Lauren Tobia is the illustrator of the children's picture book Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus, a winner of the 2016 Children's Africana Book Awards. She has illustrated the other books in the Anna Hibiscus series, as well as several other children's books. She is based in Bristol, U.K.
Q: How did you end up illustrating the Anna Hibiscus series?
A: I ended up illustrating the Anna Hibiscus series almost straight from university where I had studied illustration. My work was seen at my degree show by the publishers Walker Books UK who originally published the Anna series.
I was working in a chemist shop at the time trying to get my first commission. I got the call when I was at work and almost fell off my stool!
Q: As you've illustrated more books in the series, has your style changed at all, or remained similar to the first book?
A: I try to draw instinctively and not make my work “fit “ into a rigid “style” but my drawing of Anna has changed over the years.
I think the constant drawing of a set of characters naturally evolves them and as I work in Anna’s world I add little bits to her house and gardens, etc.
You may notice I have turned the house around in Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus so you can see the back of the compound and the vegetable garden and water pump.
I have also worked with an amazing team of editors and designers at Walker Books and have learnt so much from them along the way.
Q: What first brought you into the field of children's book illustrations?
A: I sort of fell into children’s illustration. My way of drawing and my sense of humour seemed to draw me to children’s books. I experimented with so many things during art school from bronze casting and 3D work to print, video and enamelling, but after a while returned to my first love, drawing and storytelling.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: At the moment my desk is full of pictures of farmyards and parks as I am working on two series of books for Candlewick in the U.S. and Walker Books UK.
The first will be a series of board books about a child exploring the park with his grandma and going on a journey across town. The other series is about two small children called Billy and Bee experiencing playschool and the farm …and lots more adventures.
I am also very excited as my first animal character book will be out in October! It is called Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? It’s written by Amy Hest and in it I got to not only draw bears but I also had a chance to draw snowy forests--a bit of a change from hot African skies!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I will miss drawing Anna It was always exciting to find out what Anna would get up to next and Atinuke is such a phenomenal writer. It was a joy to illustrate and a marvellous opportunity to find out more about Africa and particularly West African culture and textiles. Anna has been a massive education in so many ways.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb