How much guidance do you get from either the author or publishers when you're illustrating a book?
This can vary from publisher to publisher, and project to project... For example, when illustrating Witch Wars I was given a lot of freedom to go crazy and bring the characters and the world of Sinksville to life. Quite often the publisher and author will have their own comments, which are compiled together and sent my way at various stages of the project. To be honest, I can have as much or as little guidance as I want once I've received the project brief. Projects such as Witch Wars pretty much draw themselves as the writing is so strong, and more importantly super fun!
What was your favourite picture to draw in Witch Wars?
There were LOADS of illustrations I'd loved drawing, but if I had to choose, it was probably the illustration of Milly and Molly (the michievous fanged twins) launching pillows at Lizzie Beast's head and swinging Patty Pigeon round by her plaits!
When growing up did you always want to be an illustrator? Who were your favourite illustrators as a child?
Funnily enough, I went through a stage where I wanted to be everything BUT an artist/illustrator. I think this was a slight rebellious act on my part because all my friends at school were saying how good at drawing I was and how I should do art… So I did the opposite. For a very long time, I wanted to be an actress. I went to a summer theatre school and took part in pantomimes with the local drama club etc. But I soon realised, I'm not cut out to be on stage! As a child, some of my favourite illustrators, were Jill Murphy who wrote and illustrated The Worst Witch Series, Quentin Blake's illustrations in the Roald Dahl books and Raymond Brigg's The Snowman.
You created the Evil Emperor Penguin strip for the Phoenix - do you ever have trouble coming up with ideas for the strip? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am constantly thinking to myself, 'I wonder if I'll eventually run out of ideas for Evil Emperor Penguin?!' But so far I haven't! I think it's such a ridiculous concept and the characters have become such a huge part of my life that I can always think of something silly for them to be getting up to. Sometimes an episode won't just be based on EEP taking over the world. We know that's his aim… but it's all the crazy things that happen to him in his everyday life. With Evil Emperor Penguin, it's not heavily based on his world domination inventions, in fact, sometimes they play a VERY small part at the beginning of a strip; it's mainly the interaction and action between the characters that brings the strip to life.
Inspiration can be anything from animations, to my Dad's jokes! I was even inspired by a washing machine once… no kidding. I haven't finished the episode just yet, but let's just say a hypnotic washing machine of sorts may come into play!
Other than the girls in Witch Wars, who’s your favourite fictional witch?
This is a VERY hard question… I don't know if I can choose! There are three in particular... Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Hermione Granger and Mildred Hubble. All so different, and all fantastic witch characters! Hmmm, maybe today I'll go for 'Mildred Hubble nothing but trouble!'
What magic would you most want to be able to do if you were a witch?
If I were a witch, I'd love the power to fly on a broomstick because it would mean I wouldn't have to pay for transport anymore! Plus, of course, it's SUPER cool! Or telekinesis has always been a favourite of mine… I'm always having dreams that I can move objects with my eyes, a bit like Matilda.
Which other author or illustrator would you cast a spell on, and what would it do?
Hmmm, maybe Brittney Lee. She's a visual development artist at Disney and has a ridiculous amount of talent! I LOVE her artwork so much. I'd swap bodies with her for a day so I can see what it's like to have that much skill at digital painting and also have a chance to work at Disney for a day!
What was the last thing you Googled?
I googled 'Documents needed when travelling from the UK to the USA' because I'm off to San Francisco next week!
What’s next for Laura Ellen Anderson?
Lots! There's going to be lots more Evil Emperor Penguin of course, even an EEP BOOK! I have my very first author/illustrator picture book deal with Bloomsbury, which I'll be working on this year. And I'm beginning to write my own fiction (We'll see what happens with that!) There are many more picture books, fiction books and board books with various publishers being released over the next year and beyond. It's a busy busy time, but I wouldn't want it any other way! I love my job. The only thing that could make it better would be to have odd magical power ;)
Thanks for a brilliant interview, Laura! To see more from Laura check out her fab website and follow @Lillustrator on Twitter.