We were very excited to have this interview with Helen Cann, an outstanding illustrator, painter, and mapmaker based in England. She has illustrated over twenty books, including How to Make Hand-Drawn Maps (Chronicle), World of Dance (Barefoot), Manger (Eerdmans) and For Every Little Thing (Eerdmans). Her work has appeared in exhibitions around the world and has been commissioned as props for film and television.
EBYR: What made you decide to become an illustrator?
HC: It was something I always wanted to do from my childhood because I loved books and looking at beautiful book illustrations.
EBYR: Who or what has been a major influence on your illustrating style?
HC: I love anything with pattern so if I can add some, I do!
EBYR: Which children’s book most inspired you as a child or in recent years?
HC: Carson Ellis’ books are always stunning.
EBYR: What is a typical workday like?
HC: I get up always slightly too late because my cat Marvin insists on getting into bed with me first thing. I walk through the park to my studio after some strong coffee and toast and start work with my two studio mates alongside. I head home usually between 5 and 6 and mostly any screen work like emails or photoshopping happens when I get back. Sometimes, if I have a tight deadline, I have to work evenings but usually I make time to meet up with friends or go for a walk along the beach near where I live before bed.
EBYR: Where do the ideas for your books come from?
HC: I read the author’s text first and illustrate what inspires me.
EBYR: How closely do you work with the author?
HC: It depends on the book and the publisher.
EBYR: Where do you find your inspiration for new stories and characters?
HC: Sometimes I use my nieces Molly and Daisy as inspiration for any children I illustrate.
EBYR: If not an illustrator, what would you have been?
HC: Being outdoors is one of my favorite things to do so I would have been a tree surgeon if I wasn’t so scared of heights!
EBYR: Why do you believe reading is vital for children?
HC: It’s an amazing door to learning about the world. Reading stories and poems is also a way to put yourself in the shoes of others – so important in engendering compassion and understanding for those whose lives are different to our own.
EBYR: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
HC: Working on an illustration project with a famous film director.
EBYR: What do you hope kids learn from FELT?
HC: That even though times might be tough, there will always be something to be grateful for, however small.
EBYR: Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
HC: I once learnt to blacksmith.