Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Illustrating 'There, There' – By Ivan Bates

Illustrator Ivan Bates tells us about the process of illustrating There, There, written by Sam McBratney.

There There is my fifth book with Sam and he always makes illustrating very easy to enjoy. With faultless pace, tender emotion, and characters you want to embrace (often literally) he has consistently given me all the things I need to turn little seeds of ideas into blossoming pictures, and There There was no different.

My part of the story began with those bears. Hansie simply had to be seen. He started off as a doodle but the little fellow just wouldn't stay still. He kept flowing out of the end of my pencil and onto the paper, insisting that I do more. He knew that I liked drawing ducks, (believe me, I've drawn hundreds) and he wanted to follow and play with them on the drawing pad, so I let him. It wasn't long before that little scribble had turned into a duck-walking, ditch-falling, cuddle-getting, bouncy little bear.

Dad bear, however, started life as a hat. An old straw one, that was a bit frayed at the edges, a bit like the one I can just about remember my grandfather wearing, when I was very young. He gradually appeared from underneath this hat, all tufty and brown, complete with his slightly scruffy sports jacket and glasses, as if almost by magic. It was certainly a less conscious process than some characters I’ve created, in the past. I could easily imagine him trying hard to set veg in his garden - not always very successfully. In fact I'm pretty sure that it was Mum bear who really knew what to do and was not surprised when Dad got into a scrape himself, hence her expression when picking out the thorn from his foot.

Characters often live alongside you, when you’re illustrating. Before any final art is done, they have already lived a full existence in your head and you’ve imagined them in all sorts of funny situations. It is as if the book is just a snapshot of what you know they're like and what they've been up to, all along. Small and inquisitive Hansie bounces along in his haphazard way, while enormous Dad is watchful, (he’s always close by) patient and most importantly, is always there when he’s most needed.

And it was capturing the emotion in those 'most needed' moments that was perhaps the key to the whole book, for me. There are few feelings that compare to comforting and cuddling your child. It is almost as if, for that time, the rest of the world doesn't exist - just you and them. And that was what I tried to show in many of the illustrations. If the reader can share and enjoy that same feeling of intimacy, from my art in the book, then I would consider that to be a success. I mean, who wouldn't feel good having a long, gentle hug from a big Daddy bear?


  1. Such utterly lovely sketches!

  2. My kids love "Do like a Duck Does"! Whenever I read a story I name the author and illustrator. The name 'Ivan Bates' has stuck. I will read " 'Green Eggs and Ham' written by Dr. Suess." and my four yr old pipes up, "illustrated by Ivan Bates!"