Nina Chakrabarti


As she celebrates the launch of her latest and most beautiful colouring book for LKP, we caught up with nature-loving illustrator and colouring queen Daisy Fletcher…


Tell us a bit about your background, were you encouraged to draw from an early age? 

I've loved drawing for as long as I can remember. I would spend hours drawing as a child and my dad (who's an architect) instilled in me the importance of drawing from life – learning how to really look at an object and record it. I would spend hours sitting and drawing anything I could find - we still have drawings of a pot of hyacinths and an old SLR camera I drew as a child, I must have had a lot of patience!

I could always be found in the art room at school, and went onto study Illustration at the University of Brighton, followed by 'Communication Art and Design' at the Royal College of Art.


Has your work changed much since you were at college, or have you always enjoyed drawing from natural forms? 

My work has developed considerably since I was at college. It took a long time to find a way of working that was right for me. At college I did a lot of experimenting with mixed media and 3D work. But alongside that I always had a sketchbook with me and would draw everywhere I went, particularly people on public transport.

Whilst at the Royal College though I realised that just drawing could be a final piece in itself. I began honing and developing a visual language through line at the RCA and continued that after I graduated. The flowers and birds began creeping into my work at college and developed from there.


Tell us a bit about the idea behind Into the Wild…  

After completing my first book Birdtopia I found that I still had so many wonderful plants and flowers I hadn't been able to include. With Into the Wild I wanted to create a flower forest and more of a sense of place. The idea of an exotic woodland began to develop and it seemed obvious that mysterious and unusual animals should inhabit this environment. Animals like the black leopard, muntjac, iberian lynx and others you wouldn't typically find in a colouring book appealed to me.

I also wanted to create a sense of journey and the idea that the woods grow darker and more mysterious the further you go. At the end we find what these animals are protecting and reveal creatures altogether more mysterious and mythical.


How long does it take to create a colouring book, and what are the particular challenges involved?  

For me it takes just under a year to complete a colouring book. One of the challenges is making sure everything I want to include gets in the book. I have long lists and reference photos of plants, flowers and animals I've come across in the research process. It can be a challenge to stay on schedule too but I can't rush the drawing process or it doesn't work.

My other challenge has been working around my 5 year-old daughter. It's easier now she's at school but she was 2 when I first started on Birdtopia and part-time at nursery. I did a lot of juggling, owed a lot of favours to friends and worked late into the night regularly!


How do you feel when you see other people’s interpretations of your designs? 

I love seeing how colourists interpret my work. It's amazing to see how different the same drawing can look depending on who's coloured it. I find people are so creative with colour schemes, add backgrounds, even a bit of bling here and there. It's incredibly rewarding to see the results. I also have people contact me to say my book has given them comfort whilst in hospital or relief from caring for an elderly relative with dementia - that is the best reward of all.


Where’s the strangest place your illustrations have been used? 

I'm not sure how strange it is but my first big commercial commission was for a Chinese drinks company. I was asked to design labels for their new range of iced tea which was to be sold across the whole of China. I found that a very strange and surreal concept - that the drawings I was creating in my little studio in East Sussex would be seen potentially by millions of people. I feel the same about creating the colouring books now and am amazed by people contacting me from all over the world.


Can you describe where you work? What’s on the walls? 

I work from home with my desk in front of the window for the best drawing light. In the distance I can see the South Downs. The walls are pretty much covered in drawings, notes, schedules, inspiring images or postcards I've collected and little notes and drawings from my daughter. I have my trusty scanner next to me and a big desk which I wish I could keep clutter free but is inevitably covered in paper, pens and colouring pencils.


Do computers feature in your work at all? 

Yes I use Photoshop in my work but only as a cleaning and collage tool. I create the drawings by hand, scan them in and then play around with composition and scale. I love this part as suddenly exciting and unexpected images can be created. Often the final piece is quite different to the original rough sketch. It can be a slightly unsettling process at times if deadlines are tight but seems to work in the end.


What are your favourite pens and pencils to draw and colour with?  

All the black and white line drawings in Birdtopia and Into the Wild are drawn with Staedtler pigment liners. The lines are drawn with a 0.1 nib and the stippling is done with a 0.05 nib for very fine accurate details.


My colour work is made predominantly with Prismacolor Premier pencils which I love for their soft, blending capacity. I really enjoyed creating the effect of fur with these for the cover of Into the Wild. I might use some Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils at the end to sharpen up the edges. For my work in graphite I'm a bit old school and love Staedtlers' Mars Lumograph pencils, great for that all important texture!


Where do you go to clear your head? 

If ever I need space to think or to work through an idea I head to the beach, the South Downs or the woods. I live close to all three and although very different environments, the fresh air, space and freedom they offer tend to put things in perspective.


Where do you go for inspiration? 

It depends what I'm working on but for Into the Wild it was all about the woods. I visited so many. But my favourite is one quite close to where I live in Sussex which feels particularly wild and I rarely see anyone else there. There's something quite magical about them as on each visit they can look completely different - I call them the shape-shifting woods. I wanted to capture some of their magic in Into the Wild and at times felt like I could almost see my drawings prowling through the trees.

At the time of researching Into the Wild I was also lucky enough to visit Bali where I found the flora and fauna so exotic and exciting. Many of the more exotic plants in the book came from there.


What’s next for you? 

I'm really excited about the release of Into the Wild and have been busy in the lead up to it. I'm working on some new images at the moment for a textiles project. And I'm always collecting references and sketching new colouring book's an exciting time.


Into The Wild is available to purchase from now…