Q & A
Where are you based?
Predominantly working from my home studio in Staffordshire. I try to carry a pencil and sketchbook with me everywhere as I am a self-confessed doodler! There is also always a notebook on my bedside table as quite often ideas for my next story will come to me as I am falling off to sleep.
Whom would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Hands down Sir Billy Connelly! A fascinating, brilliant, and funny man who also loves art!
Lenny Henry would also be on the guest list! A local comedic genius who also writes for children.
What would your superpower be?
Well, it would have to be to fly! I used to have dreams of this as a child and that feeling of weightlessness would be amazing. It would also be great to look down from a higher place, be nosy and get inspiration for future stories!
What was the last book you read for fun?
That’s a tricky one as I’m usually reading a few at the same time but the last book I finished was ‘The Giver of Stars’ by JoJo Moyes. It’s a wonderful story that is based around a mobile library run by women. I do love all kinds of books though and I particularly enjoy reading with my children which now covers picture books, chapter books and middle grade. For creative advice, anything by Austin Kleon gets a thumbs up from me and I am also a massive fan of The Good Ship Illustration.
Is there any author or illustrator you follow or admire?
Absolutely, there’s quite a few! I’ve always been a massive fan of Quentin Blake. The energy in his sketches is just magic. I also love Helen Stephens (Fleabag) for the way she uses colour and sketch, so fun but she also conveys heart. Her storytelling is wonderful too.
As a younger child I loved Winnie The Pooh and still look back on the beautiful sketchy illustrations of E.H. Shepherd. Peggy Fortnum's illustration work for Paddington is also fabulous. For author, Michael Rosen is still a favourite especially when I reminisce about my own primary school days listening to the end of day story.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy spending time in nature and going for walks. I love reading and sewing… my university degree was in contour fashion. I feel a particular pull to the sea so try to visit the coast as often as possible. I also adore films, all genre but I hold a special place in my heart for the timeless cinema of the 1950’s including Singing in the Rain and Calamity Jane to name just a couple. I remember watching many of these as a child at my grandparents’ house and my mom is a big fan of Doris Day.
What makes you uncomfortable?
Inconsiderate people. I was bought up to treat people as you wish to be treated in return and that kindness is a quality that is free to all.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I try to focus on the present and live in the moment but if I could choose anywhere, it would be among my loved ones and happy… wherever that transpires to be is good for me. Of course, I plan to still have a sketchbook or note book in hand.
What would you most like to wear to a fancy dress party?
Oh, I’ve been quite a few characters in the past from Cruella De Vil to the King Kong’s damsel with a massive furry hand wrapped round my middle but I think it would be fun to go as something a little wacky like Saucepan man or Moon-face from Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree.
What gets you up in the morning?
Usually my youngest child climbing in to bed however on the rare occasion that I get a lie in, then it would have to be a good cuppa.
How do you start a project?
With writing, it begins with a few words or sentences that I’ve jotted down in my bedside journal or added into the notes on my phone. Sometimes these can sit there for a while waiting to evolve into a story. Also, my children provide a lot of inspiration with the things they say and the way in which they see the world. These little snippets of ideas can come at the most unexpected times.
With illustrating, it begins with rereading the words and highlighting ones that jump from the page… I tend to scribble images as much as write words, so I guess the ideas start at a very early stage. Storyboarding is then key to getting going.
When do you know a project is finished?
This is a leap of faith and there are various stages but with writing I usually feel like it’s good to go once it’s worked into the book alongside the illustrations. The stages prior to this have their own finalisation like first draft (when I think I’m ready for someone else to read - eek), editing (where it gets passed around for fresh eyes and professional advice – double eek) and then words as visuals (where it comes together to work with the imagery as well as tell a story – and go get another cuppa).
What type of design work do you enjoy the most: traditional or digital? Why?
I do love both traditional methods of illustration and digital and find I tend to use both if I’m honest. Most illustrations will begin with a pencil, paintbrush and paper but then get passed over to digital when it comes to playing around with images with words.
I’ve not long discovered Procreate and I love to digitally doodle on my iPad with it when I feel a little creatively flat.
How do you overcome a creative block?
I find you can’t force creativity, but you can help it along. Taking a break in the fresh air helps or if it's something I’m banging my head against then I move onto a different project for a little while... I find gaining a little head space or changing focus for a bit does the trick. Also picking a pencil up and doodling is as good a remedy as any in most cases.
Have you started writing and/or illustrating your next book?
I have! I'm at first edit with my first middle grade story which I hope to begin querying very soon.
I have a couple of picture book ideas that I’m working on and I have a chapter book concept that will not leave me alone so that is beginning to unfold in both sketches and notes.
A Little More Bio...
I have worked as a designer for many years and have been extremely lucky to travel the world with my career after graduating in 2004 with a first-class honours degree in contour fashion. Following the arrival of my three children I found myself increasingly drawn back to my first love of painting and art. From a very young age I found great joy and solace in painting.
After taking a change in career direction I found my creative process returning initially to fine art. I began making paintings by building colours and shapes with the medium of acrylic paints and inks. I would then expand on this through adding layers of colour blocking with drips and love the unexpected nature of the materials alongside the structure of initial sketching and composition. I still love to paint and sketch and continue to take on fine art commissions alongside my writing and illustration work. I find this gives me a solid grounding and hopefully helps in keeping my illustration work fresh as the mind is given a creative reboot and rest in between projects. Further details of this can be seen on my Instagram for Art @bec_tonks_art.
Predominantly working from my home studio in Staffordshire, I also paint with gouache and love to experiment with mixed media when I feel the artwork calls for it. My illustration work features watercolour paint and pen overlaid drawings however, also has digital elements throughout.
Previous exhibitions and creative activities...
L2F Lichfield Art Competition - 2022, 2021 & 2019 Shortlisted Finalist for both.
Newhampton’s Art Centre - Paint the Day 2020 virtual gallery Wolverhampton
Art in Lockdown - online exhibition Wolverhampton Art Gallery and City of Wolverhampton Council Library
I have run art classes in affiliation with a local bistro offering ‘Art & Afternoon Tea’, these have a good group of regular amateur artists now in attendance... due to covid restrictions these were put on hold but I hope to bring art classes back very soon for both adults and children.
I offer creative workshops alongside my author and illustrator visits, teaching art to primary level classes to help develop an initial love of art and creativity. More details can be found on the 'School Visits' page.
I am a member of the Essington Art group which meet weekly to paint and create together.
I am a member of the SCBWI and the Walsall Writer's circle...
more details about this can be seen in the Author section.
2012 - 2018 Proprietor & Freelance Designer of RPS Designs (wedding stationery design business)
2004 - 2011 Lingerie and Graphic Designer for a variety of high street stores including Next and supply to Topshop (Arcadia), T K Maxx, Sainsbury’s and Dunnes of Ireland.
Graduated from De Montford University with First Class honours degree in 2004
BTEC in Foundation Art and design
A in A Level Art
If you'd like to know more about me and my work, please don't hesitate to get in touch!