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From the Sketchbook:
Kristy Caldwell

This CBC series features illustrators sharing their creative process and providing context for their amazing artwork.

Our artist this week is Kristy Caldwell, who has illustrated several books, including Flowers for Sarajevo. In this post, she discusses her process for illustrating the picture book biography Away with Words.

Isabella Bird was the first female member of the Royal Geographical Society and Away with Words takes readers around the world with a daring nineteenth-century female explorer and author. Kristy Caldwell’s detailed artwork illuminate Bird’s travels around the world, and Lori Mortensen’s back matter, author’s note, and bibliography will satisfy the curiosity of readers who want to learn more.

“For me, research is a really fun stage of the process. I can’t fit everything I want into the illustrations, but sometimes I come across a gem that I can’t resist. The Royal Geographical Society has an amazing image archive, including these photos of early members. Isabella Bird is the last photo in the second row.”

“When you work on a biography, you feel like you really get to know that person. It’s challenging to try to represent an entire life in 32 pages, but also rewarding. Even though Isabella lived during the 1800s, we wanted her personal journey to feel as relatable as possible. Taking the time to revise and sometimes rethink sketches gave us the opportunity to get those moments right.”

“I wanted the endpapers to be a kind of behind-the-scenes look into Isabella’s traveling lifestyle. Some of the supplies she traveled with were pretty common, like binoculars and candles. When I found out she traveled with tins of meat extract I became very excited, and added it to the final image. I love weird details like that.”

More of Kristy Caldwell’s amazing art can be found in Away with Words . And in case you’re wondering, her favorite way to travel is by boat.

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