Illustrator Cheri Cottrell presents her collection of nostalgic images that bring back childhood memories.
ABI: Why do people connect so emotionally with your illustrations?
CC: Reminiscent of a simpler time, people associate my work with fond memories from childhood. They like feeling connected to the past and my work represents that nostalgia—one where lighthouse keepers still lit lamps to guide sea-weary sailors home through dark and stormy swells and where you can still buy flour, fabric, herbs, spices, ribbons and toys at the general store.
Some have said I remind them of a modern day Beatrix Potter or Tasha Tudor. As a little girl I fell in love with their style, which is a source of inspiration for me to this day. I use a layering watercolor technique to recapture an early Victorian world. I usually work on three paintings at a time so that each one has ample time to dry and when it does, there’s a glow that shines through the paper after each layer of paint is applied. It’s a time consuming process, but the quality and care is apparent.
ABI: You have started publishing children’s books using your artwork. Tell us about that process.
CC: I was going to go through a traditional publisher but decided to self-publish instead because I wanted to have more control. Today, editors want 500-600 words for picture books. I didn’t want someone to edit half my story away. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame was a full story—58,428 words. Could you imagine if The Wind in the Willows was edited down to 500 words?
Going the self-publishing route was overwhelming—because I knew nothing about the publishing business at first—but learning wasn’t impossible. Tasks only seem insurmountable before you take action, and once I started researching printers to produce the book, the process flowed much easier than what I expected.
I knocked on a lot of doors before I found someone who could match my paint colors perfectly. The colors had to be accurate and I found a lot of people couldn’t give that to me—they said they’d do their best at matching the colors—but they couldn’t make any guarantees. The printer I went with could.
ABI: What type of related products do you sell?
CC: I sell prints and greeting cards through my website and I offer downloadable craft kits for $2.50 as well. In the future, I plan on selling ornaments and embroidery kits and the book will be available this summer. I’m also interested in licensing.