Taking inspiration from the recent move in children's publishing to celebrate and give voice to women's stories, the book brings to life twelve of Shakespeare’s most determined, clever and courageous female characters in a way that young readers can relate to today.
The book is beautifully presented and is designed to appeal to a wide readership of children and adults alike. Part of its appeal undoubtedly lies in Becca Stadtlander's striking and evocative artwork. Below, we meet Becca to find out more about her work and to discover the inspiration behind her illustrations of Shakespeare’s bold and brave women.
Meet the Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander
Where do you start in creating a book like this? What research do you do and where do you find inspiration for your illustrations? How do you arrive at the final idea for each picture?
Becca: For this book I did a lot of online research specifically into old paintings, movies and costumes.There have been many beautiful paintings created throughout history with Shakespearian themes to draw inspiration from. It was a bit tricky to come up with these illustrations, so I drew thumbnails first to figure out the composition and then found reference photos online to make sure I was able to get the characters, settings and costume right. I have a handful of Victorian Era drawings that are really helpful when trying to draw interesting stances and postures and I used those as well.
My favourite references came from old photographs I found featuring early stage performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth. The costumes are to die for!
Were there any famous paintings - or performances - that inspired your illustrations for this book? Do you have a favorite painting of a character or scene from Shakespeare?
Becca: I think I found a famous painting for almost every illustration in the book, so it's hard to name all of them. I think my favourite references came from old photographs I found featuring early stage performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth. The costumes are to die for!
Who were the hardest characters to illustrate?
Becca: Portia and Cordelia. I think those were hard for me because of the indoor setting.There were a lot of things I had to think about putting in the background to keep things interesting and I didn't have any greenery to rely on. It was very difficult to get Portia's costume right. I think I redrew her about six times.There are some serious things happening and subtle facial expressions that were difficult to show in both.
Evocative landscapes and interior details often feature in your work. How important were these in your depictions of Shakespeare’s heroines?
Becca: I think the backgrounds and settings are the most important thing about illustrating any book! I love creating strong environments because they create a feeling, mood and sense of place that all contribute to the experience of reading the text. It also provides an opportunity for me to cram in as much detail as possible. I love painting patterns and texture so the settings in this book created a dream project for me.
There are some beautiful details in the clothing you’ve painted - whose costume do you like the best?
Becca: I think I like Viola's costume the best because it was inspired by Elizabethan menswear and reads traditional 'Shakespeare' to me. The details in the stockings and top are so pleasing to me.
Which of Shakespeare’s Bold and Brave Women do you most identify with?
Becca: I'm not sure I can really identify with any of them, but I can tell you that my favorite character that I illustrated is Titania. It was the most enjoyable to paint and I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It brought me back to my childhood love of fairies.
About Becca Stadtlander
Becca is 31 years old and has been working as an illustrator for 10 years. She lives in her hometown of Covington, Kentucky, USA with her husband and dog. She received a degree in Illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2010.
Bold and Brave Women from Shakespeare, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander is published by Walker Books in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
This beautiful hardback book (ISBN 9781406389609, RRP £9.99) is available to purchase from the Shakespeare Bookshop and Online.