Brita Granström was born in 1969 in Sweden. She moved to the UK when she was 23 and has illustrated over 100 children’s books. She is also an established painter with a recent sell-out solo show at Thompson’s Gallery (Leaves of Lockdown). She is an Honorary Fellow of the English Association.
With her husband, Mick Manning, Brita has collaborated on both illustration and text for more than twenty-five years and in 2020 won the SLA/Hachette award for Outstanding Contribution to Information Books. They have pioneered Picture Book Non-Fiction since 1995 and their first book together, ‘The World Is Full of Babies’ (Watts), was the first non-fiction title to win the Smarties Silver Prize in 1996. Since then, they have won multiple awards including, for the fifth time, the English Association Award with ‘Charlie’s War Illustrated: Remembering World War One’ (Watts) in 2014. Brita and Mick have been nominated twice for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.
The Wordsworths (Watts) is a recent example of their work together (published last year)
Coming in 2o22:
The Fussy Flamingo with Jonnie Wild. Otter Barry Books. Publishing spring 2022
a companion to The Carnivorous Crocodile, a title in the Five Flamingos series mentioned in the Q&A below.
Women Who Showed the Way with Mick Manning. Otter Barry Books. Publishing on International Women’s Day 2022
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember admiring?
Some drawings I made of my family I suppose. My dad was a police detective and mum was a teacher and I have two brothers. I drew them a lot. Mum decided we should live without a TV at one point so we had to amuse ourselves.
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
So many things. But growing up in a small rural Swedish village in the 1970s was a big kickstart. It isn’t a village in the British sense, it consists of some small red-painted farms either side of a dusty small road that looked very like Astrid Lindgren’s Bullerbyn. I would wander into everyone’s kitchen as a little girl and listen to fairy stories and drink home-made ’saft’ (squash). My favourite illustrators as a girl were Tove Jansson and John Bauer.
Who inspires you today?
So many people; I love painters like Bonnard and Winifred Nicholson but also I still return to my childhood favourites. I once had a letter from my hero Tove Jansson admiring one of my books (What’s Under the Bed) so you can imagine how that felt. Since moving to the UK 27 years ago, I have fallen in love with Ardizzone’s work and admire the drive and skill of many fellow illustrators I have met and come to know, including: Emma Chichester Clark, Quentin Blake, Arthur Robins, Ian Beck and many others.
Did you study art/illustration?
Yes I studied at Konstfack, Sweden’s National School of Art and Design in Stockholm. It was a five year MFA.
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
For illustration; sharp Polychromos pencils and watercolour. For painting; acrylic on canvas.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
What software/apps do you use?
I do sometimes use my ipad drawing app but never for illustration.
For that, I use hand-brain-eye co-ordination based on years of looking hard and keeping sketchbooks. I’m a neanderthal, but I keep doing what I do.
What was your first commission?
Flying over the Serengeti with a flying doctor making drawings of operations for a step-by-step ‘bush surgery’ book, commissioned by a charity called AMREF. Later, after I left Konstfack and had moved to Scotland, I was both the Fashion and Cookery Illustrator for the Glasgow Herald Weekender magazine in the mid 1990s which was weekly fun – as well as working with BBC Scotland on their wonderful Dotaman Gaelic children’s TV series. My first books were with Walker Books and Watts a year or so later.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished the 4th in Jonnie Wild’s hilarious Five Flamingos series published by Otter-Barry Books. Also, Mick and I are finishing a book about strong women but don’t want to say too much about it yet as it won’t publish until International Women’s Day 2022. Our latest published book is called The Wordsworths with Watts / Hachette. I loved making this book. Mick and I visited Dove Cottage and drew in the Wordsworth’s house (with the Trust’s kind permission) and ‘on the spot’ among the Wordsworth’s beloved mountains.
Twitter or Instagram? Insta
Coffee or tea? Both
Dog or cat? Dogs x 2
Grape or grain? Grape
Sunrise or sunset? Sunsrise — I’m a morning person
What do you listen to when you are working? Jazz and T. Rex
This is a regular weekend feature, publishing every Saturday.