Illustrating 'The Colour Thief'
Posted by
23rd Sep 2014

Award-winning illustrator Karin Littlewood explains how she felt when she first read this 'seemingly simple yet powerful story' and what her first instincts allowed her to draw. If you would like to discover more of Karin's beautiful work, visit her website here.

Sometimes a story comes along at the right time, and you know it was meant to be…..

When the text for The Colour Thief arrived from the publishers I was keen to read it, and I did what I always do and relied on my instincts. As I read this seemingly simple yet powerful story, images started popping into my head and all I knew was it felt 'right'. Here was an incredibly honest portrayal of a child as he watches his father change as depression takes hold and locks him in.

My response was immediate.. I reached for my pencil and paper and started scribbling, ideas pouring out.There is no apparent framework or planning at this point for me. I just draw and draw and draw until things begin to feel right - whether that is how I want each character to look or the way that each illustration will sit on the page. I feel as if there is a small film being acted out in front of me as I use different shots to emphasise significant moments as the story unfolds. I was able to both literally and physically draw upon my own memories of helplessness as you watch someone going through this….

There was an overriding feeling that this children's picture book needed to be totally accessible. It was such an important story for children and families, and definitely not one to be classed as an 'issues' book, relegated to a separate shelf. It needed to feel like a book that would be picked up, looked at, and read without any hesitation.

It's not only in the way that I draw…colours are important in telling a story too as they are such a strong reflection of feelings and emotions. The Colour Thief is indeed a book of many colours, and not just a 'grey' story. There is also brightness and light, hope and joy, which you find with the bright intensity on that first page - on that wonderful 'together' day - which is in total contrast to the limited palette I used as we watch the father's world change.


Then the monotonous bleakness of the hospital room, but with the little spot of the red flower signifying hope.

The story ends with the joyous, multi-coloured swirls of the final illustration…father and son almost spinning off the page, out of the book and into another story…a new chapter in their lives.


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