When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna, illustrated Judy Watson

When You’re Older Illustrator Interview

Judy Watson is an exceptional illustrator. She won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award (Children’s Fiction) in 2012 for Good Night, Mice! (written by Frances Watts) and has excelled in other collaborations with Frances and also Lesley Gibbes, Lisa Shanahan and other notable Australian authors.

Her new picture book, When You’re Older is exquisite. It is written by the wonderful Sofie Laguna and published by Allen & Unwin.

Judy writes about illustrating When You’re Older for PaperbarkWorks here:

When You’re Older gave me goosebumps when I first read it. It was the Big Feelings of the small boy that got to me; his total confidence in the future bond between himself and his brother. And those overblown adventures in his head, full of heroism and wonder.

I went into my memories and imagination to have a good look at the scenery from the child’s point of view. How could I capture the wonder? Sofie had described the settings with elegant simplicity and I recognised some features with enormous child appeal. I needed to build on these.

There are huge vistas – the kind that make your heart pound – like the open ocean or ice ramparts in the polar regions.

Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna

There are small, cosy spaces, where you can be a king in your own domain – a cave where you can eat sandwiches and feed the ducks, a cubby house you have built for yourself, or a tent on the snow.

Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna

And there are creatures! Some are large, with a powerful presence; some small, hidden or enmeshed within the landscape.

By keeping my main characters small on most spreads, I was able to play around with the scale of the landscape and the many animals within it. I had always in mind, the little fingers that would point out the details.

Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna

I wanted each spread to be one single illustration, rather than broken up into vignettes. The large, full bleed images allowed me to hint at much more continuing on outside the scene. And I wanted the scenes to roll along as you turned each page, as though a child could walk his or her fingers through the terrain.

My technique was inspired by paper collage. The original boat (below) was a paper collage. This contrast between white space, a clean, cut edge and rich texture was the look I wanted to maintain.

Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna

The grasses, water ripples, soil and sand, foam, froth and fur became my textural places, evocative of nature. Wherever I could, I used my hard, graphic edges to create the structure on the page. Sometimes I added something small and fun like a red ladder.

Although the final art combines digital with hand-made, almost everything began with ink.

Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna
Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna
Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna
Image from When You’re Older illustrated by Judy Watson, written by Sofie Laguna

However small, the brothers and their dog are at the heart of every illustration. Their relationship to one another and the world is shown in many ways. I tried to ensure that though their attention may be attracted in the moment by a duck or a bear, they are always aware of each other and sharing each moment, doubling the pleasure, keeping each other safe.

Thank you for your enlightening insights into your illustrative process, Judy. We appreciate your expertise and care.

When You’re Older at Allen & Unwin

Judy Watson’s website

Interview with Judy Watson and Lesley Gibbes about Searching for Cicadas at PaperbarkWords

Interview with Sofie Laguna at PaperbarkWords

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