Wonderful Women Interview with Illustrator Alberta Torres

Alberta Torres is an Italian illustrator, currently based in London, who has been drawing since she was 18 months old – or so her mother says!

She worked as a motion graphics designer before turning to illustration, attending courses in Italy and London, including at Central Saint Martins and House of Illustration, and was awarded the Battello A Vapore Prize for Best Emerging Illustrator in 2013.

Her debut picture book, I Love You as Big as a Rainbow, was published with Tiger Tales in 2021, and since then she has illustrated the picturebook series This Little… with Macmillan, and the WOW! board book series with Kumusha Books (Harper Collins), of which the first two, WOW! What a Day! and WOW! What a Night! are out now.


Describe a typical day for you?

I am not a morning person so my days always start slowly and I always follow the same routine: a ten minute yoga sequence to stretch my achy back and get moving. Then I eat breakfast and sip my coffee while playing Wordle and checking the news. After a shower, I sit at my desk, and I’m ready to get working around 9 am. If I’m at an early stage of creating a book, I need to let my brain think hard and find solutions to various problems so I work in silence or with some classical music in the background. I first sketch tiny weenie vignettes (technically called thumbnails), to work out the basic layout of each spread; then I start drawing and re-drawing them, each time a bit bigger, and a bit more detailed, until I have all the roughs to send on for approval.

Once the sketches are approved and I can start painting (in black ink) and colouring (in Photoshop), it’s podcast time! Call me weird, but I like listening to True Crime and spooky stuff: I find the contrast helps me create even cuter and more adorable characters!

It all started in 2021 while working on the second of the Macmillan series, This Little Monster: where to get me in the spirit of Halloween in the middle of summer, I listened to The Battersea Poltergeist. Then, working on the first two board books for Kumusha, WOW! What a Day! and WOW! What a Night! I carried on with all three seasons of Uncanny, and the Italian True Crime series Indagini.

Also, listening to storytelling helps my right side of the brain engaged, so the left is free to do all the creative work in a state of flow!

I break for lunch and go for a walk in the park (I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes away from the beautiful Victoria Park in East London), then I work a few more hours before calling it a day around 6pm. I usually either make some calls to my family back in Italy, or read, or sketch; and then I cook myself some dinner and watch TV. I’m usually in bed by 10.30pm with a good book. (Look at me, living the London high life!)


What do you feel are your greatest achievements?

Getting published by two of the Big Five. My path to illustration and children’s books hasn’t been a straightforward one, so the fact that big publishers wanted to work with me is pretty up there!

Also, being naturalised British after 12 years of living in the UK feels quite an accomplishment. I can’t wait to use my right to vote in the next general election.


What’s in your handbag/satchel?

I like to travel light: wallet, house keys, phone, tissues, and the book I’m reading. I don’t often sketch when I’m out, I feel very self-conscious. I tend to sketch more when on vacation, or in the evening, in front of the telly.


What are your ambitions in life?

I would really really really like to make a living out of illustration alone! At the moment, I still rely on my day job as a designer. I would like to live off my art, and live in a nice house with a cat and a Wire-Haired Dachshund. I would also like to travel lots, see most of the world, and inspire kids to carry their wild creativity into adulthood.


What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?

That the world of publishing moves at the speed of a glacier! Two years easily pass by between getting contacted for a job and seeing your work published. It takes a lot of patience and zen but you get to be excited all over again, when all the sweat and tears have long dried and been forgotten!


Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Hopefully doing more of what I’m doing now, in my own home studio (and not in the bedroom of a shared rental property anymore!), and also writing my own picture book series: I’m already working out the first story to present to my agent in a few weeks!


What advice would you give a budding illustrator?

Get your inspiration from things other than illustration. Keep your digital files in order. Always be nice: people in publishing move around a lot. Never EVER give up your copyright!


Finally, happiness is…Hiking in the mountains. Good food at the end of a long day. Being your weird, wonderful, silly self.

Find Alberta’s books here.

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