Anita Jeram

Anita Jeram is best known for her illustrations for the Guess How Much I Love You picture books, written by Sam McBratney. More recently she has collaborated with author Amy Hest on  the charming story of Little Chick our picture book of the month for February.

Where did you draw your inspiration from for Little Chick? What gave you the idea for the illustrations?

Lucky for me, I had some real little chicks running around the garden at the time. And we had a couple of little orphans warming under a lamp.

Do you have a favourite passage or picture in the book?

The picture near the end where Little Chick is lying on her mothers back. Our real-life chicks climb all over their mothers, trying to snuggle close as they possibly can, very sweet.

Can you tell us a bit about the mediums and materials you work with and why?

I started working with dip pen and ink at college. I like it. It makes a lively line, especially if I draw straight onto paper with ink, no underdrawing in pencil.

Little Chick and You're All My Favourites were both done in pencil, for a softer feel..

Is there any particular routine involved in your writing/illustrating process (a favourite paintbrush or a place you particularly like to work)?

Just as I'm about to start a new book, I procrastinate and dilly-dally around finding other 'more urgent' things to do. This is a bit frustrating, but I accept it's part of the process now.

What does a typical day involve for you?

After the morning 'get-ready-for-school-rush', I spend an hour or so feeding and sorting all the animals. (We have a lot of pets.) Then I'll work while it's peaceful, until school's out. Then it's cooking dinner, homework to help with (an interesting project on slugs), and just before dusk, I put the chickens to bed.

Do you have any pets or a favourite animal?

We have a menagerie of two dogs, a cat, twelve chickens, a duck, seven tortoises, two guinea-pigs, an elderly rat, two java sparrows, two monitor lizards, a rainbow boa, and a few other snakes, and a wild pheasant who joins the hens for breakfast.

What subject did you enjoy most at school ... and least?

Art was my favourite subject, maths, my worst. I was so hopeless that my maths teacher once handed me a blank piece of paper at the start of the lesson and said, "Just draw ...".

What were your favourite books as a child?

There weren't many books at home, but we went to the library once a week. I remember a book called Bears on Wheels, a counting book, which I loved. I've just found it on ebay, and now it's in my collection of old childrens books.

When did you first feel that you wanted to be an illustrator?

I always wanted to be a zoo keeper. But the waiting list at the nearest zoo was five years, so I went to art college instead.

Do you have any hobbies?

Walking the dogs, jewellery making, sewing, papier mache, taking photographs. The children and I like trying to make little animated films. The end results are technically terrible, but hilarious! 

Who are your favourite artists/ do you have a favourite painting?

I like anything by Michael Sowa, a german artist with a brilliant, dark humour. My favourite is 'Kranker Hund', a portrait of a poorly dog!