The Illustrator Behind the Pip Series – Interview

Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to illustrate children’s books for a living?

Meet Gabrielle Studley, the amazinig artist who helps bring Pip’s Giving Series books to life. We wanted to take a moment to share with our readers who Gabbie is, what inspires her as an illustrator, and why we love her so much!  

In this interview you will learn all about the life and work of this up-and-coming young talent. Oh yeah, and she even flies planes! How cool is that?


Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background in illustration?

“Absolutely. I’m 23 years old, and have been drawing cartoons for as long as I could hold a pencil really. Cartoons and storytelling have always fascinated me, and the more I drew, the more I loved to draw! I loved seeing improvement. I also loved seeing people’s reactions to any stories/comics I’d make. Watching them understand my very own thought process and storytelling is just stellar. When I was old enough, I went to art school (NHIA/NEC) for 2 years before the pandemic hit.” 

How did you become interested in illustrating children’s books?

“Cartoons and comics have always been there for me. I love pushing expressions, trying to see just how much emotion you can really get out of one characters face/ body language. There are many ways to tell a story, without words. Expression is one of them! Kids books give me so much freedom to be expressive and cartoony, walking the line of real life and comic escapism.” 

Can you walk us through your creative process for illustrating a children’s book like Pip and his Wild and Crazy Grandfather?

“I work very closely with Hollie, from concept sketch to final piece, page by page. And before I know it, we’ve completed a book already. I have a manuscript I read, she will tell me the key details she looks for in the page. 

For example, she could tell me that “Pip and grandpa in the kitchen, food everywhere, cabinets open, everything in disarray,” and I’ll know that this will be one messy, chaotic page! I sketch up my ideas, sometimes things get tweaked at this stage, like moving a character over or switching positions for some things. Then, I clean up the linework and move on to color!” 

How did you come up with the concept and character design for the illustrations in Pip’s Giving Series?

“Hollie provides me with the best reference pictures for environments and characters alike. Her adorable grandson has very bright blue eyes, and blond curls. From there, I like to get some key personality traits (are they mischievous? Shy? Bold? Curious?) I find it helps when making up a design! His grandfather, for example, is mischievous, lots of fun, and very merry. Like the pages, I’ll sketch my ideas (sometimes I’ll loosely color them) and from there Hollie will approve or we will make changes as needed!” 

How do you think your illustrations add to the storytelling of Hollie’s stories?

“I try to be as expressive as possible with the characters, and really push the emotion for them to convey the feeling or tone of the pages. With or without words, we want the reader to know what’s going on! Between that, Hollie’s amazing storytelling, and some very vibrant colors, the whole page comes together!”

What is your favorite children’s book that you’ve illustrated and why?

“This is my first ever series I’ve illustrated! But to pick a favorite book so far, I’d have to say Pip and His Wild and Crazy Grandfather was by far the funnest, funniest book to illustrate. So full of chaos and fun!”

Do you have a favorite children’s book you read growing up?

“Oh definitely hard to choose, but the ones I recall being read the most were If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and The Giving Tree. My family still quotes the first one, haha! Aside from those, I loved the Strega Nona books, and anything Winnie the Pooh (for their illustrations especially. I loved the watercolor look they both had).”

What’s the hardest part about illustrating children’s books?

“I’d have to say walking the line between being believably realistic but freely cartoonish. It’s a children’s book, but we want to know who we’re looking at, and who we’re looking at are two real life people, Pip and his grandfather! I love how each page in Pip and His Wild and Crazy Grandfather had me pushing that line to the extreme. They did very cartoonish things, very silly things, in each page, and it was fun to really exaggerate that, but still keep it realistic and believable.” 

How do you stay inspired and motivated as a creative artist?

“I never stopped watching cartoons, for one thing. I’m 23 and I will happily admit to that. I will go to any new Disney/dreamworks/Pixar movie, but now I find myself watching it through an artists lense. It’s fascinating to see how they flesh out a character, how the expressions convey emotions if words aren’t used. I follow a lot of the concept artists that work on those movies on social media, and watching the creative process from step 1 gives me a huge newfound appreciation for the story as a whole. That, and every one of my friends is an artist one way or another. We constantly share our work with each other, and offer advice. I’m never not immersed in art and surrounded by creative people.” 

What advice would you give to aspiring young illustrators of children’s books?

“Two things:

Don’t be afraid of the different directions you might wander off in along the way. I went to college for art for 2 years, was dead set on this and only this as my career. When the pandemic hit everything went topsy turvy. But I got into flying planes, which, who the heck would’ve thought?? But I have a blast, and THATS where I met Hollie, at the airfield. Now here I am, back to art again! Not that I LEFT it, but I guess my point is to not be afraid of venturing to new things, just because it doesn’t tie into your first idea of what your career should be. It could very well just open even bigger doors for you than you ever expected!

And, as a young trailblazing illustrator, you will hopefully have some amazing support (I hope all artists do) but in case you don’t, just know this: there will always always ALWAYS be people to appreciate what you create, what you’re putting out into the world. Please don’t get discouraged by the doubters, the naysayers, or the negative nancies (the haters, if you will). You’ve got a spark in you, a story you want to tell, SOMETHING that fires you creatively. Don’t ever let anybody else snuff it out. It’s people like you who will do huge things for the world. Don’t let anybody take this away from you. It’s special to you for a reason.”

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