Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 9, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Alea Marley

Alea Marley is a children’s illustrator living and working in England. She loves creating whimsical scenes that are filled with patterns, texture, and bursts of colour! Her favourite mediums to work with are chunky pencils, watercolour crayons, and digital brushes.

Picture Books
Everybody’s Somewhere by Cornelia Spelman, Seagrass Press – October 2017
Loretta’s Gift by Pat Zietlow Miller, Simon & Schuster – August 2018
The Many Colours Of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, Sterling – September 2019

Upcoming Picture Books
A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – October 2019
Phoebe Dupree Is Coming To Tea by Linda Ashman, Candlewick Press – TBD
Get Up Elizabeth by Shirin Yim Bridges, Cameron Books – 2020
Henry Without Liza by Megan Maynor, Clarion – 2021

Macmillan Children’s Book Prize 2017 – Highly Commended

Macmillan Prize – Foyles, London, 2017
Degree Show – Bournemouth, 2017
D&AD New Blood Festival – Shoreditch, London, 2017

Alea is represented by The Bright Agency


1) This is the very first round of sketches I did for the cover of A Day So Gray. I usually present cover ideas together like this as it’s helpful to see the ideas side by side.

2) After discussing my initial cover ideas over with Anne at HMH, we decided on three images to develop further.

3) None of the cover ideas felt right, so after some tinkering we made a mock up. Our goal this time around was to create a cover that shows the two children’s perspectives.

4) The first image was my first final sketch for the cover. It was decided that the trees looked too stiff compared to the interior illustrations, so I re-worked it and the second image is final sketch.

5) This is my colouring process for the cover, done on Photoshop CC. The first image is my line art set to multiply. Second image I’ve added all the flat colours under the line art. Third image, the colour details are added. Fourth image I added lighting. Fifth image is where I did some colour adjustments and the sixth image is where I added snow.

The final cover illustration

Final cover with title

Interview with Alea Marley:

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, ever since I was little. I just never stopped as I got older!

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

A month after I signed with The Bright Agency, I received an email saying that Rubicon was interested in having me illustrate an educational book. I remember being so excited and nervous about my first official job. Unfortunately though, the book didn’t get published.

Have you always live in England?

Yes I have. I was born in lovely little town by the sea called Bournemouth.

Did you study art? If so, where did you go and what did you study while there?

I did a fine art course in College for two years and then went on to The Arts University Bournemouth to study illustration.

What types of classes did you enjoy the most?

We didn’t have specific classes, as things would change with every module. However I really enjoyed when they would have us draw on location, and draw with unusual tools such as bark or cotton buds.

Do you feel school helped you develop you style?

The resources at university let me explore a multitude of ways I could draw, which helped me to develop my own way of drawing.


Did the school help you find work using your art skills?

Yes. In our third year we’d meet with industry processionals and created work to be displayed at various shows in London.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

At the end of my second year of university I decided I wanted to pursue a career in children’s illustration. I absolutely adored children’s books and I felt that it was the best fit for the way I drew.

In 2017 you illustrated Everybody’s Somewhere. How did you get that job?

I was contacted by my lovely agent Anne who told me that Quarto had seen my portfolio and were interested in me illustrating a picture book text they have. I read through the manuscript, which I really liked and let Anne know that I’d love to work with them on this project.

Was Everybody’s Somewhere your first published book?

It was my first published picture book. Before I had only illustrated educational books.

A year later in 2018, Loretta’s Gift came out. How did you get the contract for that book?

Little Bee Books liked my portfolio and had asked me to create a character sample for a text they had. They liked my sample so I got the job and it even ended up being the cover for the book!

I just featured The Many Colours Of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, published by Sterling Children’s Books on Writing and Illustrating. Did Sterling give you guidance on their vision for the book or did they just set you free?

I didn’t feel constrained in any way at all, the imagery I created came very naturally in response to the lovely words from Supriya. After I sent off my initial sketches most of the back and forth between us were revisions, and making sure I had drawn the patkas correctly. NOTE: You still have a chance to win this book. Here is the link to the book giveaway.

A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just came out. How long did it take you illustrate that book?

I started creating art for the book in November 2017 and finished in October 2018.

Was it hard illustrating two books at the same time?

No, I don’t find it difficult, although it is time consuming. I’m quite an organized person so I always have a schedule laid out detailing what to do over several months. Now I’m usually working on 3-4 picture books at the same time. I absolutely love it though!

