Award winning author and illustrator Catherine Rayner studied Illustration at Edinburgh College of art. She fell in love with the city and still lives there with a small menagerie of creatures: Shannon the horse, Ena the grey cat, goldfish Sheila and a speckly black and tan guinea pig called Marvin. She finds huge inspiration in her pets and often uses them as models, frequently asking Ena to pose so that she can study her posture and movement. Then she translates sketches of Ena into characters such as dragons and hares, not to mention moose and bears! But it was creatures of a wilder kind that inspired her first picture book, Augustus and His Smile – Catherine spent hours and hours watching and sketching tigers (in freezing temperatures) at Edinburgh Zoo.
Winner of the 2009 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for her second book Harris Finds His Feet, Catherine has now been shortlisted four times for the award. She was also awarded the Best New Illustrator Award at the Booktrust Early Years Awards in 2006 and was named one of Booktrust’s ten Best New Illustrators in 2008. In 2010, she was the inaugural illustrator in residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Catherine is currently shortlisted for the 2012 Scottish Children’s Book Award and has just won the UKLA Children’s Book Award 2012.
A gallery filled with Catherine’s silk-screen prints acts like an open-ended storybook. Each image is a new page and in each we encounter a new and different
character, the events of whose life we are invited to consider. Not surprisingly it is Catherine’s experience as a children’s book illustrator that has heightened not only her awareness but also her fascination with the design aspect of each artwork.
When creating a children’s book the layout of each page must be carefully considered: how one image follows on from another, where the text fits, and
precisely how much visual information a child needs in order to fill in the ‘blanks’ for themselves. In this respect it is just as important to consider which parts of the page to leave empty as it is to decide which parts are to be filled. Indeed, Catherine’s use of surrounding space becomes seminal to her depiction of the animal itself, encouraging in the reader a more thorough understanding of movement, texture, and mood without unnecessary distraction.
This doesn’t mean to say that background is never apparent in Catherine’s picture book work. On the contrary, she will often employ a carefully positioned strand of meadow grass, or a suspended leaf, or subtly suggest a pair of receding footprints in order to give just the right amount of understanding of the creature and its
habitat. Added to this, Catherine’s considered use of colour, weight of line and texture helps the animal to ‘live’ within each image.