I was happy to find that it was continuing this year. Early in January, the theme for the week was ‘Italy’. The illustrations people did were many and varied, but to me, Italy meant opera and opera meant Luciano Pavarotti. Unfortunately, drawing realistic people is not my strongest skill. I prefer to draw animals, realistic or cartoonish. So I drew a little mouse singing opera. When I’d finished, I realised he looked more like a rat. Then it hit me. This was Luciano Pavaratti! I labelled him as such and posted him to Facebook.
That night I didn’t sleep. Other animal puns kept popping into my head – Sir Winston Churchmouse, Joan Aardvark,
Lionardo Da Vinci… By morning, I’d decided to do a whole set of paintings and turn them into a book. The more I did, the more I enjoyed it.
When I ran out of ideas, I went to a forum I enjoy, the UK Kindle Users Forum and asked them for help. The British love puns, so I soon had a huge list of really good ideas. I had thought that I’d simply have pictures, a sort of coffee table book, but someone on the forum suggested that it would be great for children if it had a little information about the real person and about the animal. So that’s what I did and the end result was “Famous Animals Volume 1’. As the name suggests, there will be more. I’m already half way into Volume 2, which will be confined to people famous in Music.
The pictures were all created digitally, using a Wacom Cintiq, a wonderful drawing tablet that allows you to draw straight onto the screen.
That means, of course, that there are no ‘originals’, but I have folios full of work taking up space all over my office already, so I like it that way. For those who really like the book and would like a piece of art, I’ve uploaded some of the illustrations to Redbubble, where they can order everything from a canvas print to a pencil case. I’ll expand the choice of illustrations as people make requests.
The book itself, which is Print on Demand, is printed by IngramSpark. There have been a few hiccups, but I’m very pleased with their distribution and the paper they use is thicker than at other printers of their sort, giving a more quality feel to the book. People have asked me why I didn’t approach publishers. My answer is that I had absolutely no idea how to pitch it. It doesn’t fit any definable genre or subject I know. I also wanted to be able to sell the prints. So for now, it’s self-published and available worldwide. I’m pretty happy with that.
Find Katie at –
Find Famous Animals at –
(Amazon sells it at RRP and Book Depository does not charge postage. It’s available just about everywhere and can be ordered into bookshops, but the prices charged vary widely.)
Congratulations Katie, and best wishes for the success of the book. I know that my great-nieces (and their parents) will enjoy it immensely.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO COMMENT, OR TO LEAVE A MESSAGE FOR KATIE, YOU CAN DO SO IN THE BOX BELOW. DON’T FORGET TO COMPLETE THE LITTLE ANTI-SPAM SUM BEFORE PRESSING ‘SUBMIT’