Illustrator Feature: Sue Todd

Inspired by a story told to the author while on safari in 2015, The Wild Beast describes the creation of one of Africa’s most unusual animals, the wildebeest. According to oral tradition, the Creator built this unique beast out of leftover parts from other magnificent animals found on the continent. Horns from buffaloes and stripes meant for zebras. Tails from giraffes and bumps meant for camels. This creative retelling will introduce little ones to a story rich in both imagery and in lesson: Take what you need to live. Take no more. Waste nothing.

What excited you about illustrating this book?

The author! The animals! I love illustrating folktales and animals, and the wildebeest is my new favorite.

Did you do any planning or research for your illustrations?

Before I ever put pen to paper, I go to Google and seek references for every image that appears in the book, and create a binder with dividers for each subject so that I can easily refer to them while sketching. It sometimes takes a week just to gather references and inspiration. Although my style is not realistic, I still need to understand the subject before departing from reality.

What’s the best surprise you had in the process of illustrating this book?

The biggest surprise for me was the way the preliminary sketches evolved easily and effortlessly. The book includes a few very busy detailed scenes as the earth fills with animals, yet they just flowed onto the page without struggle, no doubt inspired by the text and subject matter.

What types of media did you use to create your illustrations?

My technique is hand carved linocut with digital color. Linocut is a relief printing technique similar to potato cut. The process is the opposite of drawing because everything that is carved does not print, so the lines you see in my final art are what is left standing and the spaces are what I have carved. Is this clear as mud? After the carving is complete, I roll it with ink, then scan the black and white line art to be colored in Photoshop. I enjoy switching back and forth between analog and digital media because variety is the spice of life! On my homepage there is a link to a five-minute video by author, Kate Jaimet, that demonstrates my technique..

Who are some other artists that you admire?

Artists whose work I admire, past and present, include Tim Burton, Maurice Sendak, Jim Flora, Henri Rousseau, Jose Francisco Borges, Heironymous Bosch, Bruegel, Carmen Mok, Gary Taxali, Anita Kunz, Maira Kalman, Jody Hewgill, Von Glitchka, and Steve Simpson, to name a few.

Do you have any unique hobbies or pastimes?

Hobbies, nothing unique. I like to ride my bike everywhere, rain or shine, summer, or winter. In summer, I deliver meals on two wheels. I am learning to paint portraits in oil for fun. I love opera, especially Wagner, most especially the Ring Cycle.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

My favorite book as a child was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe from the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

What is the most rewarding part of being an illustrator?

My job is drawing pictures. Need I say more?

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of this book?

I hope this book will generate dialogue about the stewardship of our planet and inspire young readers to examine and rethink our consumer driven society. They are our hope for the future.

The Wild Beast is available now!

Sue Todd is an award-winning illustrator living in Toronto, Ontario. She is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University). Sue began her career as a freelance designer in retail advertising. For a more creative outlet, she took up linoleum carving, an ancient printmaking technique similar to woodcut, and developed a unique style of art that led to a career in illustration. Sue has created images for a wide range of clients, from advertising and corporate to editorial and publishing. For more information, visit suetodd.com.

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