IlIustrator · Interview · notebooks · pens · stationery

Interview with Emma Graham

When drawing I love a mechanical pencil, not bothered what make, but with a 2b or 4b soft lead for sketching. When it comes to final artwork it varies according to the piece, again sometimes a ‘no outline’ look requires a lightly lined outline to ink in, this again is with a 0.5 mechanical pencil, soft lead. I often experiment with new pencils, currently I’m favouring a black chinagraph on textured paper to give a soft ‘woolly’ line or a lovely soft Derwent drawing pencil, ivory black, this can be sharpened to a fine point for those tiny fine details.

emma graham profile pic

As for Pens, oh anything goes, I have a huge supply of pens and pencils, I sometimes love to use my wonderful Victorian silver dip pen (eBay find) with dip pen nibs that came from my granddad, lovely to write and draw with.


I use a lot of sketchbooks, usually these days one per project, I write on the front what is in each so I can refer back. Preferred choice is A4 spiral bound Winsor & Newton, as I can easily fold open the pages to scan what I have been sketching. My daughter is a whizz at hand making quirky notebooks, hand stitched spines with either simple paper or a mix of colours, textures and patterns, for me I like her small ones, that fit easily into my bag or pocket for out and about sketching.

Final artwork paper – now that is also an experiment, and I am using Cold pressed Waterford paper by St Cuthbert’s Mill at the moment, which is heavyweight 425gsm, which means I don’t need to stretch my paper to paint on, it also give a lovely texture to my work.

Recently I discovered a very useful fine eraser, I used to take slices off a big one to work on delicate areas, but the Tombow mono zero elastomer eraser is only a few mm wide and comes in a propelling form like a pencil, great for tidying small areas.

I use acrylic ink to paint with, same techniques as watercolour only the colours stay wonderfully vibrant. I use Daler Rowney FW inks and another brand – which I’m not telling about, as they have been out of manufacture for several years and are so rare to get hold of! (Selfishly I don’t want to share this rare supply!)

symph hollow cover final webI quit the run of the mill day job a few years ago (with the blessing of my wonderful supportive hubby) to do what my heart was screaming to do, and now consider myself a full time illustrator (and aspiring writer). I trained in Graphic design in the 1990’s at Great Yarmouth Art School, worked a few years in publishing and packaging design, then settled to have kids, fell back in love with children’s books. I joined the amazing SCBWI a few years ago, not really knowing enough about the book industry, had great guidance and egging along, including being a finalist in The Hook at the 2016 SCBWI BI conference. Earlier this year I was a finalist in the Stratford Literary Festival picture book competition. A chance ‘follow’ on Twitter in January lead me to work with a publisher in the USA – Spork, to illustrate my 1st picture book, written by Jessica Reino, Symphony Hollow tells a charming tale of musical animal companions and a marvellous competition.

Twitter: @bluebutterfly48

Instagram: emma_graham_illustrations

Website: https//

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