A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Clara Vulliamy: Can a tapir dance Flamenco? (what I love about being an illustrator)

Not long ago I looked at the blank piece of paper in front of me,




and asked myself, and I asked Twitter, ‘what do seven otters riding a tandem look like?’ No one seemed to know, understandably, and why would they. My guess being as good as anybody else’s, I peered into my imagination (I don’t see it as a precious inner landscape, rather an old shopping trolley with a wonky wheel, full of clutter) and picked up a pencil.


Just in case you ever find yourself in the situation of pressingly needing to know, they look like this…




When Polly Faber, the author of the Mango and Bambang young fiction series we are collaborating on, sent me the manuscript for the second book, I discovered that the tapir hero Bambang has an extraordinary gift for Flamenco dancing. Now this was something Google images wouldn’t help with. I worried about getting his stout proportions into position.


The only place to start was at the bottom and work up.

I pondered Bambang’s low centre of gravity, his three-toe-ed feet, his distinctive tights-falling-down markings…



Perhaps we both needed some foot-stomping, castanet-clicking company to inspire us?




And by the time I’ve finished my day’s work, this scene is as real to me as if it was taking place right here next to my drawing board.

Can a tapir dance Flamenco?



You bet!


Tomorrow, another blank piece of paper, another rummage in the wonky-wheeled trolley. This is why I love doing what I do, so very much.



Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea is published on March 3rd 2016.



claraPortraitClara Vulliamy
I was born in London, daughter of author illustrator Shirley Hughes and architect John Vulliamy. My first experience of making pictures was being allowed to use up my Mum’s paints at the end of the day, which was like scraping the icing out of the bowl after baking.
I studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art, The Ruskin and The Royal Academy. After graduating I began illustrating in newspapers and magazines, and doing a weekly cartoon in The Guardian. I started writing and illustrating children’s books when I had a family of my own, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve made around 30 books, including The Bear with Sticky Paws, Lucky Wish Mouse and Martha and the Bunny Brothers.
I live in Twickenham with my husband, our two grown-up children and a gang of cheeky guinea pigs.


This entry was posted on February 1, 2016 by and tagged , , .

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