How "The SeaHouse" illustrations developed....

The SeaHouse ~ Written by Lucy Owen, Illustrated by Rebecca Harry. Published by Firefly Press.

SeaHouse_cover_FULL_v2 copy.jpg

The Seahouse is due to be published in just under a week and Lucy Owen and I are very excited! I thought you may like to know a bit about the illustrations and how the pictures in the book came about.

When Firefly Press sent me Lucy’s lovely text, images instantly came into my head. I had to doodle them quickly before they disappeared! The idea of a house being underwater was so magical!!

The central character is a young girl called Coral. She was strong but was going through a tough, emotional time. I had to decide what she looked like first and foremost.

The immediate image came to me when I was out and about and only had a lined note book to hand! These are the early sketches of Coral….

The story starts when Coral wakes up in bed. Because of this, I put her in a long stripey t-shirt. This would look like a nightdress but also double up as a kind of Summer dress for the rest of the book as she is swimming around.

Next I tried her in colour in a watery environment…..

coral&fabulousclr copy.jpg

Coral was coming along nicely, Firefly and I agreed that we just needed to make her look a bit older.

Next was Coral’s new little friend ~ Fabulous the fish. This is the first drawing I did of Fabulous ……

Fabulousdoodle copy.jpg

She is a very tiny fish in comparison to Coral and the rest of the creatures, so it was hard to show a lot of detail on her. I would like to have kept her this big so you can see her up close!! :)

The cover was the first completed image I did for this book. Normally I do the cover last if I’m illustrating a picture book but this was a reading book where the cover is usually the main artwork. It was very important for me to get it right as this determined the feel of the book and also the exact look of Coral.

I drew a tiny thumbnail idea of it and tried out some colour backgrounds….

Firefly chose the blue background, then I took a deep breath and started the artwork. I didn’t want to make any mistakes with the detail on Coral’s face and I wanted the water to look nice and transparent. This is what I did…

Original SeaHouse cover art.

Original SeaHouse cover art.

I needed to make Coral and Fabulous look comfortable and happy underwater but the sinister looking seaweed at the bottom implied a darker side to the story.

It was decided that Coral wasn’t quite prominent enough though so the designer, Claire Brisley cleverly tweaked my cover artwork and enlarged her so that she now sits more prominently beneath the title.

Next I designed the illustrations inside the book. These had to be in black and white because they were to be printed with the black and white text. I could have done these in many different ways: paint, collage, ink, but I decided to create them using graphite pencil. This allowed me to make the images with the same amount of detail and softness as the cover.

I then immersed myself in The SeaHouse …

and enjoyed every minute creating the underwater drawings….

This is one of the chapter headers for the SeaHouse.

This is one of the chapter headers for the SeaHouse.

Chapter headers are nice and decorative and help to break up pages and pages of text. I had to think of something that summarised each chapter and then create a little image for that title. I really loved doing these.

Here are some more….

Chapter headers.

Chapter headers.

The most difficult thing?? This was keeping Coral looking the same throughout the book…

When Coral met Fabulous.

When Coral met Fabulous.

But I had no problems with ideas as I felt very inspired by this lovely underwater world that Lucy had written about…

Kc4cLbMD.jpg-large 2.jpeg

The naturalist Iolo Williams gave us a lovely review of the SeaHouse. Thank you Iolo!

“The Sea House is a wonderful book, beautifully written with stunning illustrations. It brings the marine world literally into our living rooms and I sincerely hope it helps to awaken a respect and understanding of the marine environment in its readers, young and old alike.”

—  Iolo Williams, naturalist and broadcaster.

Below are some tiny illustrations that weren’t used …..

Page Numbers GS - 010.jpg

These would have gone around the page numbers but we didn’t need them in the end. I still loved making them and they were good practice for the other pieces!

Dotted throughout the book are some larger illustrations that break up the text for the young reader…

Dr. Sweetlips trying to save little Fabulous.

Dr. Sweetlips trying to save little Fabulous.

There are several of these larger pieces throughout The SeaHouse.

Some of the fish that Lucy listed in her text sounded amazing!! I knew exactly what some species looked like, but there were lots that I didn’t know. I needed to do some research. So I watched some underwater films of these fish and some LIVE CAM aquarium footage from America. It was very dreamy and enjoyable to watch and I did some quick doodles as they moved around in the water. Here are my quick doodles….


Trunk Fish

Trumpet Fish




Butterfly Fish! ….

