Not too long ago, we were delighted to be able to speak with Debra Tidball about the release of her gorgeous new picture book, Anchored (read #TheQuickSixInterview with Debra Tidball). On this occasion, Debra has asked her illustrator, Arielle Li, a few questions about what the book creation process was like for her. Thanks so much, ladies! 🙂

Article by Debra Tidball.

Although Arielle and I have not met (we live in different states) and hardly communicated with each other, except via our publisher {EK Books}, I think there’s a special bond that forms between the author and illustrator of a picture book. The illustrator has to connect with the author on an intuitive level via the words in the manuscript, and then they spend hours on bringing a shared vision to life. The author starts out with a bond of trust with the illustrator that deepens as the process unfolds and the book is developed.

I couldn’t be more thrilled with the end result of our partnership. The colours in Anchored are so pretty and the characters so expressive, that children and parents alike will want to grab it from the shelves ad hug it! I thought it might be nice to hear from Arielle about her process.

First off, thank you Arielle, for your part in making this book so very special!

I’m interested in how you first felt when you saw the manuscript for Anchored and how you connected with it?

When I first started reading the Anchored manuscript, I thought it’s such a cute and heartwarming story, and I could already see the scenes and images floating in my head. I really wanted to be part of making it come to life.

What medium did you use to illustrate Anchored, and why did you choose this?

I actually painted Anchored using my iPad pro and the drawing app Procreate. I would’ve loved to use traditional medium such as watercolour or gouache to complete this, but it’s just not practical enough, especially for accommodating changes and also for time management, too.

One of the many things I love so much about the illustrations is the texture. There’s almost a ‘chalkiness’ to them, especially Ship. How did you get that texture?

I selected digital brushes that mimics the effect you get from painting with gouache, and then dropping the opacity down and layer it up to build a more textured effect. It took quite a few trial and errors to find a process that works, but I’m so happy with the final results.

What were your favourite spreads to illustrate?

Definitely page 24 and 25 where Ship recounted to Tug about the dark, inky skies and twinkling stars! I also love page 18 and 19 with the tropical reefs and jellyfish. It was the most challenging spread to paint, but it was also the most rewarding when I could finally get that transparent sparkly effect for the sea. (Also, I couldn’t resist putting in some swimming dolphins, ha-ha.)

I love these pages too! There are three double page spreads that I really hoped would be ‘wow’ moments, and they sure are! And each is stunning in its own way.

Were there things you learnt in the process of illustrating the book (e.g. about yourself, about the words, about art/illustrating?)

I learnt that there’s nothing more calming than painting the sea. Unless, it’s painting the sea by the sea, which I guess would probably multiply the calming effect. I should probably try it sometime…

Do you feel different about the book at the end of the process from the way you did at the beginning?

Not really, I love the story as much as I did the first day I read it. 

How did you get into illustrating children’s books?

I graduated uni right before COVID-19 was at its worst and the job market was difficult. I decided to start painting again during lockdown, which was a passion that I had neglected for a long time. After a while, I contacted a list of publishers and was fortunate that EK decided to contract me for my debut book, which was Get Ready, Mama! by Sharon Giltrow. I’m really grateful for the lovely people who I work with and will continue working as an illustrator alongside my day job, too.

What do you hope children and families take away from Anchored?

That distance doesn’t diminish love, it can actually do the opposite 🙂

Information, activities and events for Anchored are available through EK Books.

Debra Tidball is an award-winning author of picture books, short stories and plays for children. She has a background in social work and qualifications in children’s literature.

Debra can be found at her website: Home (

Arielle Li is a Taiwanese-Australian illustrator based in Australia. She has been passionate about creating art from a young age, and has been pursuing illustration as a career since 2019.

Arielle can be found at her website: Arielle Li | Children’s Book Illustrator

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