Inside the Studio with Rebecca Gibbon, Illustrator of The Great Spruce
The Children’s Book Review | October 25, 2016
Inside Rebecca Gibbon’s Studio
My studio is a large room on the top floor of a timber framed building that was once the village shop, with views of the River Wye. My previous studio was an old button factory in East London, they couldn’t be more different!
My work table is an old Military campaign table whose faux red leather is covered with splatters of bright ink. I’m surrounded by objects; postcards & ephemera I have collected from flea markets & junk shops. Each object has a story to tell & all inspire me in their own way. Over the past 25 years, I have built up quite a library of vintage children’s books, some of my favourite being by Roger Duvosin, Martin Provenson & Miroslav Sasek.
Rebecca Gibbon’s Creative Process
Each project is different, but the first task is always to clear my desk & remove the flotsam & jetsam and start afresh. Next is to read the manuscript & sketch out initial ideas & develop the characters. The third step is research, which is so important because many of the books I have illustrated have strong historical themes.
When I started drawing roughs for The Great Spruce, I was sipping cold drinks on a hot & muggy July day, yet I had to think myself cold, imagining it was a freezing cold December day! I was looking at wintery images of New York, & people in hats & gloves, it was quite an exercise in mind control.
There’s nothing quite like being on location though, so I am incredibly grateful to John Duvall, the author of The Great Spruce, who flew me to New York, where he arranged to have a tree dug up lifted onto a truck, while I watched & photographed & sketched. We also sailed under the George Washington Bridge, went to an old boatyard to see Pegasus, a beautifully restored New York tugboat, and walked in Central Park, to see the plume-wearing horses pulling carriages and then we sat in the beautiful Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle.
It was a fantastic trip, and I know that it made a huge difference to the outcome of the book.
About Rebecca Gibbon
Rebecca Gibbon was born in Wales. The youngest of four children, she grew up on the picture books of Edward Ardizzone, Roger Duvoisin & Richard Scarry and dreamt of becoming an illustrator. This dream was realized after gaining a first class Honours degree from John Moores University and consequently a Masters at Royal College of Art, London. She lives with her husband and two boys in what was once the Old Village Stores, surrounded by their eclectic collections of vintage children’s books, balloon pumps & 1950’s ceramics. She loves junk shops, flea markets, drinking tea and, of course, drawing.
Written by John Duvall
Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
Publisher’s Synopsis: Together with his grandpa, a young boy finds a way to save his favorite tree in this heartwarming Christmas tale.
Alec loves to climb trees—the little apple trees, the wide willow trees, even the tall locust trees. But his favorite is the great spruce, with its sturdy trunk and branches that stretch up to the sky. Alec’s grandpa planted it as a sapling years and years before Alec was born, and every Christmas, Alec and his grandpa decorate the tree together, weaving tinsel and lights through its branches, making it shine bright.
But one day, a few curious men from the nearby city take notice of Alec’s glistening great spruce, and ask to take it away for their Christmas celebration. Though it’s a huge honor, Alec’s heartbroken at the idea of losing his friend. With great courage and creativity, Alec comes up with a plan to save his favorite tree in this joyful holiday tale.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0399160844
Discover more books like “The Great Spruce,” written by John Duvall and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our articles tagged with Christmas and Christmas Tree Books. And be sure to check out more authors and illustrators featured in our Inside the Studio column.