I spend my days creating intricate nature based illustrations for my colouring books and other exciting projects from my studio by the sea in a little corner of West Wales. Growing up on a smallholding in the hills of rural Wales as a child I was surrounded by nature in all its glorious forms. It was during these early years that I developed a bit of an obsession with the animal kingdom and later went on to study Wildlife Illustration. This fascination with the natural world remains at the core of my work today as does a love of pattern and intricate detail. Above all else my intention is simply to create beautiful work, which both captivates and charms.
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What colouring materials do you recommend for use in your books.
It all really depends on what kind effect you want to achieve. If you like to create very bold vibrant images, then pens might be good for you. If you prefer to create images which are a little softer or more delicate then you might want to opt for coloured pencils. Some pens can bleed through the paper if you scrub too hard or leave the nib in contact with the paper for too long, so it does also depend on your own colouring style and how heavy or light handed you might be. Personally I like to use coloured pencils, simply because I find them so much more versatile, allowing for shading and colour blending which you generally can’t achieve with most pens. I have two favourites when it comes to coloured pencils, there’s the Prismacolor Premier series, which produce unbelievably vibrant colours. I also love Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. The colours are brilliant and the pencils are just soft enough, great for colour blending and shading but not so soft that you need to get the sharpener out every 10 seconds. Whatever materials you choose I recommend using the tester pages in the back of your book to try them out before you start working on your image.
Where can I buy your colouring books and other related products?
I have listed some selected sellers on the Books and Products pages but unfortunately I cannot list everyone. The books and other products are also sold through lots of great independent shops.
What are your top colouring tips?
Colouring technique varies hugely from person to person, each of us have our own natural style of colouring, favourite materials and our own individual ideas for colour palettes. One of the lovely things about colouring is that rules don’t apply, there is no way of doing it ‘wrong’. But here are a few suggestions which might be helpful if you’re after a little guidance:
- At the back of my books I always provide a couple of blank pages where you can try out new materials and test your colours. This can be especially helpful if you’re working with pens or pencils you’ve never used before and you’re not sure how they will behave on the paper in the books.
- Choose materials you feel confident using. The more confident you feel, the more creative you will be and the more satisfied you will be with your work.
- Always choose a book filled with artwork that you really love. Not just in terms of the theme but the style of the drawings too.
- Lastly, share your work. Social media platforms have proved a great way to get an insight into the colouring community. You can share your images, swap hints and tips about materials and colouring techniques and get involved with events, groups and competitions. The colouring community can learn so much from one another, far more than I could ever teach. It’s very humbling to see so many talented people sharing their work and you will be sure to find lots of inspiration and ideas for your own artworks.
What process do you follow in creating one of the pages in your books?
Each illustration begins as a rough hand drawn pencil sketch. I like to draw the artwork at the same size as it will appear in the book, even at the rough stage, as I often find that adjusting the scale once an image has been drawn up can change the way an image feels to colour in. My roughs usually end up being quite detailed by the time I’ve finished as I like to have things thoroughly planned out before I begin the final piece. I use a range of reference materials including photos, books, sketches, nature documentaries and various sources online, as well as a combination of relying on my memory and imagination. Once I’m happy with my rough it’s time to draw up the final artwork. For this I use a very fine steel nib pen, using my pencil sketch as a guide and this time adding even more detail as I work. Once the inked drawing is complete it’s simply a case of scanning the illustration, ready for sending to my publisher. The only other process that I sometimes go though is to turn an illustration into a repeat pattern, which I will do digitally.
How long does one image take to create and how long does a whole book take to complete?
One illustration from start to finish can take anything from 1-3 days, depending on the size of the image and the level of detail required. This time includes both the initial rough pencil sketch and the final inked drawing. An entire book from beginning to end, including planning, research, sketches, final artwork and cover artwork usually takes around 5 months.
What inspires your illustrations?
I’m fascinated by the natural world and have been for as long as I can remember. This curiosity about and the animal kingdom and a love for our natural surroundings is really what sits at the core of my work.
How or where can I share my coloured pages from the books?
I love to see how differently you all colour the images from my books and am amazed to see how each of you manage to turn them into your own very unique creations. I keep a colouring gallery for each of my books on Facebook. You can have your work included in these simply by sending your coloured pages over to me in a message on Facebook. Easy-peasy. Instagram is another great place to easily share your coloured images. Just remember to use #milliemarotta so that I can see what wonders you’ve all been creating. Whatever your preference please do share and I look forward to seeing more and more of your lovely work.
Can I use the illustrations from your books for my home crafting projects?
Yes you can but only as long as it’s for a personal project and strictly not for any commercial use i.e. you cannot sell the objects you are making or use them for any business purposes. I love to see how you use my artwork to bring your own creative projects to life. From embroidered cushions to paper-cuts to decorated cakes. Do remember to share photos of these projects with me so I can see the wonderful things you’re creating with the illustrations outside of the colouring books.
Can you make a donation to my charity or support our charitable event?
This year I joined forces with The Born Free Foundation as a patron and as my charity partner. The Born Free Foundation are an international wildlife charity working throughout the world to stop individual wild animal suffering and protect threatened species in the wild; A very worthy cause which is close to my heart. Focusing my own efforts on one charity allows me to make a larger contribution and hopefully make more of an impact than if I was to try and help many more with smaller contributions. However, there are so many wonderful charities and organizations who are doing incredible work and whilst we cannot support all of them we do like to help out with donations when we can. To find out more please email firstname.lastname@example.org