February 22, 2022

Let's Talk Illustrators #204: Eve Coy

Today I'm talking to author-illustrator Eve Coy about her most recent illustrated book Hat Cat, written by Troy Wilson. Eve adds a delicate touch to the illustrations, which depict the sweet story of two beings—one human, one feline—finding each other when they need each other most. Enjoy our chat!

About the book:
Ever since the old man found a little kitten under his hat, the two have been the best of friends. There are always plenty of kitty rubs and food and talk to go around. Every day, Hat watches as the old man goes outside to sit and feed the squirrels with nuts he places on top of his hat. But Hat the cat is not allowed to join him. What if Hat ran away, or chased the squirrels--or worse? Then the old man leaves and does not come back the next day, or the one after that. When people come by to take care of Hat until the old man returns, will one little girl give Hat the chance he's been hoping for?

Let's talk Eve Coy!

LTPB: How did you become the illustrator of Troy Wilson’s Hat CatWhat were you most excited to illustrate?

EC: Hat Cat is quite a gentle and emotional tale of a friendship between an old man and a cat that comes to live with him. I think my illustration can be quite gentle in style ,and I think that this is perhaps why the lovey team at Candlewick thought that I might be a good fit for the project.

Troy is a great writer, the pace and structure of the story is just lovely. I have to admit I also love drawing cats,  and getting the chance to doodle lots and lots of kittens doing funny things whilst watching cat videos was particularly enjoyable. I have quite a psychotic cat myself. I tried and failed to get her to wear a hat. I think one of the first images was the cat sitting with the hat on. The peaks of the hat acting like the cats ears. It was an image that jumped out at me, and I’m glad that it also made it into the final book.

LTPB: What is the first thing you do when you receive a new project?

EC: I start in a small sketchbook doodling the main characters; and things they might have, and ways they might stand, and how they might move. I draw really small because I find that way I can concentrate on pose and shapes without getting hung up on detail.

LTPB: How do you make a conscious effort to tailor your illustration style to each new manuscript?

EC: This is a great question. I think I tend to concentrate on a number of things: for example I might consider how the colour palette reflects the sentiment or emotion of the project. Certainly character design will also feature as an important way to adapt to the story and also pose. One example of this is that in Hat Cat I often have Hat looking up. Characters that look up tend to be visually read as innocent and childlike. It's a common way for artists to project innocence onto their characters. The story of Hat Cat plays with how innocent/trustworthy Hat really is, so drawing Hat looking up helped to establish his character.

LTPB: Did you encounter any challenges while illustrating this book?

EC: The pandemic started whilst I was working on this book. It was very surreal to be able to shut myself away painting pictures of cats whilst so many people were experiencing extreme difficulties. I think actually this project behaved as an anchor for me. Any challenges were relished as they kept my mind occupied and focussed. My overall memory of the project is just feeling so very lucky to be given this lovely book to work on.

LTPB: What differences have you found between creating a picture book on your own (text and illustrations) versus illustrating someone else’s text?

EC: I enjoy doing both. When I write my own stories I often start with some doodles that grow into a story. I then develop the pictures and words alongside each other. When I have someone else’s story to illustrate it can take me awhile to find my way with the characters, and how they interact.

I tend to find writing more challenging. Picture book texts have to be immediately engaging and have excitement and intrigue at the right points and in addition have perfectly crafted endings. All of those elements have to be within a very limited word count and simple vocabulary. The pictures however can meander and take the long route, showing the characters whole world. I love adding in the background story through the pictures. For example the empty second chair in the sitting room shows the old man didn’t always live alone and it gently hints at an accepted loneliness without being too upsetting.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? Is this your preferred medium? How does your process change from book to book?

EC: Most often I work in watercolours and colouring pencils. I do tweak the images and colours in photoshop however I prefer in general to use the computer as little as possible. I have used other techniques for other books for example in a book for Penguin with Abie Longstaff I used a kind of printmaking technique.

However I’m always more engaged when I can get my paints out, that’s when I’m happiest. I enjoy mark making, probably because Ive always been inspired by illustrators who work more traditionally. I love looking at hand made marks, I always think that there is a sensitivity of touch that can be really beautiful.

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?

EC: I’m illustrating another book for Walker in the UK with Smriti Prasadam-Halls. I'm only just getting started so there isn’t anything I can show just yet. However I do also have another book coming out very soon by Linda Ashman called I like This, You Like That.

LTPB: If you got the chance to write your own picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?

EC: This made me giggle- Im not sure it would be a very entertaining book as I’m mostly sat at my desk listening to the radio or taking the dog for a walk. However If I had my choice I’d choose either Daniel Miyares or Emily Gravett purely so that I could spend hours self indulgently admiring their beautiful work.

Thanks to Eve for answering questions about this book! Hat Cat publishes today from Candlewick Press!

Special thanks to Candlewick for use of these images!

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