At the end of the book, Lucy wrote some Fabulous Fish facts about real creatures in the ocean. We need to look after our planet and our oceans and this little fact file helps us learn about some of the species that live there. We can build up our understanding of all creatures and that will help us to respect and protect them.

Here are some of the Fish Facts illustrations…

Stingrays in real life aren’t as bad as our villain Stealth. I enjoyed making this one friendly.

One lovely thing about having a book published is that you can dedicate it to someone special. A last little idea I had for the book was to draw portraits of the people that Lucy and I were dedicating the SeaHouse to…..

For Gabriel, Jeff and Denny xxx

Lucy and I are so excited about the release of the SeaHouse on April 11th 2019! We can’t wait to hear what you think about it. Please let us know on Twitter using the following:-




You can buy the book from the fabulous Firefly Press here:-

Thank you for reading my blog today. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please click “Like” below.

The SeaHouse pre-launch at The Brilliant Books Festival

This March held the very first “Brilliant Books” Literature Festival at Insole Court in Cardiff. We were lucky enough to start the festival off with a pre-launch book event for the SeaHouse ~ a month before the book is published.

Photo by ©Nigel Pugh

Photo by ©Nigel Pugh

We had a full room! There were bubbles to make us feel like we were underwater and Lucy read some chapters from her lovely story.

Meanwhile in the background, I did some live-drawing of some of the characters in The SeaHouse..

On display were some of the black and white illustrations I did for the inside of the book. We had a slide-show of the illustrations too because our audience hadn’t seen the book yet! We wanted the children to get an idea of the underwater world of the SeaHouse and to meet the sea creatures that lived there. We also introduced them to the main character, Coral and her sparkly fish friend, Fabulous.

Black and white illustrations from The SeaHouse

Black and white illustrations from The SeaHouse

At the end of the event there was a gift for one lucky member of the audience who had been listening carefully…..


Lovely Morgan was the first to answer a question correctly on the SeaHouse and took home the live-drawing for her bedroom wall. Well done Morgan!!

There was a lot of Fabulous the fish colouring-in at the end of the session…


Look at this beautiful work from one of the children…..


It was lovely to talk to the audience afterwards and Lucy and I are now looking forward to the Book Launch at the Cardiff Literature Festival on Sunday April 7th.


The endpapers of a book are the pages where one half is pasted against the inside cover and the other serves as the first free page.

My current 2 books that I’m working on have no endpaper designs. Which made me think about the endpapers that I have designed over the years ………

Catch that Kitten by Pamela D. Edwards Published by PanMacmillan

Catch that Kitten by Pamela D. Edwards Published by PanMacmillan

Some are purely decorative ……….

I’m Big Enough Now by Pamela D. Edwards published by PanMacmillan

I’m Big Enough Now by Pamela D. Edwards published by PanMacmillan

This set that I drew for Nosy Crow has beautiful foiling on it and sparkles when the book is opened…..

Because I Love You by David Bedford

Because I Love You by David Bedford

Sometimes the endpapers are really elaborate. Look at this one that I illustrated for The Bluebell Woods series…..

Written by Liss Norton published by Little Tiger Press

Written by Liss Norton published by Little Tiger Press

These endpapers also formed the cover and opened out to reveal the secret little world of 4 lovely woodland friends. They neatly folded inwards where the apertures overlapped one another, framing an image of the main character of the story. This was particularly difficult to design. I had to think about both sides at once! A bit tricky for my brain!

You can see the rest of this lovely series in the ‘Books’ section of this website.

Often endpapers are an after thought, the last thing to illustrate. But sometimes they are a really important start, enticing you into the book.

These endpapers from the Ruby the Duckling series written by Jonathan Emmett gave you a little clue about Ruby’s character……..

Published by PanMacmillan now available on Amazon

Published by PanMacmillan now available on Amazon

Another lovely book written by Jonathan Emmett was Foxes in the Snow and probably my most detailed endpapers ever!

The front papers showed the opening scene of the story. Take a look…….

Written by Jonathan Emmett and published by PanMacmillan

Written by Jonathan Emmett and published by PanMacmillan

And the endpapers at the back of the book closed off the story when the snow had arrived….

Written by Jonathan Emmett and published by PanMacmillan

Written by Jonathan Emmett and published by PanMacmillan

They took a long time to do but I am SO glad we did them!! I think they are one of my favourite sets.

Traditionally the endpapers are the place to put bookplates or the owner’s inscription. I like the fact that they are an added extra, a decorative touch, a little secret to discover when you open the cover. Like having a beautiful lining on your coat the endpapers make the book even more special and something to keep and treasure .

