Sue Macartney was born in a remote, B.C. coastal community. Her creative style as an author-illustrator has been shaped by life on four continents and work as a graphic designer and children's art educator. She has a deep love of nature and lives in Victoria, British Columbia with her husband and a backyard full of birds.
Her debut picture book, Benjamin's Blue Feet, was published in June 2020 by Pajama Press. Check out these insightful reviews of Benjamin's Blue Feet by CanLit for Little Canadians and Open Book. And participate in a giveaway of Sue's book! Details at the end of this post.
Finding “my style” is something that I thought about a lot at the beginning of my picture book journey. My dilemma, and probably something other creatives can relate to, was trying to identify my favourite medium. Gouache, graphite, ink, paper, digital - I love them ALL, and when I started to work on picture book illustration it took a lot of time to figure out what direction to take.
In my early design work, pen and ink work was a favourite. Graphite remains a perennial favourite. Then in my final year of graphic design I won an illustration award for a paper collage piece - that encouragement led to years of using paper collage in my design work!
I didn’t have much luck getting stories published using my paper collage technique, so I tucked my paper, scissors and glue away (for a bit) and started re-working my stories in different media. Fast-forward through several years of picture book writing and illustration courses on the side, and along the way I arrived at my current style.
I once heard an established illustrator argue that it’s okay to regularly change your style to suit a story. It was contrary to everything I’d heard up to that point, but the idea that picture book illustration could be a process that allows for continuing personal experimentation and growth still really appeals to me.
In the end, my current style turned out to be a happy mix of some of my favourites: pencil drawings, ink and digital. I really enjoyed this process and can see this multimedia style working for my story ideas moving forward. But if a story comes along that shouts “Do me in paper, scissors and glue!”… collage always awaits.