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Words and Pictures Creative Spaces - Francesca Watt


In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features author/illustrator Francesca Watt.

Francesca lives near the beautiful Cannock Chase and regularly visits the Scottish branch of the family in glorious Aberdeenshire. She’s a mum of boys, and writes and illustrates picture books. The Crafty Chameleon will be released August 2021.

Tell us about your creative space. I do have a lovely office space with a chalkboard wall covered in awesome artwork made by my two boys, and I should probably utilise it more. However, I almost always gravitate towards the sunroom. I sit on the sofa with my feet up, feeling the sun on my skin or listening to the rain on the windows. I get a view of the garden and no distractions. It’s where I feel most relaxed and therefore most creative. Since I now do all of my illustrations digitally, I have the flexibility to work wherever I like for my writing or illustrating.

Do you need particular prompts to get started? For writing I need silence. I usually write in my head while I walk and then run home to scribble it all down before I forget! For illustrating I always have music on and in the beginning stages, a very messy pile of rough spread sketches laid across the floor or sofa. I do enjoy taking part in creative prompts. Sometimes it’s good to step away from what I’m working on and do something completely different, often taking me out of my comfort zone. One of my favourites at the moment is Friday Doodle Club on Instagam. I take part most weeks and the prompts are fun and often crazy! I’ve also done a couple of ‘Draw This in Your Style’ prompts.

Your creative tools - what are they? In the beginning it’s pretty notebooks and Post-it-Notes for writing, which then get transformed and edited a million times on my old laptop. For illustrating I start out with lots of A5 paper where I do extremely rough sketches of my spreads. After this I work digitally using Procreate for iPad for all of my illustrations.

What advice would you like to give to writers/illustrators who are trying to get established? I think I’ve read and been told numerous times not to compare yourself to others. There are some incredible artists and writers out there, but you have to believe there’s a place for you and your time will come. Listen to and learn from those who have achieved success, but follow your own path. Your journey doesn’t have to be the same as other people’s. Do what feels right for you and make sure whatever you put out into the world and however you choose to do that, you take your time over it and ensure you can be proud of it. Only you can make your dreams come true.

Does exercise help the creative process? I absolutely have to get out for a walk in nature as often as possible for my mental wellbeing. I often fix problems with my text or figure out how to illustrate something tricky during walks in the forest. Then I’m more ready to go back to it knowing exactly what I’m doing. I find walking really helps with the rhythm of a picture book too and I will be repeating lines in various ways, trying out different versions as I go.

Planner or pantser? I would love to be a planner. I keep saying I will plan more and be more organised, but I honestly just go with the flow when it comes to writing and deal with issues in the editing process. I do plan the spreads before I start illustrating but I am always open to change as I go along. What inspired you to first start writing/illustrating? I’ve always needed to create in some way. I started out in fashion but was always writing too. Once I had my first son it just happened organically that children’s books began to circulate in my mind. I didn’t really do much with them for a while other than just write, write, write, but I did find entering competitions like Winchester Writers’ Festival helped me to hone my craft and work more on structure. I am a certified introvert but managed to attend a workshop with the wonderful Paula Harrison, and continue to learn lots from online forums like SCBWI. Never stop learning and improving! The illustrating came much later. I knew I wanted to try it but wasn’t sure if I’d be any good. I had only really drawn dress designs for many years so switching it up was quite daunting. Being able to draw is one thing, but creating endearing characters and drawing them doing different activities from different angles, all while creating a world with all of those little details to keep kids and parents interested and amused is a whole other challenge! But it is so rewarding and even more so when my boys sit down and join me, drawing their own creations. Inspiring children is what it’s all about. Find Francesca on Instagram , Facebook or visit her website. All photos courtesy of Francesca Watt. _______________________________________________________________________________ Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes MG and YA and is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter and at

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