Just Imagine

Q&A With Catherine Rayner

Hello Catherine,

You studied Art at Edinburgh College of Art, but did you always know that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I have always loved all kinds of books – from children’s picture books to atlases! There is something about a whole world of information being held but two covers that excites and fascinates me. I always had a fondness for picture books and as I grew up and my drawing improved, it became a dream of mine to write and illustrate my own books for children…I never expected my dream to come true!


Where do you get your inspiration for your characters from? We’ve heard you have quite a few pets at home…?!

As you’ve mentioned, my pets often inspire me – as do all creatures of varying shape and size! I tend to start thinking about an animal and sometimes I don’t even know exactly why they have been brought to my attention! It might be a trip to the zoo or something I’ve read or heard. But once the seed has been planted in my mind and I start doodling, a story often starts to evolve. Sometimes I’ll be drawing a character in a sketchbook for years before I finally feel ready to write a whole book for him or her.


We always like to ask illustrators if they have a favourite thing to draw… do you?

I love drawing animals – as you know! But I also really enjoy drawing plants and flowers.


As both an author and illustrator, which comes first for you; the picture or the story?

Once I’ve started to develop a character, their story tends to form in my mind at the same time.


You also illustrate books for other authors. Do you ever get any inspiration from their stories that you can then develop further into creations of your own?

Everything I work on inspires me in different ways. I think the most obvious thing that happens is that I learn something new from every single book I work on. For example, this could be a slightly different way of drawing something!


Are you working on any projects at the moment and can we look forward to seeing any new titles from you in the near future?

I have just finished illustrating a book written by Julia Donaldson which will be published next spring. Now I’m working on one of my own stories. I don’t want to spoil the surprise and tell you what it is about … but I’m really enjoying creating the artwork and I can tell you I’ve been drawing a lot of whiskers!


Many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.


Catherine Rayner is an award winning author and illustrator, who studied Illustration at Edinburgh College of art. She fell in love with the city and still lives there with her husband, young sons and a handful of creatures: Shannon the horse, Ena the grey cat and a goldfish called Richard