Nathaniel Eckstrom illustrates children's books that surprise and delight. You may have seen his books, The Ugly Duckling and Santa's Busy Reindeer with more soon on the way.
I visited him at his studio at Surry Hills which he shares with other illustrators and artists including Jim Tsinganos. Nathaniel showed me around his space and took me through his sketch books which beautifully show his process from bringing a story to life.
What is your creative process? How does a book begin?
When I'm working on my own stories it usually begins with an idea or a sketch. Then I start to work out and develop narrative and characters.
I then send it to my editor and if they see potential it goes back and forth quite a few times until the story is fully developed. Once a contract is in place I can start on storyboards and roughs.
If I'm illustrating someone else's story, I'll read the manuscript over and over. And then begin to storyboard. Sometimes images for a particular page appear to me instantly. Others are more difficult and require more thought. Maybe a discussion with the editor.
Are you given a brief or do you work independently?
I'm often given a manuscript with illustration notes. Usually these are a guide. So I'll keep them in mind when creating roughs. Sometimes they're very helpful. Once I've completed roughs they're reviewed by the publisher and revisions are made. Then I can start on final art.
What the latest project you have been working on?
I've been working on a number of picture books.
Currently I'm working on a sequel to 'Me and Moo' called 'Me and Moo and Roar'. Then I'm starting on a book I wrote called 'Stubborn Stanley' both with Scholastic Australia.
I've just finished work on a beautiful story by Patrick Guest called 'The Ricker Racker Club'. It's due for release in May 2016 through Little Hare Publishing.
I've also recently finished a few books through Scholastic Australia.
'A You're Adorable' with children's entertainer Justine Clarke and 'Santa Claus is coming to Town' with singing group Human Nature. Both due for release on the 2nd October.
And an early learning book called 'How to teach a Caterpillar to tie shoelaces' which will also be out soon.
What are the benefits of working in a shared space?
I've been in my current studio for just over a year now. It's inspiring to work alongside like minded creatives. Guys that I've admired for a long time. There's always someone around for a chat, opinions, technical help. And a general feeling of being part of a creative group.
What are your influences?
I'm influenced by everything from music, art, and everything around me. I enjoy keeping up with the picture book world. I'm regularly checking out what's new in the bookstores. The guys in my studio are all inspiring.
What does an average day for you generally look like?
Most days I'm in the studio working on books. I try to maintain a regular routine. I usually start about 8 and finish up around 5. I could be working on a few projects at once. I could be working on roughs for one book and final art for another. So it's important for me to be as focused and organised as possible. Most days I'll have a short goal and I try to stick to it. I enjoy working on multiple images for a book at once. That way, if I'm stuck on one I can move on to the next. It also helps me with the overall continuity of a book.
Any advice you have to share for those who want to get into illustrating children’s books?
Be prepared to work hard. Keep working on personal projects. Submit to reputable publishers that have a proven track record. Some of the big ones have submission guidelines on their website.