och dagens svar.
My name is H**** and I am currently in my third year at university studying Illustration. I found your work on the AOI website and was instantly drawn to it. I love your characters and the life that you bring to your artwork. As it is my third year I am currently writing my dissertation. I have chosen to focus on women illustrators and I am looking at gender stereotypes and sexism in children's picture books and in the way that women are treated generally. As a fellow woman illustrator I was wondering if you have faced any of these constraints or have been the subject of such things?
Any help would be much appreciated.
Many thanks for your nice words about my work.
I can't say I've ever felt discriminated against as a woman (or immigrant), by anyone in British publishing, or anyone else commissioning illustrations.
However before I had a child I would sometimes get asked (at parties etc, not by professionals);
"Oh, you work with children's books, don't you find that quite hard seeing as you don't have children yourself?"
It was often other women asking.
I used to be more polite about my answer but eventually got so hacked off by it. Not only is it ignorant (I don't think anyone would ask male picture-book makers like Nick Sharratt or Quentin Blake the same question, do you?) but unbelievably thoughtless; What if I'd just lost a baby, or not having any children was a great sorrow in my life?
These days I just say "Oh, you mean like ... perhaps, like brain surgeons who've had cancer themselves would get better at removing tumours?"
I also think it's really important for illustrators to "think big" and draw parents and adults featuring in picture books and other commissions in a contemporary and open minded way and not resorting to stale and nostalgic old clichés of stay-at-home Mums, cheeky boisterous boys and pretty, servile girls.
For instance, if I'm asked to provide a book illustration featuring a "scientist", "bus driver", "manager" or "chef" and there's no mention of the character's gender in the manuscript or brief, I will often strive to make that character female. Of course the commissioning client may get me to change it - and they may just not.
As illustrators I feel we have the power and responsibility not to rub ancient gender stereotypes into the young reader more than the industry already does - kids are surrounded by all that very limiting "boys-and-men-are-this-way" and "girls-and-women-are-that-way" crap from all sides. For me it's about striving to find a balance, to be inclusive and modern as an illustrator, but not overly P C or worthy.
Some of my thoughts - please email again if you have any questions.
Best of luck with your dissertation!"