29 October 2020

Daniel Long, Dawn Cooper, Jesús Sotés and Katie Ponder illustrate nearly everything, in Bill Bryson's "Really Short History of Nearly Everything".

Posted in: Artists, Children's books, Collaboration, Illustration, Publishing, Special projects

Once in a while, a project might fall into The Artworks hands that might be a perfect fit for not one, but two of our artists. Rarer still is the illusive brief that requires the talents of three of our illustrators, all working together on a single vision. But a project that is a perfect fit for four(!) of our artists, illustrating an entire book by legendary writer Bill Bryson that encapsulates the history of everything… well, that seems like something that needs to be shouted about.

Jesús Sotés, Katie Ponder, Daniel Long and Dawn Cooper have been working together on A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, by acclaimed writer Bill Bryson, a book that encapsulates “everything” from the Big Bang to the dawn of science and everything in between.

We spoke to each of the illustrators about how they found the experience of working together on a book that comes together so cohesively while still retaining each of the artists individual voices and strengths;

How did you all feel when you heard you were going to be working alongside the other Artworks Artists?

Jesús: At first, I was curious to find out who my teammates would be. I was so happy after finding out because I think they’re all great artists and it’s an honour for me to be credited alongside them.

Katie: I am so in awe of Jesús, Dawn and Daniel’s work, I felt a little daunted at the prospect of having my work alongside theirs but also completely delighted to get to work on a project with them. It’s such a rare experience to work with other illustrators and I enjoyed the feeling of being part of a team.

Daniel: When I realised we would all be working together on the same project I was quite intrigued how all our different styles would work together and how the designers had planned to split up the work.

Dawn: I was really excited when I found out I was going to be working on the same project as Katie, Daniel and Jesús!  And pretty starstruck to be illustrating Bill Bryson’s words.  In truth, I felt a little intimidated when I saw how amazing the others’ roughs were, but I wasn’t surprised because I’m a huge fan of their individual styles.

Did you communicate with each other about the illustrations or was it mostly lead by the designer? Or both?

Jesús: I only had direct communication with the designer. All of us were sharing emails with them, who sent us regular corrections, so I was able to see the work of my mates and how the book was progressing.

Katie: It was mostly lead by the designer but words of support and encouragement were exchanged between the artists which was a really lovely experience.

Daniel: I only saw and heard what the other illustrators were doing either in CC’d emails or in collated PDFs at a couple of different stages through the project (roughs, etc). This was quite interesting as it gave a glimpse into all our different processes.

Dawn: The illustrations were very much lead by the designer, but I had quite a few chats with Katie when my self-confidence needed a boost!

What was the most challenging part of the project?

Jesús: The whole project was a challenge for me, it is a very diverse project from a technical point of view, with different periods, clothes and requirements.

Katie: Possibly the colour palette – I’m naturally drawn to more monochrome colour palettes but the colours for this book were very vibrant. It was a good challenge though and it left me feeling that vibrant colours aren’t the enemy!

Daniel: Since the book had been very well planned out beforehand I found a few of the illustrations I had to do were planned quite differently to how I would usually approach them, this was predominantly in terms of character poses and composition.

Dawn: I found the limited colour palette we were given a little tricky to navigate at times, but I enjoyed having to be experimental with my colours when I felt like I pulled it off!  It’s encouraged me to approach colour a little more boldly in my other work.

What did you enjoy most about this project?

Jesús: The whole thing. Precisely.

Katie: Being part of a team with Dawn, Daniel and Jesús! It was so interesting to see their work at the different stages throughout the project and to see their interpretations for each page.

Daniel: I really enjoyed seeing the project come together with everyone’s unique styles blended together seamlessly in a single book which isn’t something you see done successfully very often (in my opinion!).

Dawn: I enjoyed having a distant connection with Bill Bryson and learning lots of fun things about the world’s history while I was drawing.

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything is available from Penguin Books now.