Illustrator Lizzy Stewart shares some gems from her bookshelf

26 April 2017
Reading Time
4 minute read

Lizzy Stewart is an illustrator and artist, and has created zines, comics and picture books for the masses over eight years. Lizzy’s work is beautifully executed with an eye for composition, colour and fine detail. Her most well-known work is her children’s book There’s a Tiger in the Garden published in 2016, which tells the story of a girl named Nora discovering the range of wildlife in her Grandma’s garden. In March, it won the Waterston’s Children’s book prize for Illustrated books 2017, and has been shortlisted for the ABCD Bookcover design award in the Children’s book category.

With a rich portfolio of work, we asked Lizzy to share some of the books that have inspired her along the way, as well as the ones she constantly goes back to. Here the illustrator shares Maurice Sendak’s work, a fictional auction catalogue that tells the tale of a broken relationship and a series of short stories.

Maurice Sendak: Where the wild things are

I can’t imagine there are many picture-book makers who haven’t, in some way, been affected by the work of Maurice Sendak. All his books are strange and beautiful and a bit uncomfortable but Wild Things is the only one I read as a child (and not as a nerdy adult) and so it’s stuck with me the longest.

Sendak wasn’t afraid to make his stories scary and sad and that’s a really important thing to consider when making work for children. Famously he once said: “Tell them what you want” and that is a sentiment I am happy to stand by!

Leanne Shapton: Important artefacts and personal properly from the collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, including books, street fashion and jewelry

This is the story of a relationship and subsequent break-up told through the medium of an (imaginary) auction catalogue. A couple’s possessions, their notes and photos and books, are photographed and listed with, seemingly, basic details. What emerges is a full and detailed look at a relationship and how it crumbles. The first time I read it, I was totally knocked out.

Leanne Shapton is an excellent painter and illustrator (see her other books) but this is just a brilliant example of storytelling. I revisit this book now and again and it never fails to inspire me, there are so many different ways to approach telling a story, you just have to find them!

Maira Kalman: The Principles of Uncertainty

Kalman is something of a magical figure in my eyes. Her world view is completely charming and joyful and that really comes across in her paintings and her writing. This book is a sort of essay, a sort of memoir, a sort of… something else.

She moves from one subject to another in a stream of consciousness type of manner. From hats to architecture to her own family and figures in history, Kalman treats all her subjects with kindness and curiosity which is an approach that I’m sure many would aspire to!

Lorrie Moore: Self-Help

When I’m not writing and drawing children’s books, I like making comics. I read comics and graphic novels but I find it really hard not getting intimidated by them! I prefer to refer to short stories when I think about the subject matter and tone of the stories I want to tell. Lorrie Moore writes dazzling short stories. They’re whip-smart and super funny and yet can deliver a knock-out-emotional-gut-punch when you’re least expecting.

Once you’ve read one of her stories its very hard to not attempt to shamelessly ape her writing style (badly, of course) but the fact is no one does it as well as she does! I recommend What is seized and How from this collection. But they’re all great!

Beatrice Alemagna: Un Lion a Paris

I tried to limit my picture book choices (there are so many favourites) and the dog-eared, battered corners of this book made it stand out as an obvious winner. I’ve revisited it so many times! I’ve had this for years but its now out in English, which makes my french copy seem a little pretentious, but still!

Beatrice Alemagna is such a wonderful illustrator, so energetic and exciting. This is the story of Lion who leaves the Savannah in favour of life in Paris, only to be met with a somewhat disappointing reception.

The illustrations are a mix of drawing, painting and collage and each page has some fun, strange detail or shift in perspective that makes it unique to the page before. Alemagna’s work was really a gateway drug to me becoming hooked on picture books (for the second time in my life, the first being during childhood) as she reminded me how exciting and innovative they can be!

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.

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