It looks like you have six books that you need to illustrate with Henry Without Liza by Megan Maynor, Clarion coming out in Spring 2021. Have you started illustrating all of the books? Do you have a schedule and a plan on how to meet your deadlines?

Three of them are already finished. I’m currently working on the remaining three picture books. Henry without Liza, Phoebe Dupree Is Coming To Tea and This Is Ruby. I’ll be starting some new books in 2020 but they haven’t been announced yet!

Get Up Elizabeth by Shirin Yim Bridges, Cameron Books is scheduled to come out in the fall of 2020. Could you tell us a little bit about Cameron Books and your interaction with them?

They’ve been so lovely to work with, I was so happy when I got the offer to do this picture book set in the Tudor period as I love all the art, clothing and furniture from that time.

Is This Is Ruby by Sara O’Leary coming out in the fall of 2020 with Tunda a board book?

It is a hardback picture book, and my most adventurous picture book yet!

You listed Phoebe Dupree Is Coming To Tea by Linda Ashman at Candlewick Press is coming out in 2021. Have you started working on the illustrations?

Yes I have. I started working on the sketches in March and I am currently in the final art stage.

You have two books, Goodnight Little Dancer and Goodnight Little Superhero both written by Jennifer Adams and published by Macmillan in July of 2020. Are they both going to come out with Roaring Book Press or is one with another one of their imprints. Do you think they will stagger the July dates?

These two books are ‘sister’ books. They are both coming out on the same date with Roaring Book Press.


The Macmillan Children’s Book Prize 2017 highly commended you. Could you tell us what you did to get that kudos from them?

In my third year of university I was encouraged by my tutors to enter the competition, so I created my own picture book text and illustrated it. I was delighted to receive an email from Macmillan saying I’ve been highly commended and that my work would be on display at their exhibition.

Do you illustrate full time?

Yes I do!

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture books?

One of my career goals is to have my own picture book published. Over this summer I created a text and illustrations that I’m currently working on with my lovely agent Anne.

I see you are represented by The Bright Agency. How did the two of you connect and how long have you been with them?

An agent at Bright discovered my work on Instagram and sent me an email inviting me to join the agency on the 28th September 2016. I went to London to meet the Bright family and signed my contract with them in October.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

Rubicon, RustiKid and Benchmark.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

I’ve illustrated a spread for American Girl.

Have you illustrated a book for a self-published author. Is that something you would do now?

No I havent, If the opportunity came along it would certainly be someting I’d be interested in.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I adore wordless picture books! My favourite is the Journey series by Aaron Becker. I would absolutely love to illustrate one..


What do you think is your biggest success?

For me, the ability to do illustration as a full time job and feel content in my work is my own personal success.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Traditionally 4B pencils and watercolour, digitally Procreate.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, when I was creating work in college I used to always use fine liners and watercolour, in the start of university I used a lot of gouache and coloured pencils. Now I work using a mix of both traditional and digital media.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I use an Ipad Pro and a Wacom Cintiq 22 HD.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I mainly use Procreate and Photoshop. I also create things traditionally using a wide variety of materials which I then scan onto the computer and manipulate digitally.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I spend the majority of my time illustrating for work, usually around 8-10 hours a day. I’ve been making sure this past year to give myself the weekends off though, and taking frequent breaks.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

It depends on the picture book. For Get Up Elizabeth I took a lot of books out of the library to use as reference for the clothing and furniture, as I had to be historically accurate.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Being able to promote my work on Instagram has helped with my work getting seen by various publishers.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

To write and illustrate my own picture book and to see my books translated into many different languages so they are more accessible.

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on three picture books. Henry without Liza, Phoebe Dupree Is Coming To Tea and This Is Ruby!

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

For traditional use I would recommend Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolours. The colours are vivid and look beautiful on hot pressed paper. For Digital use I would definitely recommend Procreate. It is such a powerful drawing application. I create about 80% of my picture book work on it!

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I feel the most important thing is to be true to yourself, create your own goals and take steps to achieve them at your own pace.

Thank you Alea for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. To see more of Alea’s work, you can visit her at: 




If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Alea. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. absolutely beautiful work, charming illustrations


  2. I love your work, Alea! Congratulations on your well-deserved success!


  3. This is perfectly charming illustration. Thanks for an interesting interview and all that great art!


  4. Congrats on your success Alea! Love your work!


  5. I love seeing all the sketches! You’ve done such a beautiful job illustrating A DAY SO GRAY, Alea. I’m one very lucky author! 🙂


  6. Loved seeing your illustrations, Alea! Congratulations on your success! 🙂


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