15 Nov 2017

Sarah Wilkins: an illustrator's life

From Nine To Noon, 11:28 am on 15 November 2017

Sarah Wilkins is the only New Zealand illustrator involved in the wildly successful Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls book series.

She's also designed a mural in Paris, worked for major international publications and recently collaborated on the childrens book The Longest Breakfast with poet Jenny Bornholdt.

Sarah talks to Kathryn Ryan about her career.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls was devised by two Italian women who felt they'd missed seeing female role models in the books of their own childhood.

Sarah found out the project was looking for illustrators when it was still just a Kickstarter campaign.

After seeing her work, the creators commissioned her to illustrate two pages – the revolutionary Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga and the extraordinary Cholita climbers of Bolivia, who scaled five 6000-plus metre peaks in their tradition 'cholita' skirts.

"They began as cooks at base camp in the Bolivian mountains, and decided they were going to go up and climb these huge peaks that their husbands were guides on" Sarah says.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls Volume 2 comes out in March next year and includes Sarah's illustration of American marine biologist Rachel Carson.

Sarah had been living and working in Paris for a few years when the city began commissioning murals on ends of buildings which reflected the community.

She submitted an A3 painting which was selected and turned into a mural at 108 rue Jean-Pierre Timbault by a team of master painters.

"They scuffled up the wall and they gridded up my image. There was no digital technology or anything, they just drew it on the wall… hand-painted and very accurate."

Sarah hand-paints most of the individual components of her work, scans them, then adjusts, layers and colourises them in Photoshop.

Most illustrators need to have multiple projects on the go to make a living, so she's started up a stationery line of cards and notebooks which are available online and in New Zealand shops.