Steffie Padmos’ beautiful watercolour illustrations brought More Than a Me to life. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the book’s publication (July 30th), we thought it would be a great time to chat to Steffie about the inspiration behind her work on More Than a Me, how she created such dynamic and compelling artwork, working alongside Lilian Kars and their brand new book!
MJP: You’ve shown us some of your original sketches, but what is the inspiration behind the art for More Than A Me?
SP: The inspiration for these images is triggered by the story itself. The book is about wanderlust and discovering what is beyond. This inspires me in general and is also why I love drawing elements of nature and try to capture its beauty.
Did your ideas about the characters and the world come to you immediately or did it take some time?
I need some time to let the story simmer in my mind and for the ideas to take shape. Lots of sketches of little drops were made to test the character and find an illustration style that is resonating with the story. Then I created the illustrated world around our little drop.
Were there any other More Than A Me concepts that didn’t make it?
Yes, as always it is a process where I have to explore the right approach. That means assessing different angles and styles. I also need to set some boundaries for myself while creating, to regulate the creative process. For More Than A Me, I used only four paint colours in the entire book.
The sense of adventure created in the book is a testament to your art, but also to Lilian’s writing. What did you make of Lilian’s work when you first read it?
Her work has a certain flow and energy that is very appealing to me. Lilian’s words created the pictures in my head. When I read the story for the first time I saw waterfalls, showers, and wildly streaming rivers appear before my eyes. I lived the adventurous journey of little drop and got really excited about this book.
As we heard in the More Than a Me mini-documentary you and Lilian make a great team, but how did you two first meet and start working together?
Lilian asked me to join forces after she had seen the illustrations of Het egeltje onder de oude boom (The Hedgehog Under The Old Tree)’ a picture book about a little hedgehog. We met for a coffee and exchanged ideas and that’s when we set off to try and find a publisher who would share our enthusiasm.
Your illustrations for MTAM are all done in watercolour. Why did you choose that method to illustrate this book? Is watercolour your preferred method?
I felt that there was no other medium more appropriate than watercolour to underline the freedom and the fluidity of the story. I love using this technique, but I try different media with every project.
What was the hardest part of illustrating More Than A Me, for you? Was there a particular part of the story that you feel you worked hardest on or took the most time to get right?
What little drop should look like, I felt that it would be unnatural to draw him alike in every image. So I adjusted his form to his activity and mood.
The art itself is big and bold – much like the story itself – and has a great sense of freedom and movement about it. If you can explain it, how do you create something like that? Is it about throwing caution to the wind or do you need to be quite precise?
The difficulty with watercolour is you can control it up to a certain level. It wants to run freely on the paper. For me, the challenge is to know when to stop controlling the paint and accept happy accidents. Only then I allow my illustrations to surprise me.
What are you working on next? Can you tell the readers a little bit about it? How has your art style changed to fit your next project?
I am working on a new story of Lilian, which is again very exciting! It’s quite different from More Than a Me, but a bold story as well. For this book, I used a different technique to tell this tale, with a bit of a rough texture to go with story…
More Than a Me is available direct from Matthew James Publishing. Click here to order your copy.