An Interview with Bethan Woollvin

We chat to Bethan Woollvin about Little Red, greedy wolves and inspirational illustrators.

Bethan Woollvin is the Macmillan prize-winning author and illustrator of the first two hoots book - little red. we picked her brains about her inspirations, the way she works and all things Little Red.

What made you choose to base your Macmillan prize entry on Little Red Riding Hood?

I started Little Red whilst I was at university in my second year of my BA in illustration. The class were given a project to create a book in six weeks – that was it, a very open brief. Quite a few people in our class decided to give our brief a bit more structure by taking the opportunity to base it around a live brief or a competition. This is when I heard about the Macmillan prize for illustration.

I didn’t have enough time to write a book, so I had to choose a pre-existing text! I had thought of several different texts to use, but Little Red Riding Hood stuck out as a story that I felt needed changing. so I started drawing the characters, and it was working so I carried on and I had a book!

What materials did you use to create Little Red?

In most of my work I use gouache - caran d’ache usually (because the pigment is really bright). I love the bold effect that gouache gives, it can almost make your artwork look screen-printed. Here’s the exact palette of gouache I used, I definitely need another one soon – I’ve almost run out of black and grey! 

artist's paintbox

How long did it take from creating the dummy for the prize to receiving the finished book? What was the highlight of the process?

In total, it’s been about two years! The highlight of the process really was receiving the advance copies of my book, holding it in my hands and thinking about how far it’s come!

How did the character of Little Red develop over time?

Little Red probably developed the least from start to finish, even in my first few character designs she looks fairly identical to now. Maybe she looks a little younger than she started out to be. But the deadpan face and sarcastic expressions still stand! The wolf, however, got much fatter . . .

early version drawing of the wolf
An early version of the wolf.
Illustration of the wolf and Little Red in the finished book
The wolf in the finished book.

I think he ate too many grandmas.

one page showing many early drafts of Grandma illustrations

What has been your favourite thing about working with Macmillan and Two Hoots?

My favourite thing about working with two hoots and Macmillan has definitely been my free range to be able to write and illustrate how I please. Little Red has been tidied up in the sense of illustrations and text but the story and the compositional ideas are the same as they were two years ago in my dummy book. They never diluted my humour or asked me to change my characters, they loved Little Red the way it was and have always supported my creative process. 


Who are your top three most inspirational illustrators?

My favourite illustrators change regularly, but my top three at the moment are:

Joo-hee Yoon: a fantastic illustrator and printmaker, I’m always in complete awe of the kooky artwork. Colourful and contemporary and one of my all-time favourites. 

Cover image of Beastly Verse book

Jean Jullien: I love following him on social media, his illustrations give you something to think about. I am also in love with Ralf – who doesn’t love stories about sausage dogs?

Cover image of Ralf

Lisk Feng: an illustrator based in New York, makes compositions to die for and has a crazy client list! 

illustration of two people on a boat in front of a house at night

What's your favourite animal to draw?

 Always a chicken!

Bethan's illustration of a chicken

What is your workspace like?

Here’s my studio space – it’s usually a lot more chaotic. I may have tidied up . . . I own a lot of books and ‘tat’ as my parents call it.

Clean white desk with and Apple computer and children's books stacked to the left
Artist's book collection and studio wall
artist's collection of toys and books

Do you listen to music while you work and if so, what?

I get asked this a lot, I don’t really listen to one artist or one album when I’m working. I use Spotify, so I’m big on playlists. If you’ve ever used Spotify you realize they have the funniest playlists available to listen to. When I’m about to start work I pick one at random and get into the work zone. One of my favourite playlists is ‘creative boost’ – give it a listen!


What one piece of advice would you give to any aspiring picture book illustrators out there?

Advice I would give to an aspiring illustrator would be to not judge your own work too early, it could be something beautiful! I try to nurture an idea as much as I can before I show others. Receiving critiques from your peers is vital in the creative process, but if you or others judge an idea before it has bloomed you might start to doubt something that could have been amazing. If you persevere, it might pay off!

Little Red is available now from all good bookshops.

Little Red

by Bethan Woollvin

Book cover for Little Red

Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf on her way through the woods to visit her sick grandmother. The wolf is hungry, and Red Riding Hood looks tasty, so he hatches a dastardly plan, gobbles up Grandma and lies in wait. So far, so familiar. But this Little Red Riding Hood is not easily fooled, and this big bad wolf better watch his back. In this defiant interpretation of the traditional tale, the cheeky, brave little girl seizes control of her own story (and the wolf gets rather more than he bargained for).