Judging by the two picture books she has created for the über cool indie publisher Flying Eye, Rilla Alexander knows more than most about books to save your life. Her first, the boldly titled The Best Book in the World explores the incredible benefits of living a life spent with with your nose buried in a book. The recently released Her Idea follows Rilla’s alter ego Sozi, as she moves from consuming books to creating them. Her mind is filled with so many exciting ideas that they’re hard to contain, and even harder to translate into her own book. There are a lot of artists out there at the moment inspired by the voguish graphic art of mid century illustrators like M. Sasek and Leonard Weisgard, but few do it with quite as much style as Rilla. Her books are eye poppingly bold, and colourful – not surprising for a book from Flying Eye – but they also read like a dream. This is the work of an author steeped in the art of her vintage favourites, but with a full understanding of how pictures can combine with a delicious rhyme scheme to produce a hugely satisfying whole. So what were the books that went to turn Rilla from the reader of The Best Book in the World to the creator of Her Idea? Why don’t we find out…
The book that first got me excited about reading. My family and I loved reading “Go Dog Go!” (by P.D. Eastman) and saying “Do you like my hat?” whenever anyone put on a hat. We still do.
The book I most wanted to write / draw There is a book called “Bottersnikes and Gumbles” (by A. Wakefield and Desmond Digby) which was set in the bush. The goodies were the Gumbles and my favourite was Tinkingumble who “tinked” very good ideas. Also, everything Roald Dahl ever dreamed up is something I wish I tinked. The children’s book I read so much that it fell apart I loved the pet (“Blue hair is fun to brush and comb”) in “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” (by Dr. Seuss) so much that I traced it over and over and the page was nearly left with a pet-shaped hole.
The book I read as a teenager that blew my mind (this doesn’t have to be a book for children) I treasured my copy of Phaidon’s “The Complete Guide to Illustration and Design Techniques and Materials” which explained type setting and bromide cameras and how to do finished art with limited colour illustrations. I was so excited that this is what I had decided to “be” and how complicated it all seemed. As it turns out I arrived at university early enough to learn many of these things, but too late to use most of them because by the time I graduated we all had computers. I still think the way I think about design and illustration is affected by that book even though I haven’t seen it in years. An old book that I discovered late in life and which had a profound effect
I really wish the Moomins had been part of my childhood but they have only been part of my life for the last 15 years. I am very happy that the Tove Jansson biography “Life, Art, Words” has a photograph of Tove surrounded by toy Moomins because that image represents for me the way I think of my own characters…that I can hold them in my hand and imagine they’re real. One of my own books Every page of “Her Idea” was written as I experienced it. When I wrote “She still didn’t know what would be at the end” it was completely true. Lately I’ve been doing lots of workshops and teaching and I’ve really enjoyed sharing my book with people (of all ages) who love ideas but can’t always finish them. Her Idea and The Greatest Book in the World are published by Flying Eye Books