Debbie Harter Barefoot Books

Debbie Harter, illustrator of Barefoot Books classics such as The Animal Boogie and the Bear series, talks about her art, her family and her love of storytelling! Debbie is a much-loved Barefoot artist who lives in Falmouth, England.

How does your day normally start?

My day normally starts with a coffee! Followed by a shower and breakfast.

Where is your studio?

I work from home and my studio room is a literal hop across the landing, where I have a lovely view of Falmouth. It faces northwest so I don’t have direct sunlight which I find difficult to paint under (except in summer when we get some spectacular sunsets).


Do you have a working routine?

My ‘routine’ is that I read the text and scribble ideas as they jump into my head, to the point they are illegible to anyone but me! If the book requires new characters, I create them before I do any composition work, and I also do any research needed before I do thumbnail sketches of the whole book. Then I dive into detail and send the roughs to the Barefoot editors for their comments. Once I get the go ahead I can scale up and paint. My routine depends on where I am in that process.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I don’t go to a particular place for inspiration, although a walk helps if an image isn’t going how I want it to. I do find other people’s creativity inspiring.

Is there a particular time of day when you work best?

It’s better to work in daylight hours if I am painting as lamplight alters the colour so much. Although daylight bulbs are really good, experience has taught me to mix the colours in the day, then I can use them later on. Daytime is definitely my most productive time.

Illustrating is a solitary occupation. How do you balance this?

I like the fact that illustration is a solitary occupation. I would amuse myself for hours as a child, drawing and writing stories. Working alone is something that comes naturally to me.

A quick sketch of Herb from the Beach Farm House days

What do you do to relax?

In the summer there’s only one place to relax . . . the beach! Luckily for me, it’s only a 10 minute walk from our house. Also, I dance to relax. Even when I feel really tired, it energises me. I’m a ‘Jack of all trades’ in that I’ve done a bit of lots of types of dancing, but for the last 8 years I’ve been doing Arabic based fusion, which I love.


Gylly Beach

Which illustrators most inspire you?

I love the old greats like Arthur Rackham and Edouard du Lac, I think their work is truly magical. I love 1920s illustrators like Erte and Kay Nielson, and there are so many amazing contemporary illustrators: Ralph Steadman, Nicola Bayley, Lizbeth Zwerger, Babette Cole, Jon Klassen . . . I could go on and on.

Which of the books you have created for Barefoot Books is your favourite?

I have a very big soft spot for Bear. I feel very fortunate to have Bear in my life, so he has a special place in my heart. I loved doing Port Side Pirates, I was living in Penzance when I did that, which was handy as you really do see pirates walking about town (honest!). Also my room had a wonderful view of the sea and St. Michael’s Mount that was very inspiring.

How do you most like to spend your evenings?

I like watching TV (boring I know!). My favourite programmes are Horizon, anything by David Attenborough, Strictly Ballroom and Antiques Roadshow. Other than that, I enjoy having dinner with friends, going out to gigs and dancing. The last gig I went to was ‘The Magic Numbers’ with my partner, my very dear friends and my godson. That was an ideal evening out.


Buy Debbie Harter’s books! US Shoppers / UK Shoppers

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