Welcome to my latest blog post which is part of a blog tour with Egmont publishers for the lovely new release The Wonder Tree. The Wonder Tree is a rather sweet book and a great pick for bedtime brilliantly weaving in factual information. Written by Teresa Heapy and a debut from illustrator Izzy Burton, readers will be mesmerised by the stunning spreads and rather adorable illustrations of a mummy and baby owl.
Little Owl is awakened by a leaf falling from the tree he is perched on. He becomes curious about the tree and expresses concern, worrying that perhaps the tree is cold if leaves keep falling from it. His young mind becomes filled with questions and thankfully Mummy Owl is on hand to answer them.
Various aspects of the tree are looked at cleverly, from how the tree is fed to the age of the tree. Mummy Owl touches on past memories of the tree from when she was younger and all the while Little Owl listens attentively and not wanting to return to sleep.
The tender story would be lovely to share in a learning setting and a fantastic resource to incorporate fiction in a tree topic for example. The illustrations throughout are absolutely wonderful and i am delighted that as part of the blog tour Izzy Burton has joined me for a Q&A.
Hello Izzy, Welcome to my blog. A huge congratulations on your debut picture book with author Teresa Heapy and happy blog tour.
Before we discuss this beautiful picture book, could you tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you for having me! I’m a 26 year old freelance Artist and Director working in publishing and animation, and I currently live in Brighton, UK. I’m represented as a Director by a couple of great animation studios (“The Greenhouse” by Passion Pictures and Troublemakers.tv) and am represented by The Bright Agency for all things illustration and writing!
You are super talented at art. Was this something you’ve always wanted to pursue?
Thank you! Art has definitely always been a part of who I am, but it took me a while to realise that I could make it into a career – I think a lot of children are told it’s not a feasible career but it really is, with passion and hardwork. From as young as 5 I was writing and illustrating my own stories (and started drawing from 2), and still have them, but always thought I’d end up doing something with animals – I wanted to be a zoologist or marine biologist and would spend hours pouring over animal encyclopedias and reading zoology books that I could barely understand but liked to think I could. Even when I studied animation at university I thought I was going to end up as a programmer or coder as my highest marks were always in the maths and programming modules, but I couldn’t live without doing art, so here I am!
Prior to completing your first picture book, could you tell us a little bit more about what you’ve worked on?
I only went freelance last year, before that I was in house at animation studio Blue Zoo for 4 years as a concept artist and director. Whilst I was there I created short form content such as the Children’s BAFTA nominated “A Whale’s Tale” short film for Cartoon Network, designed the exterior of the Cbeebies House and directed an award-winning short film called “Via” (izzyburton.co.uk/via). “Via” was the piece of work I made that enabled me to go freelance and start trying to balance my work in animation and publishing, and is probably the truest piece of work I’ve made so far in my life – it’s very representative of who I am as a person. This past Christmas I made another short film called “Stella” with Passion Pictures and charity Re-Engage, to help bring awareness to the loneliness and isolation many old people feel at Christmas time.
-The Wonder Tree is such a loving, tender story. I’m aware that sometimes artists don’t have much interaction with the author. Has this been the same for you?
In a way yes, all the artwork goes through the art directors and those working at the publisher – Egmont, but since starting work on the book Teresa and I have contacted each other quite often on social media, but more just to share our excitement for the book more than anything. My work, whether that in animation or illustration, always aims to be whimsical and poetic, and Teresa’s words have that feel to them too, so I think that’s why this book has turned out so well. It’s been lovely working with Teresa, and we’re working on making sure there’s another Heapy-Burton collab in the future.
Your art work is so engaging and the nature filled palette is gorgeous. Do you begin with research and sketches and then work digitally?
Almost all my work is digital. I started sketching this book out on my iPad, on Procreate, and completed the final art on Photoshop. The best thing about this book is that nature and woodland is what I love to draw, so it didn’t really need much research on the landscape front – it was more my world I conjured in my head based on the many things I’ve drawn before and growing up in the Cotswolds. I did research the animals and make sure I was drawing them true to themselves, and did collate images showing the progression of sunsets so that I could get a lovely flow of time through the piece through colour. But after that all the colours are exaggerated further, to be a bit more magical and how I see the world!
Would it be possible to have a sneaky peak of some early work of the book, some sketches perhaps?
Around about how long does one double-page spread take to complete?
One thing to know about me is I’m incredibly speedy, and not just at drawing – I talk fast, I walk fast, I eat fast. I’m a million miles an hour person. I’d like to say 2 days – half a day for a sketch, half a day for a colour rough, 1 day for colouring it up … but really it’s probably longer than that with research and character sketches, style tests etc on top. I try to slow myself down because I end up taking on thousands of projects because I can and it’s an easy way to burn out!
I love how the book cleverly includes factual information about the tree also and your landscape scenes are so pretty. Do you have a favourite page from the book?
It’s definitely between the golden hour, orange double spread with all the animals in the forest and the spread where we’re looking up at the tree from the roots. The golden hour spread for the atmosphere it has and the looking up at the tree one for being able to handle so many colours on one spread without it looking too over the top!
Do you have a preference on what you draw? I know some artists prefer drawing people rather than animals.
Animals, hands down. All my artist/animation friends know I avoid drawing people at all costs, which isn’t feasible in animation or publishing, so I’m slowly getting there with being comfortable drawing them more often aha!
The Wonder Tree is a lovely book for snuggly reading time. Thinking back to your childhood, did you have any favourite picture books? Do you enjoy reading now? What was the last book you read?
I absolutely loved Stella Luna by Janell Cannon and Dogger by Shirley Hughes! But there were hundreds I loved. My mom would read to me every night, normally chapter books like The Little Princess and The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe, and I devoured books at the speed of light. I was one of those kids queuing up at midnight outside a bookshop for the latest Harry Potter. I still read a lot now. I’ve just finished Dutch House by Ann Patchett and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak – both were fantastic!
This may be a tricky one to answer but do you have a favourite artist/illustrator?
Shaun Tan! Everything about Shaun Tan’s work is what I aspire to be. That poetic, almost grown-up, melancholy realness. I want to be Shaun Tan when I grow up!
It’s been so lovely discovering your work. Are there any forthcoming projects that we could look out for?
I have several books coming out this year, but I’m really excited that next Spring (2021) I have a book coming out with Astronaut Scott Kelly called “Goodnight, Astronaut” – very different to The Wonder Tree, but I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I’m also currently working on artwork with Netflix Animation in LA for an unannounced kid’s tv show, which is great fun!
Congratulations again on The Wonder Tree and thank you so much for taking the time out to have a chat with us. I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Thank you 😀
I do hope you’ve enjoyed our stop on the blog tour. Do keep a look out for a giveaway on my Instagram @Mamma_Filz very soon.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.