Ruby the Duckling Easter Drawing Competition

Jonathan Emmett and I have self published the Ruby the Duckling series after Macmillan Children's Books took them out of print. We made this decision because we are still receiving wonderful letters from people all over the world who love these books and want to continue buying them. 

They are selling quietly in the background and we are rather pleased with the response!

This Easter, we wanted to raise Ruby's profile again - particularly as it's the season of eggs and all things fluffy and yellow! We decided on a drawing competition where the winner would be picked  randomly! (A huge relief not to judge the 'best' drawing as I loved all of the applicants and would find it impossible!!) 

The response was brilliant! We had over 20 children applying. These are just a handful....


The winner was young Ethan Etherington and we sent this to him;


an original Ruby painting, signed by Jonathan and myself. We may run some more Ruby competitions in the future.

Batik workshop in local school

 My son's lovely Primary school becomes a little "University" each term. How that works is the pupils choose a course and these range from Karate to Cookery, History to Recording Radio Shows. The courses change every half term and they get the opportunity to sample these  amazing new experiences provided by staff, support staff and visitors! The children use the word 'University' in their everyday vocabulary and it becomes part of every pupils timetable on a Friday afternoon. Brilliant eh! 

I offered my help in the Batik class this term. As an illustrator working mostly on my lonesome, it's a joy to spend a few hours with these lovely pupils, helping them gain confidence with their drawing and keeping them safe from the hot materials used in Batik. 


The work turned out well!! They created some beautiful pieces of their own and this is the big piece that we worked on together. And I'm always chuckling at year 3 and 4's funny comments and ideas. They're very inspiring.

Wotton Gallery Exhibition

It was great to be part of this exhibition again over the Christmas 2015 period. It's just lovely to see an 'Illustration" exhibition at all! 

Lets have more of these so that children and adults can get up close and view the originals from their favourite books! 

Under The Sleepy Stars

"Under The Sleepy Stars" written by Stephanie Shaw - ISBN 978-1-84869-054-7   Little Tiger Press

Stephanie Shaw has written this lovely reassuring Rhyme for bedtime. A pleasure to illustrate and Little Tiger have produced it with a lovely squashy cover. 

Illustrating Larger than usual - on a shop window!

This was an interesting project I had this week! I don't normally work in large scale and in public too but I was asked to decorate a children's shoe shop window and loved every minute of it! Customers really liked watching the piece of artwork progress in front of their eyes and it's nice to speak directly to the public and hear their comments. The shop owner was very pleased too so it was a great day!! 

Wotton Gallery - Illustration Exhibition

Sat 29th Nov- 31st Dec 2014

"Wotton Gallery", 42, Long Street, Wotton-under-Edge, GL12 7BT 

It is lovely to be invited to exhibit in this gallery in the Cotswolds this Christmas along side other great illustrators such as Fran Evans and Anita Jeram.

Available to purchase will be original illustrations from some of my books plus black and white sketches based on the Winter theme of the exhibition. 

Snow Bunny's Christmas Gift

"Snow Bunny's Christmas Gift" - ISBN 978-0-85763-350-7   Nosy Crow

Hooray!! Another Winter adventure with Snow Bunny and her friends is available this Christmas!

Nosy Crow have gently foiled my illustrations in this second snowy installment. The sparkly pages and warm story makes it just a perfect "Christmas Gift"!


Little Puppy Lost

"Little Puppy Lost" written by Holly Webb - ISBN 978-1-84895-909-5   Little Tiger Press

I was delighted to illustrate Holly Webb's very first picture book! This is another lovely animal story by the best selling author, where Harry, an adorable little pup meets a new friend. This was great fun to work on as the pages had such a variety of locations to keep the eye interested. The adventure takes the reader and the tiny pup through the park, a woodland, the street and best of all, cuddled up safely on a warm cosy lap. 


Because I Love You

October 2013
"Because I Love You" written by David Bedford - ISBN 978-0857632364

This is my second book published by the lovely Nosy Crow. An ideal bedtime book about love and the relationship between a mother and baby bear. Nosy Crow have delicately foiled my illustrations on the cover and each double page spread to give the book a magic, golden sparkle. 
The paperback version of this book is to be released in January 2015

Snow Bunny's Christmas Wish

"Snow Bunny's Christmas Wish" - ISBN 978 0 85763 125 1

I'm so pleased to announce that "Snow Bunny's Christmas Wish" is out this month!! Published by the wonderful Nosy Crow publishers. Each spread has foil delicately added to make this a great gift for a little one this Christmas. 
Images of the book will be up on my website soon.